My favorite view in Colorado can be seen through our North-facing upstairs bathroom window. In the morning, when it has snowed overnight, I sit on the counter and press my left cheek against the cold pane to watch the colors change to the East as the sun rises over white roofs and lawns. Snow, I have discovered recently, has the same sort of reverent, sweeping effect on my spirit that the ocean once had. It is snowing now as I write this from the bathroom and if I’m lucky it will stick through the morning. Shaun is on a work trip for a few days and seeing that I have the day off tomorrow, and to myself, I will make a pilgrammage to the park and make snow angels again along the running path for the walkers and runners and lovers. They are strangers whose lives I will never know yet somehow always know. For the beautiful, radiant young souls who were taken from this earthplane too soon, I will lay my head back in the snow, next to my angels, your sweet too young angels, and look to the sky to say thank-you a million times for my full and undeserving life. I will blow out my candles for each of you next week with tears in my eyes for every painful, awkward, surprising, perfect moment I have been given and you have been robbed.
“I closed the box and put it in a closet.
There is no real way to deal with everything we lose.”
― Joan Didion, Where I Was From
Persimmon Oatmeal Cookies
From Margie, the mother of my childhood friend, Kelly, who grew persimmons and made the most marvelous and memorable cookies. Thank you, Margie, for graciously sharing this recipe with me and the world. Adapted from “Use and Enjoy the California Persimmon” University of California Cooperative Extension, El Dorado County.
1 ½ cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 cup Brown Sugar
½ Teaspoon Baking soda
1 Teaspoon Salt
¼ Teaspoon Nutmeg
¾ Teaspoon Cinnamon
½ Teaspoon Cloves
¾ cup butter
1 Cup Hachiya Persimmon chunks
1 ¾ cup Rolled Oats
½ cup chopped pecans
Sift together flour, sugar, soda, salt, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon into mixing bowl. Cut in butter. Add egg, persimmon pulp, rolled oats, and nuts. Beat until thoroughly blended.Drop by teaspoonfuls, about 1 ½ inches apart on ungreased cookie pans. Bake in a moderately hot oven (350F) about 15 minutes.
When the moon is out and fog hugs the city limits, the trails of airplanes — the steam, smoke, whatever it is they leave behind — appears black against the night sky. Have you seen this before? It’s stunning. Haunting.
Driving home from the movies a few nights ago, I motioned to Shaun to pull over and look at the moon in this state, the way the black line lingering up there in the sky divided it in two. We parked the car in front a dark driveway and stared, silently. “Do you think it’s an asteroid headed for Earth?” I asked. Shaun laughed, “I think it’s a plane, and, I think you’re beautiful.”
It is December now, and I am reminded by the twinkling lights on houses that guide my bike rides home at night that life can be messy and confusing and still be knock-your-socks-off-magnificent. My life is so abundant, fuller and richer than any young woman could possibly deserve in a lifetime. Tough days seem selfish, trite, ignorant. I wake some nights gasping for breath, stunned at my blessings and overwhelmed with a sense of duty to repay the world with duplicate affection for all it has given me.
A new friend asked me the other day, “seems like you’e working too hard at this stuff, is it all worth fighting for?” The answer was (and is) YES. Yes and always yes. The good is always worth fighting for. There isn’t much I feel like I know for sure about this world but this, fighting for the good stuff, I can assure. The moments parked in front of dark driveways discussing asteroids and planes and the moon and love and life and death and who we are and why we’re here and how desperately we just want to do it right – these moments will always be worth fighting for.
Preheat the oven for 450.’ In a large bowl with measured flour, cut in shavings of butter using a paring knife. Rub together flour and butter until the dough becomes crumbly. Add in water or buttermilk and mix with hands until the dough starts coming together. Transfer to a floured surface and knead until elastic. Cover and set aside.
For the filling: Heat oil in a skillet over then add onion, and cook until lightly browned. Add sweet potatoes and 1 cup of broth and let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add lemon juice, coriander, garam masala, cumin, cayenne, salt and a cup more of broth. Simmer for another 10 minutes until potatoes soften, adding more stock as needed as the liquid evaporates. Remove from heat to cool.
