Poetry & Recipe: Sweet Summer Treasures

Today was my first trip to the local farmer’s market. The jewels of summer laid out in heady glory, each vegetable or fruit courting attention. Today I sought treasure and the feeling of home. The essence of love in pie form. Blueberries and nectarines without hesitation.

Tomorrow is June 11th. On June 11th, 1888, Vincent Van Gogh was conversing with Emile Bernard. “There can be no blue without yellow and orange.” 

And there it is: Dark, limpid globes of blueberries set against the tart sunshine of nectarines. And it has to be an oat and honey crumble. No false sugar or bland crust to hide the beauty. Honey to bring in flower nuances, Oats to deliver the earthy, solid texture of warmth and home.

The picture above is the end result.

Peel 3-4 nectarines and arrange in the bottom of the pan. Add 1 cup of blueberries. Drizzle with honey.  Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a pan and stir 1 cup gluten-free quick oats and 2 tbsps. more honey.  Top fruit with crumble. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.  Let cool a bit, enjoy and share with people you love.

I wrote the poem below on a night like tonight, full strawberry moon rising above the peach-lavendar sunset. When summer is opening up in every color, in every breeze, in every flower, in all its bright affirmation of love and life.

The Other World of You

I know there is a secret part of you the world cannot touch
That glow beneath the skin, incandescent purple just at sunset when you
Are certain it is your will alone that melts winters into ripe summer blaze.
That part of you I glimpse in flashes through your eyes in the
honey-blue
crescent of your iris, the eclipse of soul dancing around the full
moon of your field of vision.
In my light, the half-light cascading chiaroscuro, I can read your secret map,
follow the nerve and vein of you, chart indigo rivers to your heart, find
my location by the pulse of your blood, the longitude of your
half-dreams unborn to the light of day.
The carbon-star of you burning through my heart simple and singular as a
fingerprint, I trace my lips across your cheek and suddenly
I am home.

 

 

 

Poetry: Cat & Canary Part One

(Artwork by Michelangelo Buonarotti, of course.)
In 1995, I had been hermetically sealed in a bad marriage. The person I married was not really bad, but the whole systemic instutition was killing me off. I felt caged and smothered. So instead of getting a divorce, I signed up for Creative Writing. Professor James Elledge at ISU knew my fondness for expensive multisyllabic words. My assigment? Write a poem using only words with two syllables or less.
Michelangelo’s figure work has always connected with me on a real gut level. The men and women are equal.  They have substance, motion, tension, expression. My favorite is the Libyan Sibyl from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  Her face is beautiful. Her biceps are epic.  The Creation of Adam is probably one of the most well known, but we shrug and think it’s cool and slightly holy. Everyone is so familiar with it that it’s now a blip on the pop culture art radar. I even had a set of coffee cups from Goodwill that had God handing Adam a cup of coffee.
So I wanted to really look at it as meat for this piece. Examine the curve and composition that supercedes the power of the event depicted. It is beautiful. It is a celebration of the human body. God is not huge. He’s the same size as Adam. In fact, it all seems very casual. Adam is just not awake yet. There’s no lightning bolt connecting them just yet. And God has brought his little friends who look very uncertain as to whether this is a good idea or not.
The Cat ELECTRIFIES The Canary
(Reflections on Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam)
Boy, is he in for it now! Look at that
finger pointing blame and regret.
Clay and earth thicken, Adam stricken with muscle
hangs in suspense.
We all know what comes next
in the drama; still, we ache to hear it
said.
“You, boy. Move that cartoon clay butt of
yours up here! Going to make you walk and talk
and do all sorts of wholesome things.”
Reminds ole God of story he once heard
’bout Mister Franken something who built himself
a man out of spare parts.
“Boy, you’re lucky all right. I used grade A clay,
real earth, no used parts.
Now don’t eat the fruit and don’t play
with the big snake.”
We want sparks to fly and
shock him awake.
We want Darwin to eat
his words and scratch
his primate skull.
We hope
lightning hits us, makes us live like we just
got born.
No more flaccid wrist or empty
chest.
“Come on, Daddy-O, hit us with volts,
amps and ohms.”
Waiting and hoping.
Only a crack
in the plaster for false lightning.
“Come on, Big Guy! Jolt us! Bolt us! Give us your own
Big Bang! Make science cry! Make blood sing and wail!
Hurts so good!
Touch it! Come on, touch it!” we scream.
And Adam lies there all naked
lounging like a Playgirl model
waiting for the Big Boy
to give him the finger.

Cougar: Fur Family Part Three

Two days. I had 48 hours to find Cougar a new home. Someone who could see in him all the wonderful glowing, feline qualities that I did.

