Tuesday, July 31, 2012

To Savor a Moment

BSP3 5

To tell you the truth, I’m sick of food. I've been sick of it. Sick of thinking about it, sick of making it, sick of cleaning up after it. While I would love for someone else to cook all my meals I can’t see past their actions, the team, the hustle, to simply savor things – not as often as I would like anyway. Food can be, in a word, exhausting.

While I was at my food bloggers 'retreat' this weekend, a white shirt clad woman, hair pulled back in a sensible but clean ponytail, holding a plastic bowl filled with salad, said “excuse me”. She brushed by me and, too-humbly, said “thank you,” then went about her work of refilling and refreshing a salad on the buffet. In that tenth of a second, that moment I was her again. I was industrial-kitchen hustling, sore feet, service to the core, seen and not heard, make it pretty, make it perfect, make it full and ample, longing for a moment to run away and cool off in the walk-in again. The food fell away, it was her I noticed from there on out, it was the movement, the work. The work. So, much work.

Food is work. It is exhausting toil, hard lessons learned and time spent doing everything but the eating – for farmers, producers, cooks and clean-up crews. For parents with budgets. For you. But it is is also fun, and quiet – it is community and pride, tradition and solace.

BSP3 1

All the same, here I was in a room full of people passionate about food – cameras at the ready, soaking up the tastes, smells, and community around them. “Are you seeing it,” I thought “Did you see her, the woman with the salad?” Maybe. Probably not. Can we ever really see all that has gone into a single dish? From the soil through to the scent, the migrant hand plucking peaches in scorching sunlight on through to the worker tending the kiln reducing wood into charcoal – all for the simple sweetness of a grilled peach, topped with whipped cream. Milking machines, cows in fields (one would hope), dairy truck drivers, hair nets and FDA testers. Sweating cooks impervious to heat after long years of standing over the fire, flipping peaches.


Jars - Terrain

We all stand over the fire in our own way though. From the exhausted parents scraping together something resembling a balanced meal for their kids at the end of the day, to the girl in the grocery, post-dating a check for a case of dollar-a-box ramen noodles, hoping to make it to months end. We all bear the brunt of the fire – and we all have a flame within us.

Mugs - Terrain

But here’s the thing. There is that moment. The moment when time stops. When the first strawberry of the season erupts with flavor in your mouth. The slow bite of a watermelon, the texture like a million natural pop-rocks screaming “wow!” at your tastebuds. The moment when ganache turns from a topping to a smooth silken layer of chocolate, sliding across your tongue. It all disappears then – yes, every person whose work went into that moment, every calloused hand and scalded arm, it all falls away. That is what I love about great food – it calls you back into the moment no matter how hard we try to fight it, no matter how far away we want to be.

That moment moves within us – it turns into community. “Did you taste the cupcake?” “Who made the chocolate cookie with the caramel inside it?” “What smells so good?” Alone, together – it doesn’t matter. All that exhaustion, colludes in a million magical moments, all across the world, every single day, making meaning, conversations and memories.

BSP3 2

Did I come away from the Big Summer Potluck with a remarkable memory of all the food? Not necessarily (though it was outstanding). I came away with the lessons that my heart needed to hear and the space that the community gathered around a table afforded me. Sometimes what you need isn’t the sustenance but the nourishment of spirit.

Each of us left with our own lessons, our own affirmations. Mine were confirmations and encouragements. I knew I wouldn’t be like everyone else there (for one, I don’t have a blog that is solely food related), and I was ok with that – in the end I took strength from my difference because it reminded me that we are all the same, that we all share common experiences. This is a truth that I hold dear, and yet one I have to be constantly reminded about.

I asked the woman with salad refill if she was hot, if she wouldn’t love a break in the walk-in. She laughed and said she used to hide in the ice cream at another job.

I talked to another woman about how meal planning services work for me, because I don’t have time to do everything all the time. She agreed and shared a funny story about food failures.

I spoke about how holding too tight to our best work hurts our ability to grow beyond it – and it moved someone who needed to hear those words.

I met someone I greatly admired and she told me, bluntly, to move forward – that my voice was valuable, that the person I want to be is someone the world needs.

Laughter, agreement, confirmation, encouragement, community – all because of food. Yes, it is exhausting, but the effort is worth it. The value is greater than the work. The moments matter.

For me, today, I’m choosing to stand in the fire and embrace the warmth. I’m choosing to take a moment and enjoy the way an egg slides from the lip of a pan as an omelet takes form instead of thinking about the dishes. I’m choosing to stand into the space of the person I know I am becoming. No more running away into the walk-in, this fire is mine and I choose to let it light the path or burn the clearings as needed. I'll take the scars and the sparks - the journey is worth the exhaustion, and there will always be a hand to hold if we are willing to reach out.

Thank you to the special souls who fanned the flames this weekend. Your honesty, empathy, and sharing of experience were (are) appreciated.


Note: For you long-time readers, you should know, things will be changing a bit around here and I'll be moving to a new space in the coming months. No big deal - I'll let you know and you can still come here, it will direct you where to go. You'll see, it'll be fun!


