Author Archives: theartsyfartsychick

About theartsyfartsychick

little... bio... hmmm... well, i'm an artsy fartsy chick with an office day job (for now, anyway) sharing with anyone who wants to know my creative process and the fruits of my labours...

Us

I have a headache… probably from staying up too late, watching “This Is Us”. The writing is brilliant. Beautiful. Heart warming. Heart breaking. Both, sometimes at the same time.

Why is life so complicated? How did kindness become such a challenging state of being to bestow upon those around us?

I am constantly reminded that kindness is a choice, as are many other things, and sometimes kindness means to be honest with the kind of integrity that makes you quake inside, that makes you worry that everything meaningful you’ve ever hoped to build toward will crumble.

Sometimes it means to be brave and to persevere, even though failure might be the end result. I feel I’ve done that, time and again in my life. Not always, because sometimes fear yanks away the wheel from my grip and relegates me to the back seat, but when I let it drive for a while, I realize that I’m moving farther away from where my heart wants me to be. So I relent, find the resolve to take my seat in the front again.

I try to lead by good example, and I fail that too, at times. Spectacularly. I fail because I can’t see past my own humanity, or that of the ones who surround me, by whom I fail, sometimes. I look at people and see what they are not. What they could be. What I think they are, however erroneously. The strengths and weaknesses intermingled into one hot mess that I can’t rise above, at least not then, maybe not ever.

The thing is, I keep coming back, showing up to give it another go. I do that because I believe in us, all of us. I believe in people, and their beautiful frailty and strength. The two don’t diminish each other, they make each stronger, more enduring.

When I was young, I would get into these dark moods. It was a kind of sadness that would grow out from my marrow and overwhelm me. It felt sort of like covering myself with a big comforter in the early morning, in an attempt to sink back into sleep, not sure whether it was to rest some more or as an escape from the weight of trying to learn to be a human being.

No one really teaches you how to be that. Sure, we are told what to do and not do by anyone who has an opinion to give. Mostly though, we each end up finding our own way, no matter how skewed the journey. We learn from those around us how we want to be; who we want to be less like. Our hearts are broken a million times in a lifetime, and in the end it is up to us to figure out how to find a way to mend each break.

Sometimes, people come into our lives, at times briefly, at times more enduringly, and teach us the things we need to know to become more of who we are meant to be. Sometimes they just hold our hands while we figure things out, and sometimes they hold all of us, our lives, together while we make our way through to the other side of the painful things that break us down and force us to remake ourselves again. Sometimes, they do the breaking, or watch us break, hoping that we will find a way to mend ourselves, on our own.

I have no answers – I never have. I have only more questions, many without any answers.

I’ve learned that being told what to do seldom works. My mother, on those darkened days, used to urge me to “cheer up”. There was never a moment that she reached out to try to solve the why of it, or how to go about finding a solution. It’s not that she had any answers, per se, but maybe going through the motions of coming up with solutions, to be witnessed instead of reacted to, I might have found my own way to the answers, at least a whole lot sooner than fifty some-odd years in.

I still don’t have all the answers, though, at least not definitive ones. The solutions change as quickly as the dilemmas do, and what worked today may not work tomorrow. What I have learned though is to stay the course, through the good stuff, the less than pleasant stuff. There is always some kind of revelation that arises, if I am patient enough, if I allow myself to be open to its receiving. If I forgive myself when I give a less than stellar performance and allow myself to be the human that I am.

Life is miraculous. The fact that we exist is miraculous, that we’ve persevered as a collective species; that I am alive, despite so many odds of it being otherwise. I don’t understand, can’t even pretend to know, why it is so. That is part of the great mystery.

What I do know is that the reason we have survived is because we have been able to find common ground… to pull together and help support each other in the face of insurmountable odds. We have found ways to persevere, and to thrive because we have been able to become greater than the sum of our collective parts.

