I had a wonderful visit with friends last night. I only just remembered to snap a pic of the main course and unfortunately, the photo is a little fuzzy.
The salsa was made with 2 mangos, 2 small shallots, 3/4 red bell pepper, all finely diced, a squeeze of 1/2 a lime, salt and pepper to taste (I’ve been using Le Saunier de Camargue fleur de sel and love it fiercely) all tossed together with a few finely chopped cilantro leaves. I personally love cilantro but some don’t seem to appreciate it as much, so I try to curb my enthusiasm a bit. I used maybe six leaves for mine.
The main course was halibut en papilotte. I put the halibut pieces over a layer of leek and fennel slivers (sliced using a mandolin), seasoned with salt and pepper, a drizzle of white wine and olive oil and garnished with lemon slivers which I’d fed through the mandolin as well. It was all wrapped up in parchment paper and cooked in the oven on a baking sheet at 425 for 18 minutes.
We cleansed our palates with some Mario’s gelatti lemon sorbet, and then I served up a rhubarb, Saskatoonberry and raspberry pie fresh from the oven. I cheated on the crust (I used the Pillsbury ready-made package) and the measurements were inexact on the fruit… about 5-7 stalks of rhubarb, cut into 1″ segments, a large tray of raspberries and about half a pound of Saskatoon berries. I grated the rind from 1 lemon and squeezed its juice in, added about 2 tablespoons of Madagascar vanilla bean paste, and about a cup and a half of sugar. Tossed the whole thing together to incorporate and baked it all in a double crust pie shell arrangement.
The warm pie was served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.
We had some lovely Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand as accompaniment, trying both the Matua from Hawke’s Bay and the Kono from the Marlborogh region. I liked both but the Matua was truly something special.
Some days I just want to curl up into a cocoon and forget about the world. A man is on the street corner of Beatty and Pender, screaming like the guy from Network, only much less eloquently. I’m sure he’s mad as hell too.
The world is being torn apart by soulless people who believe they are doing the right thing. It’s frightening, really. I wonder why God just doesn’t shout down at us from the heavens like a good parent should and say “Enough! Enough of this nonsense!!”
This morning I stayed on the bus instead of getting off at the train station and rode it all the way into town. For a good chunk of the ride I chatted about writing and books and dreams with the woman I sat down next to. Both middle aged (she was a bit older than I am, even), it’s good to know that we still have dreams, things that we aspire to, and passions that drive us from the inside out. After our initial chat we both sunk into the reading of our books.
I got to my stop by 8:13 and was able to pop in to Nester’s to pick up some breakfast. Outside on the curb there was a man sitting there. He greeted me with a cheerful “good morning” and when I said it back to him, it occurred to me that he might be hungry too. So I asked him “You hungry? Would you like something to eat?” and he said yes. I asked him what he wanted.
I got it for him, with a coffee to boot. He thanked me and told me that I made his day. I think he made mine.
We connect far too infrequently with people. I’m not sure what people are afraid of. They use all kinds of methods to keep from really being themselves, from really being seen, or from really seeing another. I know at times I am absorbed in my thoughts and worries and don’t see people as well as I could, but more often than not I am assailed by everyone’s humanness. I feel the pain and the fear keeping people locked behind their eyes, and also their bravery at attempting to free themselves from that which binds them.
It is a constant struggle for me, too.
I have a hard time communicating with people who are closed off. I don’t know how to reach them. They frighten the parts of me that tend to close off too, because it’s so much easier to live reclusively than to take it all in, the good and its opposite.
I’m tired today. I have a half hour work out in a few minutes and then I want to run over to Meinhardt’s to pick up a bunch of lavender. I am plotting the presentation for gift wrapping books that I got for my lovely friends. I had to share the gorgeous book that was The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. As book medicine goes, it’s one that would be of service to all of humankind, if only they were willing to read it and hear its messages.
I have friends coming over for dinner tomorrow evening, and I’m trying to meal plan but I’m still undecided. Something with fish and rhubarb pie, I think, with vanilla ice cream.
I’m working tonight until 10:30. And I’m already tired. Hope you are well.
Inspired by a scene I’d read in the book I’m reading, I wanted to poach some fish in wine and cream. I didn’t have a recipe, and none of the ones I looked at were exactly what I wanted. So I improvised and concocted my own.
I finely chopped two large green onions and some fennel and cooked them over medium high heat in some heated grape seed oil and a dollop of butter. I added Maldon salt and freshly ground black pepper.
After it was just on the edge of being caramelized, I added a sprinkling of flour and stirred for a few minutes to incorporate, and to also allow the raw taste of the flour to cook off. I then deglazed with 350ml of white wine. I used a sauvignon blanc from Chile.
Once reduced, I added 200ml of cream and let it incorporate.
I added pieces of fish to the pan and simmered for about 7 minutes, then transferred the fish into a dish warming in the oven.
Once all the fish was cooked, I added the remainder of the 473ml carton of cream to the pan, grated in some lemon rind and added the leaves of a few sprigs of fresh thyme.
Once the flavours incorporated, I poured the sauce over the fish that had been warming in the oven. I served it over plain steamed jasmine rice.
The consensus was that the dish was a win.
The sun feels good on my feet. I’m sitting on the back porch, witnessing the shade shrink as the sun makes its progress across the sky. This morning it was tufted with puffy clouds, but now the sky is cerulean blue and streaked with washes of white clouds, as though watery paint is being moved over its surface, blown by an artist’s breath as it squeezes through a straw.
