Answer It

10 . 01 . 12

I stood there, in the cold of the morning, hunched over the kitchen sink with my hands gripping the counters ledge watching the leaves fall and collect on the deck. Trying to count my breaths, I silently beg each one to play it’s reverse card and go back to the tree, the life-force, that created it earlier in the spring. They do not stop. With each yellow sliver that drops, I feel myself being pulled down to the ground with them. Pieces of my heart and understanding lay there, wilting, disentigrating back to the earth. I wished for Autumn all summer long — for it’s first snow, cold sheets, fires in the living room. Now that it’s here, I’m not sure I’m ready to dig through the “basement” for all that needs supporting it. Things have settled, and suddenly the stillness I asked for has arrived with a pretty bow and a painful but necessary awareness to all that has really taken place from January to October.

I’ve highlighted and bookmarked Tiny Beautiful Things to shreds during this phase. Is it a phase? Can we call it that when it hasn’t yet passed? Anyway, Cheryl Strayed’s words are both comfort and a total slap in the face right now. In one particular letter, a young woman writes to Cheryl asking “WTF, WTF, WTF?” She responds in sharing the bone chilling history of sexual abuse from her father’s father and how she came to realize that pressing against the wound, tackling it straight on, was the only way to get a grip on her life. She ends her response to the young woman, “Ask better questions, sweet pea. The fuck is your life. Answer it.”

I share this passage not because I stood there staring at the leaves thinking, like the young woman who wrote Cheryl, “WTF, WTF, WTF.” But I realize that the leaves falling is my life. I need to answer it. Simple as that. I need to ask better questions about the why. Ask questions that shed light on what needs adjusting. So you’re feeling like “x” you’re acting like “y” and it’s causing a sour, hollow feeling in your gut. It’s not WTF. It’s your life. Dig deeper. Lean in. Throw yourself down the basement stairs and scavenge for as much as you can. You’re going to need all of it, everything you got, to make it to winter. 

Thai Carrot Soup

  • 3 sweet onions
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 2 tsp red chili flakes
  • 3 spoonfuls coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp cumin
  • dash of nutmeg
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, finely chopped
  • 1.5 lbs carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 5-6 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 4-5 thai chiles, de-seeded
  • handful fresh basil
  • 3 limes, juiced

In a large pot or dutch oven, saute roughly chopped onions with grated garlic, ginger, red chili flakes, and coconut oil until softened but not terribly browned. Add apple cider vinegar to deglaze the pot. Add cumin, nutmeg, lemongrass, and carrots. Stir to coat. Add coconut milk and the broth. Combine. Simmer on low with a lid for 30-40 minutes or until the carrots are completely softened.

Pour contents of pot into a high-powered blender in small batches with the fresh thai chiles. Blend until completely pureed. Add water or stock to adjust the thickness. Pour into individual bowls and top with juice of fresh lime and chopped basil.

  • Melise

    Beautiful:)

  • Lovely.

  • Asking better questions is something that’s been on my mind a lot recently. It’s not easy (but perhaps it shouldn’t be). I hope you find your answers xo

  • I struggle with fall a lot, too. Like it or not, it induces me to contemplation, and to dig inside myself to pull out all the malaises I have been ignoring during summertime –to distracted, too excited. It is scary but I try to live it as a process of self-understanding, of acceptance, a path toward maturity, and hopefully, a calmer hart.

    Astonishing looking soup and classic yet perfect combination of flavors, time to make it myself, too.

  • This struck home, thank you.
    And gorgeous recipe, can’t wait to try it.

  • I wish I could simply jump all the way over to you and your mountains. I wish I could stand beside you by the window with one arm around your back and count the leaves with you. Count the leaves and with love and warmth & see them cover mother earth and give her nourishment. we´d fill the sadness in our summer hearts with carrot soup and light a fire. Of course. Kelsey, you are such a bright shining star in this world, you know that right?!

  • Ah this reminds me of my mom’s signature phrase: “Don’t just whine; contribute.” Not saying you’re whining at all (obv). But your getting-down-into-the-basement analogy lines up with her point of making YOUR LIFE the contribution, every day, all the time. Go deeper, come to terms, give more, make it yours, go forward.

    And I need this soup seriously. How did you know that I was mega sniffly and in need of some soup-y inspiration?

    YOU = awesome.

  • Hope you find some light in the basement, sweet lady. Until then, here’s a quote from my favorite author (which always seems to comfort me when times are trying) – “So it goes.”

    PS – my excitement for lunch today cannot be contained (!!!!!!!)

  • Wow. SO incredibly beautiful and such a needed reminder as I spend too much time in the WTF and not enough time pressing in and approaching the next step, the next phase – whatever it is – with boldness, grace and joy. Beautiful post, friend.

  • Your words and recipes always seem to come at just the right time. This soup looks amazing and perfect for the chilly nights that have arrived with fall.

  • so poignant. I am jealous of the way you are able to really process what’s happening. Even if it gets past you sometimes, you always come back to it and I admire that. Thanks for this reminder – I felt like I understood everything you were thinking. The soup looks so tasty and flavorful. Its so warm here this week, but I am rebelling and making soup today because it’s Oct. and that’s just what has to happen. You’re wonderful.