Sure, for millennia, the weakest amongst us were eliminated from the gene pool by virtue of the fittest outliving those that were less so. We live a comfortable existence today, by comparison. We have luxuries and comforts that very few were afforded with any sort of regularity even a century ago. You could say that such softness was an affliction of the ruling class, a class that got to where they were by originally being the hardier and smarter of the populace, but that became diminished by dint of their self-inflicted segregation.

We weaken when we become exclusive, when we stop engaging with each other. It is a sure recipe for die-off. We owe it to ourselves, our children and their progeny, to learn from what has come before, to let all of that sink in real good, and find a way to rise above all of it.

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Don’t forget the tulips

Every weekday morning I sit at the table in my dining alcove. This morning the bouquet of tulips and freesias from last Friday are spreading their petals wide, in an unabashed embracing of the sun. Today it filters through a gossamer thin layer of clouds. A seagull flits through the screen of the living room’s picture windows – I am here to bear witness. Crows that I feed almonds to click and caw from neighbouring trees. For an instance, I am shrouded in a blanket of silence so complete, it is as though a giant hand has turned the outside world’s volume knob to zero. The only sound I hear is of air propelled through the blades of a fan I sit downwind from; it stays like this for seconds. I am about to settle into this brilliant white absence, but the groan of a truck, its gears grinding, edges in and rolls to stop when the light changes; the engine idles. A crosswalk bot beeps at regular intervals to assure pedestrians of a safe crossing.

I’ve fretted for months on the placement of things; in their accumulation I have deemed them as necessary for my survival as the air I breath, but I have yet to find a place for many of them, patient boxes of furniture lean against walls while they wait for assembly, photos and music CDs stacked high in corners, sheaves of paper in bankers boxes waiting for my consideration on whether to be kept or shredded. Some things are stowed, though, have found their rightful place, for now. As unsettled as I still feel, I remember that I have slept here for almost half a year, have seen the light shift from fall to winter to spring through panoramic windows, seen it dance across the surface of a river that flows a short distance away, where generations of logs were herded to lumber mills downriver over decades, long before my arrival. I have seen the trees renew themselves, shed their leaves and start over, abandon themselves with an unshakable faith to whatever outcome the passage of time may bring.

cauliflower .. the virtues of

Well, even though I should be working on my novel (which I’ve coined “TIVOC” for short), this is happening, because we need to subsist, after all.

I’ll be taking this in to work this afternoon for dinner, along with some plain steamed rice.

Roasted cauliflower recipe:

  • 1 head of cauliflower, cleaned and broken into florets
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced and rind grated
  • 1T sumac
  • 1T cumin
  • 1T coriander
  • 1t garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425F.

Combine oil with next 5 ingredients in a bowl and toss cauliflower. Lay out on a covered cookie sheet (I used foil but you can use parchment or a silicone mat) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. I have been personally favouring Maison Orphée grey sea salt lately.

Bake in oven until nicely golden brown, turning occasionally. Every oven is different so just keep an eye on it. Half and hour should be plenty.

Roasted turkey breasts

  • fresh turkey breasts (mine are skinless and deboned but you can use chicken or bone in and skinless of either)
  • glug olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • summer savory
  • ground coriander
  • glug of white wine
  • salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350F.

Place meat in baking dish. Add glug of oil, glug of white wine (I use whatever white wine I have open and on hand), lemon juice and zest. Sprinkle with garlic (I usually just press the cloves right on top with a garlic press) and summer savory (I got my tin from Pomme, a specialty store in Coquitlam – it’s a bit hard to find in regular grocery stores). Sprinkle with salt to taste (again, I used the sel gris) and bake until done. Follow safety guidelines for cooking poultry per weight and type. The liquids keep things moist so if you err on the side of longer cooking times (like I usually do – I left mine in for 50 minutes), it keeps things from drying out. I end up shredding the whole lot into the remaining liquid and using it to top the rice.

Enjoy!