The kids swept the porch earlier, but another once over is needed, maybe even a good mopping, but I have other chores that await, too, inside.
My one day off a week.
It’s the kind of day that wants to keep me outside, with a good book (which I happen to be reading), in the shade. My feet poke out and rejoice in the sun. It isn’t too hot; a cool breeze is keeping things comfortable. Sometimes I can even smell the ocean in the air.
I am visited upon by a dragonfly the colour of fire. It flashes in the sunlight, alights on the tip of a banana leaf for long enough that I am able to scramble inside to grab my phone. Patiently it waits, posing for the camera, and as soon as the shutter snaps, it is airborne again, off to set fire to someone else’s day, to bring them a much needed message, if they pay close enough attention.
Wow. I can’t believe that I’m at the tail end of my writing program. The year whipped by fast, and the constant production of writing has (I think, I hope) finally gotten me to a consistent writing practice and given me more confidence in my ability as a writer.
The deadline to submit to the anthology is Friday at noon, so I only have a very small window of time to finalize my submission. It’s a bit nerve wracking but I’m also so very excited about the possibility of having something I’ve written be out in the real world (outside of my blog and whatever I share on social media).
The first piece is an excerpt from The Story Wrangler, a novel that I’ve been workshopping this year. I also wanted to submit some poetry (since I spent the first half of the program workshopping those) and there may be room for two.
I’m excited and I’m wistful. I’ve enjoyed the company of my cohort; along with my other cohorts and our mentor, Fiona, they have all given me such valuable insight into my skill gaps and strengths.
Most of all, I’ve learned that I love writing. I am in love with writing. I write because it’s unthinkable for me not to. I write because stories call to me (so, so many of them) and they want to be told.
“You should make books and sell them at the Farmer’s market!” said a co-commuter, as we were waiting for the train this morning.
I was bringing in a large unused canvas I had stashed in our shed to give to a coworker, and my commuter friend asked me, “Oh, do you paint?”
I explained what I was doing with the canvas, and how it had been some time since I’d devoted any time to painting on a canvas of this size. I asked her whether she did.
“I used to… in high school. I’d like to get back into it but I just don’t have the time to devote to it.”
This has got to be one of two of the most common phrases I hear in relation to art making. The other is something along the lines of “Oh, I’m not artistic.”
Then, when she asked me (the inevitable question) whether I’d sold my work, I told her “Mostly, no.” I told her that I for the most part worked in a book these days, journal-style, so I showed her some photos, which elicited “Oh, you’re really good!” followed by the sentence I started this blog post with.
I am good. I know this. I can always get better, and practice does improve one’s skills. I know this too.
Here’s the thing. Not that many years ago I made a choice. I chose not to make a living through visual art.
I struggled with this for a long, long time. When I was at the top of my young life, it was something that I felt I was meant to do, but after I left art school without completing my degree, I began working in offices. It didn’t take me long to get mired down by debt. Then I married and a whole different lifestyle took center court.
A few years into motherhood, I decided to try to revisit the art-as-a-living thing and struggled for a while longer trying to figure out how to manifest this desire that sat in the pit of my stomach into something more tangible – something that would provide enough income to replace the one I was earning through other means.
I never did figure it out. I flailed – wildly – and in the end those aspirations were left behind, along with the rubble of a failed marriage.
Not the art, though.
When people claim “art saves lives” I can really get behind that phrase. It’s saved mine innumerable times, has been along with me on my life journey and has always provided refuge.
It’s provided a way for me to express the things roiling inside of me that I could not – did not even know how to – bring out in any other way.
The book I’m reading at the moment, A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini and Richard Lannon, (all M.D.’s), had some interesting passages about the complex functioning of the limbic brain, and how human intuition works.
“As we move through the world we tend to presume that success comes from understanding. The brightness of rationality’s narrow beam makes this supposition nearly inescapable. “Reason is the substance of the universe,” Hegel crowed in an age when science still expected to explicate everything. But these memory studies have intuition leading comprehension by a country mile; they reveal our lives lit by the diffuse glow of a second sun we never see. When confronted with repetitive experiences, the brain unconsciously extracts the rules that underlie them. We experience the perceptible portion of this facility as a gathering pressure in the solar plexus, ready for use but defying description. Such knowledge develops with languorous ease and inevitability, stubbornly inexpressible, never destined for translation into words.”
On the following page they speak to how children learn language, but I find this very summative of the creative process as well:
“Every language is intricate, but is not chaotic; the underlying uniformities reveal themselves to the neural systems poised to pluck recurring patterns out of a sea of experience. […] Behind the familiar bright, analytic engine of consciousness is a shadow of silent strength, spinning dazzlingly complicated life into automatic actions, convictions without intellect, and hunches whose reasons follow later or not at all. It is this darker system that guides our choices in love.”
I believe that it is this same system, that when tapped into, provides me with the essence of my creativity. I’m pretty sure that’s where it comes from for all of us.
While I’ve moved from one art form (visual art) to another (writing), I notice that the way in which it comes into being is different, but not the place from which it derives. For me, the drive to create is innate and autonomic… something I must do.
I’ll close this meandering post with this: create (if you want to) if there’s something that crouches in your solar plexus that wants to be outwardly expressed.
If it feels right, sit with your body for a while and make room for the process to unfold in your life.
I have found that it is profoundly enriching, and even at times life-saving. A birthright.