  • Beautiful post, you are a gifted writer. Love your recipes!
    Thanks for sharing

  • This is beautiful. And the searching you are doing is so important for all of us to do. Remember that down in the basement and up in the attic and in the center of your heart you have all the answers, all you will ever need. Love and light on your journey in.

  • Yes. Kelsey, YES, and this is beautiful. I feel as though my understanding is wilting lately, too, and I don’t like it. But thank you for these reminders: to ask better questions, to tackle things head on. I am confident you’ll make it to winter.

  • It’s hard to always know what questions to ask, and if we’re asking the right ones. We’d all be much wiser if we did :)

  • Such a thought-provoking post today, Kelsey. Loved it. This soup reminds me of one I had in Maui that I’ve been wanting to recreate. I’ll do just as soon as it stops being 90 degrees in LA.

  • Beautiful. I had a winter like this when I was pregnant with my daughter: having to answer life, asking all the questions, facing myself. It’s hard work, but worth traveling just one foot in front of the other for a time, even a long time. So much love to you, friend.

  • I started reading this when I was on the bus yesterday. I was anxious to get through it but as soon as I started looking through the text, I realized that I needed to read this at a point when I could focus on each word.

    With the changing of the seasons, I get a little bipolar. At once I feel both excited and hopeful and then that hollow feeling that you describe takes over. But I can’t let it bring me down… I know this. I’m doing my very best to say SCREW YOU EMOTIONS and maintain a more positive outlook.

  • I wish everyone would take pause to reflect that the time for life is now and digging deeper reveals that. What’s funny is that standing over a big pot of simmering soup is sometimes when I find myself asking these same questions.You’re a beautiful lady inside and out Kelsey, wish I could pull up to the table and enjoy this delicious soup with you right now.

  • Asking better questions opens you up to endless possibilities. And truths that we don’t like to face some days. October is unravelling and the leaves along with it, but at least it calls for a soup like this. Of which, carrot is under-appreciated. And lovely.

  • Made this tonight (in the vita!) sans thai chiles + curry we got yesterday. So good. You rule.

  • Powerful and beautiful.
    I struggled with winter this year. In fact, since this time last year I have been in a holding pattern. I had love. I lost love and I was thrown into a year long winter.
    When spring’s first leaves unfurled this year I felt new parts of me come to life, and those that had been buried by the snow came shooting out of the earth seeking the sun.
    Time has come to answer the call of those tender buds and nurture them, answer them, grow with them.

  • Powerful and beautiful.
    I struggled with winter this year. Since this time last year I have found myself in a holding pattern. I had love. I lost love.
    I was buried underneath the cold.
    This spring I started to feel those parts of myself come back to life; struggle through the earth and seek the sunshine again. Time has come to nurture these buds, answer the call of my heart and soul, my life.

  • Sorry I haven’t been by in so long. Wrapped up in so much seemingly petty everything and it hit like a bomb yesterday. Ask better questions, indeed. I am usually wired to do just that — relentlessly. But I think I’m too tired now. I’ve just noticed new leaves on the carrotwood trees outside my window. They’re tinged with bronze, and shiny. Reaching for the sunlight. Thank you for this…

  • This is so beautiful. I want to be your friend!

  • I needed to read this post today. Thank you, Kelsey.

  • This struck a chord with me as we’re about to make a big change. Something we’ve discussed for months, but as we get closer to pulling the trigger, I become weak. Cooking helps ground me during these moments, allowing me time to simmer and stew, on the very reasons we need to do this.

  • absolutely. better to jump down those stairs than be caught unawares.

  • Lovely post.

  • Man … how about that line, “Be brave enough to break your own heart.” Kills me. I actually have yet to read it, but I heard her speak/read about a month ago and was so moved by all of it. Now my mom’s reading it in her writing class, so we’ve been talking about it. So. Darn. Good.

  • We are poised over a big change, and all the life questions and self questions that go with it…this post definitely spoke to me. Yes, time to answer, past time.

    That’s a lovely soup btw!

  • Okay, this is obviously a beautiful looking soup and I want to try it, if only for the amount of chilies and the presence of limes. On the other hand, your post about life and this book really caught me off guard. I want to read this book now and I hope that I can gain some insights into asking and answering life’s questions. She sounds like a very brave woman to be able to face sexual abuse head on. It’s much easier to push that part away and try to move on.

  • absolutely stunning shots

  • Ally

    This my first time on your site and I love it. I made carrot ginger soup today and after seeing this recipe, I have this Thai inspired carrot soup a try now.

  • Jen

    I ran into your website last night and have been glued to it ever since!! On my way to the store now!! Amazing recipe’s!! And wow you have a beautiful heart. God was looking after me last night…..perfect timing. Thank you xo

  • Krystina

    I wish I could tell you how much your words mean to me. These small ones I type will just have to do. “Thank you” is nowhere big enough – but, thank you. And I’m listening. And more, please. Because your eyes see things in ways unruly, and it’s freeing. Here’s to leaning in.

  • Beautiful. Can’t wait to try it.

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