Divide dough into 10 golf-ball sized rounds and cover with a towel. On a lightly floured work surface using a rolling pin, roll 1 dough ball into a 6″ round. Cut in half. Here’s the part I’m going to quote from Saveur, the instructions are just too good: “Gather straight edges of 1 half-round together, overlapping them by ¼” to form a cone; moisten seam with water and press to seal. Spoon 1 heaping tbsp. filling into cone. Moisten inside of top edge of cone with water, press edges together to close top of cone, and pinch along top ¼” of seam to completely seal filling in dough cone. Pleat length of seam by folding over about ¼” of the dough and pinching it together in about ½” increments. Repeat process with remaining dough and filling to make 20 pastries total. Set filled pastries aside.”
Bake Samosas for 15 minutes on one side, turn and bake for another 5. Remove when both sides are lightly browned.
For the chutney: Place cilantro, mint, lemon juice, and yogurt in a blender. Purée until smooth.
He noticed that despite the passing years the woman looked the same; the veil hiding her hair had not faded with time.
She handed him a blue notebook full of blank pages.
“Write: A Warrior of the Light values a child’s eyes because they are able to look at the world without bitterness. When he wants to find out if the person beside him is worthy of his trust, he tries to see him as a child would.”
“What is a Warrior of the Light?”
“You already know that,” she replied with a smile. “He is someone capable of understanding the miracle of life, of fighting to the last for something he believes in – and of hearing the bells that the waves set ringing on the seabed.”
He had never thought of himself as a Warrior of the Light.
The woman seemed to read his thoughts. “Everyone is capable of these things. And, though no one thinks himself as a Warrior of the Light, we all are.”
He looked at the blank pages in the notebook. The woman smiled again.
“Write about the Warrior,” she said.
Paulo Coelho Warrior of the Light, A Manual
Shaved Brussels Sprouts, Lentils, Bacon, and Pear Salad
Inspired by the Brussels Sprouts Chapter in Nigel Slater’s Tender
2 lbs. brussels sprouts
2 Comice Pears
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup cooked bacon
1 cup De Puy Lentils
1/2 cup olive oil
2 heaping tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp of red wine vinegar
salt/pepper to taste
Bring two pots of water to a boil. One for the lentils, one for blanching the brussel sprouts. Cook lentils for 20-30 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, shred brussel sprouts by hand or in a food processer. Set aside. Cook bacon to a crisp and lay to rest on a paper towel until cooled. Chop and set aside.
Roughly chop hazelnuts and toast in a dry pan for 5 minutes until browned but not burned. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, dijon, honey, red wine vinegar, and salt/pepper. Set aside. When all accessory ingredients have been prepped, toss shaved brussels sprouts into the boiling water and blanch for no more than 1 minute. Pour into a colander and rinse with cold water immediately. Dry with a salad spinner-dude or with towels. In a large bowl combine sprouts, cooked lentils, chopped bacon, and toasted hazelnuts. Cut in the slightest slivers of pear over the salad. Toss lightly with your hands before mixing in the dressing. Taste test for extra salt or dijon.
Hey, did you notice we got a facelift!? Thanks to the wonderful Megan Gilger and Aaron Wade for their savvy, kindness, and patience. Pardon the dust as I tidy up new bits and pieces of the site. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
There is a freight train of words and unfinished sentences inside me, pressing against my chest. It’s past midnight. I sit in the dark at Shaun’s desk wearing his black coat with the hole on the right arm. My feet are cold and I have to be at work in four hours but I feel like if I don’t write, right now, I will continue to feel paralyzed by the quicksand that has become of my brain. I stopped trying to be perfect a few months ago and in the absence of it’s restraint there is now this hole, a vacuum for new ideas, new people, and new experiences to flood its place. Everyone (myself included) talks about how liberating it is to follow your bliss, let go, be free, and to abandon expectations, but what nobody talks about is how fucking insane it can make you feel in the process. There are moments, like earlier tonight, when I am brushing my teeth or folding laundry when and I have to look down at my hands or touch my sacrum to remind myself that I’m still here. I’m still Kelsey. It’s borderline-terrifying when you look in the mirror and can’t recognize the person looking back at you. I’ve done so much thinking over the past few months that I swear to God it’s like I thought myself away from and out of my body.