It always comes back to food

It has been a long while since I have posted anything here. I will chalk it up to being inordinately busy, and shifting through some major changes (like moving unexpectedly and starting a new job with a schedule that requires getting used to) and generally feeling blah all winter.

This book arrived in yesterday’s mail (with several others that I’ll speak to in a moment) and though it isn’t one that the doctor recommended I own (she did tell me, after encouraging me to follow a more plant-based diet, to get Plenty and Plenty More, both by Yotam Ottolenghi), I couldn’t resist My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz after reading through the sample pages online.

While the recipes cover a full spectrum of foods that would delight any omnivore such as myself, it is the rambling dialog that endeared me to it, and the tacitly apparent sheer love of food that the author has, which borders on reverence. I understand this, even if I am not a trained cook. It’s the fascination with the ingredients, and an appreciation for their unique and special qualities that draw me to cooking. When it is not a mere utilitarian act (to feed and nourish the body) it becomes a sort of dance with the ingredients, leaves us open for new discoveries of flavours and textures, and how they meld together when consumed. Food nourishes us in many ways, not just through their ingestion and digestion but by our interaction with it, in a dance of sorts.

Maybe I exaggerate. Maybe you don’t have this symbiotic relationship with food, or perhaps you have it with something else.

For me, it always comes back to food. I’d like to think I came upon it honestly. My mother was a fabulous cook, though she never strayed from the Hungarian cuisine she grew up on and mastered. Delicious as it was, I became culinarily curious the older I got. I grew up in Montreal, and anyone who has been to that city can attest to the fact that food, good, great food, is plentifully available throughout the city.

My challenge is that I am mostly cooking for one, these days.

With the movement towards local fresh food, and almost forgotten varieties of fruits and vegetables slowly making a reappearance on the (mostly farmer’s) market shelves, it is an exciting time to be cooking. This summer I’ll be looking for those white-tipped radishes, fresh mixed greens and locally made cheeses.

I can’t wait.

A daily morning practice.

For years I used to write in a journal, somewhat daily. While many of the pages were rife with the kinds of things young women write about, mostly my woes with the opposite gender, the process itself was immeasurably helpful. It was a place to purge, to sort out, to make cohesive, the thoughts and especially the emotions that whorled around inside of me at cyclonic speeds. It was a safe space to air the things which should never be shared, to say the things that should not be spoken, to find a way to make amends with all of the disparities in life, whether with others or myself, or with the circumstances that I found myself in, good, bad or indifferent.

I would read other people’s published diaries and journals, too. I found them fascinating, compelling, like a window into someone else’s soul, though I think some, like Anaïs Nin for example, she was writing hers for publication, or heavily edited them prior to publication ending up with cleaned up derivatives of the rawness that is their normal state. Mine are, anyway.

I’ve read, too, about people taking their old diaries and therapeutically “releasing” the pages to bonfires and shredders, symbolically shedding parts of themselves that no longer serve them. I know I’ve thrown a few of them away myself, my very early ones, which I regret doing now.

I was ashamed of the person scattered amongst those old pages, but today, almost to my 54th birth date, I think each phase of my incarnations as a rite of passage, that each had an important part to play in who I am now and continue to become, and while I cringe at so much of the angst I experienced, mostly in sympathy, I am no longer ashamed of who I was.

It’s a small and tiny shift, but it’s the biggest breakthrough I’ve had in a long time, and I’m not sure what to attribute it to, other than restarting this journaling practice somewhat recently. Perhaps it’s just due to the aging process, of realizing that fighting parts of myself are exhausting and self-defeating, and that there is already so much discord outside of myself and beyond my control, that I need not add to it of my own accord and turn it inward.

I haven’t blogged in a while. Life has been busy, in good, bad and indifferent ways, but they all meld into each other, and the essence of each of those things gets stirred in, like ingredients into batter, and here I am sharing a slice. It tastes pretty good from where I’m sitting. I hope yours does too.