And thank you to my mom for running around to all my favorite restaurants and inspirational places in a very short time period. It was fun being us again.

Photos are a combo of the conference and the much lauded and loved Terrain at Styers. I know how the blogosphere loves their Terrain!

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Healing Path

For American readers the news that a shooter has taken the lives of at least 12 people and injured 38 more in a movie theater last last night/early this morning will be well known by now. My social media sites have been a flurry of questions and comments: What happened? How can this happen? What is wrong with people? I can't make sense of senseless violence. What can I do? Thoughts and prayers. Thoughts and prayers. Thoughts and prayers. 

Perhaps some of you have noticed, perhaps not, that I choose to take time before responding to tragedy and trauma. I want my message to be consistent and I want it absolutely clear. In my mind, and in my opinion there is only one way to resolve, deal with, process and heal from tragedy: with love and compassion. 

Violence does not heal violence. Hatred does not resolve hatred. Only with true compassion and love can we make our lives, the lives of those around us, and our impact on the world better.

So what does that really mean? Well, for me it means fostering tolerance in the face of hateful words or opinions and allowing myself to look past the language into the wounded hearts of those that say them, disagreeing with respect, and compassionately, patiently, without malice or sharp words, helping to shine light on a path of peace and kindness towards others. It means pausing before reacting. It means breathing. It means taking a moment to move to a place of gratitude and tolerance before I address things. Do I always succeed? No, of course not. But I have been that person who has said hurtful things with a wounded heart and a bruised ego, who has hurt people with a quick temper or biting words. I have also been that person who was crying out for love from beyond those words. I like to think I have changed and I like to think every day I am tiny bit better. I would like to think that about everyone - but as we well know, there are people whose cries go unheard, whose pain is too deep, whose minds are too tortured. 

And so it goes. Innocents hurt, families torn apart, hearts crushed. On and on. 

We cannot fix the world - not a single individual one of us, but we can be a light. We can be forces of change. We can inspire others simply by living lives that are true, full, passionate, loving and kind. We can ignore all the rules and chase the passion that brings us the most joy and leave in our wake a sea of people touched by positivity, inspiration, honesty, integrity, compassion and love. We can create unseen changes in other people every single day and create a ripple effect of positive change. 

What do we do when faced with incredible tragedy? We allow ourselves to feel that intense sadness. We respect and honor our need to be confused and lost. We pause and spend true moments, real time, sending out deeply felt empathy to people we've never met through prayer, through meditation, through thoughts, and then we expand. We grow. We give thanks for everything that is in direct opposition to the negativity we were just bombarded with - we embrace life, value it, savor it, thank our god(s), our universe, our air for it and we grow. 

Hear me loud and clear or this: We do not, DO NOT allow ourselves to lose hope. We do not allow ourselves to be crushed beyond repair. We do not give up.

I speak from a place of strong, earnest, deeply felt imploring: Do not allow the pain of other people, their brash and horrible lashing out, to make you lose hope. I did. I allowed the events of September 11th to unravel me, to kill my dreams, to make me cower in a dark place. I wish I had been better equipped to handle what happened, but I wasn't. I lost years of my life not being the person I want(ed) to be. I am just now starting to recognize and feel a fire inside me that is fierce and passionate and headed directly in pursuit of my joy - a feeling I felt without exception before that dark day.

You must never allow to pain of others to make you lose hope - be filled with love and compassion to the best of your ability and move forward.

Where is forward? I hope for you, as well as for me it is a place of unequivocal joy. Forward is a place where we take small steps, tiny little nothing actions in the direction of our passions. Forward is a place where people's opinions, judgements, and naysaying falls away, irrelevant, because your singular focus is so deeply embued with and fueled by love, that negativity is just a obstacle that wastes time you are not willing to give up. 

Let tragedy bring you pain but then let it push you forward into a life that is filled to the brim with honesty, passion, compassion, big dreams and bigger chasing of dreams, and love. Be the opposite of the darkness.

For those of you crying out for something positive today here is what I did, read, and watched that helped me in regaining my compassion and love:

I took the whole morning off and cuddled my daughter. We ate ripe, juicy peaches and perfectly grilled cheese sandwiches, bathed, giggled and read books. It reminded me of my favorite poem, yet again, for the second time in that past week or so:

FROM BLOSSOMS

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.
From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.
O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.
There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

- Li-Young Lee
Found here and many other places online.


I watched this and reminded myself that I want to be the person fully soaking in the moment, not texting messages to friends or trying to capture the fleeting beauty. (Thanks for the reminder Barb)



I soaked this up (thanks to my husband):




I read this:

“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.” – Dalai Lama XIV

and this:

“There is a saying in Tibetan, 'Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.'
No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that's our real disaster.” – Dalai Lama XIV

and this:

"At the end of the day, love and compassion will win." – Terry Waite

If you came here today from a place of sadness I wish you peace. If you came here from a place of joy, I wish you growth and passion. If you came here from a place of fear, anger, pain or hurt I want you know to know there is love in the world for you, there is compassion and there is joy for you. I give you that as best as I can. Be peace, my friends.

Here is what I want you to do today: embrace joy, practice compassion, and love fully. Be peace, be peace, be peace.