There is a bench outside of my workplace that I spend most of my breaks. You’ll find me there these days watching people pass on their bikes, listening to the howls of the pool table at the bar across the street. It is my designated non-thinking bench. Really, it’s come to this. A place for fifteen minutes of peace from my own existence. Don’t think. Just sit. Just be. Just breathe here. Of course this non-thinking rule lasts for a whole minute until my phone blinks and reminds me that I have avoided more than a half-dozen phone calls from family and friends whose love and patience I probably don’t deserve right now. I remember the pile of bills and payment warnings from mid-summer blood tests sitting on my desk, a half-emptied suitcase from my last trip home, and the $13.00 library fine that restricts the release of my college diploma. These are all just things. Little things. Little things that mirror my high-speed chase away from all the calm, away from what could actually help me reach a finish line, a resolution, or at least a reset button. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid. Is it possible that I’m cultivating a mess in my temporal, phsyical world just to match or trump the spiritual warfare that’s going on within? Yes. Probably. Crazy. Who does that? Crazy people. Break out the DSM-IV, Mom.
I met a woman the other day at a party. I was immediately drawn to her energy because she held herself with the kind of ease and confidence that I have so often craved to make constant in my own state of being. You know these kind of women, or, at least, the idea of these kind of women. The kind who wear old jeans and whispy bohemian blouses with their perfectly messy hair. They practice yoga, are genuinely kind to everyone, unflustered by common commotion of human existence, and ready at a moments notice to jump into the ocean completely naked. You know exactly who I’m talking about, right? There are these that come in and out of our lives that we see and know and think, God, you make it look so easy. Anyway. This woman. At the party. I listened to her talk and watched her move and realized that I WAS her. All those things I saw that felt so far away in that moment lived inside of me, too. The utter madness and dislocation I feel when I look in the mirror is part of the same woman who laughs until she nearly pees her pants, cries when lady bugs land on her arms, travels fearlessly through foreign lands, gives amazing hugs, believes love will change the world, eats cake for dinner, and sings Julie Andrews ballads at the top of mountains so even the goats can hear just how happy she is to be alive. Anyway, I’m realizing that I don’t crave being her, the woman at the party, I crave being more of myself.
I’ve been cooking. A lot, actually, through all of “this.” I’ve made chocolate chip cookies four times from the same recipe and tried, at each go, to melt with that same buttery pot of comfort back into my own skin. I got closer every time, you see. Really. I should probably keep making them.
All of this. These words. These midnight ramblings might be (probably are?) best kept locked in a folder on my desktop for a later date. Something I can look back on when I’m wise and gray and think, whoa girl, that was a dark place. But I’m going to release them here. Be free, words. Be free, mess. This is what a mess looks like, if you weren’t sure yet. I imagine you have had, seen, or felt, or dug through your own and had a panic moment somewhere in the process that you were straight up bat-shit crazy. You’re not. Well maybe you are, but we all are. You’re human. We’ve got this brain, a million sets of choices and paths to take and a thousand different ways to imagine what it will, can, or should all look like. I’ve gotta believe we all go through this, these WHO AM I, WHAT AM I DOING HERE, WHY AM I ALWAYS GETTING IN MY OWN WAY cycles of questioning. I’m standing at the brink of 23 and part of me thinks it would be crazier if I wasn’t experiencing some sort of existential reckoning. Right? Right.
I’m in it. Here. Now. Perfectly okay and perfectly not. I will come back to me. I will. I imagine I’ll be grabbing the mail one day and look up to the sky, feel the sun on my face, and see it all so clearly. Until then, I’ll be here, holding fast like an anchor in the storm and facing forward to all that this place has to teach me.
Butternut Squash and Farro with Honey Harissa Dressing
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (and hey, guess what, I’m giving away a copy on facebook!)
1 medium-sized butternut squash, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 1/12 cup uncooked farro
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 honeycrisp apple, unpeeled and diced
1/2 cup pine nuts
Lug of olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp mint, julienned
1 Lemon, juiced
1 lime, juiced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp honey
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp harissa powder
Preheat the oven to 400.’ Start with the squash. Peel and prep and cube the dude and lay out flat onto a well loved baking sheet with a douse of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes or more until the edges are just browned. Meanwhile, bring the veggie or chicken stock to a boil in a medium-sized pot. Add the farro, cover, and let simmer for 30 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Strain and set aside for later.
For the dressing, combine liquids first: olive oil, citrus juices, and honey. Stir in cumin and harissa vigorously before adding the shallot and herbs. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine cooked farro, roasted squash, pine nuts, and the freshly diced apple. Cover with dressing and gently toss before serving.