Nancy Birnbaum was 7.  Our backyards met diagonally and she was perpetually left outside alone. Her parents were nice and good people. Her brother Jimmy was in my class.  He was pink-skinned towhead kid who was constantly auditioning for school bully sidekick. One time Davey Shoemaker, our class bully, told him to follow me home after school and give me a gut punch. It had rained that day and I caught him following me and whacked him squarely in the forehead with my umbrella. It left a mark. He didn’t speak to me again but he didn’t try to punch me either.

I suspect he had managed to punch the smaller kids in the neighborhood, which is probably why Nancy had no one to play with.  We had nothing in common except that no one wanted to play with us. Nancy had met Cougar twice. She had seen me head to the garage with the cat food and had been curious.

Cougar leapt from his perch in the rafters and circled us.  He tilted his head and narrowed his deep golden eyes. I handed Nancy one of the cat food cans and let her feed him.  “She’s a friend.  It’s okay.”

He rubbed against her shin and she plopped down, putting the food on the floor between her outstretched ankles. He purred and rubbed his ears against her pink canvas shoe. Then he shoved face in the cat food, grunting happily while she petted him.

“A silver cat with gold eyes!” she giggled.  “Cougar’s my friend!”

“He really is the best cat. He’s a ratter too!  Not afraid of anything. He’s silver like a knight wearing armor.”

Cougar wound around her, nudging and making tiny sounds of happiness. Nancy was small, not so wild. Most importantly she was kind.

“Somebody has to take care of him.  I’m moving away.  I have food for about two weeks and a brush.  You probably need to ask your mom.  I don’t want you to get into trouble.”

“Oh she won’t care!  I love him!”

“She probably will when you run out of food or spend all your time in our creepy garage. So please just ask.”

“You mean because of Howie?” Her face darkened. My stomach felt like lead.  “My mom says he’s dangerous and not to play over here with you.” Her bottom lip stuck out and she fought little sobs.

The whole neighborhood had seen him chase me, yell, threaten.  They had peeped through curtains and shutters and shook their heads and clucked their tongues.  They had engaged in gossip feeding a deep poison cauldron of speculation about what else went on in our house. Isn’t is sad and awful. Isn’t it tragic?  That girl is in trouble. That girl IS trouble. There was a swell threatening to drown me. And they were helping to make the weather.

But I had Cougar. He had been my champion. And now I had to be his.

“Tell your mom to meet me here in about an hour. Make sure no one sees her come in.”

I sent Nancy off, skipping with the possibility of having her own champion. I made it into the house silently, locked myself in the bathroom.  I filled the sink with water and cleaned myself up, brushing my teeth, putting baby powder in my hair to dry out the oil.  I found some clean clothes that my mom had bought from a garage sale and squeeze myself into them.

Once I was somewhat presentable, I went quickly to the garage and gathered up all the cat food, little homemade toys and the brush into a paper sack from Lawson’s.

I sat on the cushionless plaid couch and gathered Cougar into my lap. This could be goodbye. He mewed tiny question marks, batted at the sack and started kneading my leg.

“I don’t want to leave you, but I can’t leave you here. There’s too many bad people, my love. You deserve someone who loves you.”  I felt dizzy, acid cloyed at my stomach. My shoulders ached. Why did they call it a broken heart when you felt it all over?

The door creaked and Nancy stepped inside with her mother. Mrs. Birnbaum was a chubby, no-nonsense lady.  She wore her dark, wiry hair in a Dorothy Hamill bob and a Hawaiian floral housecoat that snapped up the side.  Her hands moved from the housecoat pockets to rest on her hips. She sighed and looked at me and Cougar, colorless lips in a curl.

“So this is the cat?”

“Mom! MOM!  Look! He’s perfect!” Nancy bounced up and down like a tiny version of her mother on springs.

“He’s big.  He’s a biggie. He eats a lot probably.”

“Well, he’s a mouser, but I give him two of these cans a day.”  I handed her one of the Friskies tins.

“Mmmm.  You love this cat?  Why are you giving him to my kid? What’s wrong with him?”

“I’m…I leaving. Going to live with – somewhere else. I don’t want him to die or starve or be left here with Howie.”

She put her arm around Nancy. “That guy’s an asshole. I shouldn’t use that word in front of you, but he is. That’s a big cat, Nancy.”  She shook her head, looking at the garage floor.

“I know!  Cougar’s huge!” Nancy crowed.

“You’ll be someplace safe?” Mrs. Birnbaum looked me in the eye for the first time.

“Yes. There’s a lady in Cleveland I’ll stay with.”

“Oh Mom!  I love him!  I love you!  I hope Jimmy loves the cat.

“Jimmy will love the cat or I’ll beat Jimmy’s ass. Don’t worry about it.”

“Okay.  C’mon then, Biggie.”

Biggie?  Cougar looked at me, patting my red face with his velvet footpads. I stood up and handed the food bag to Mrs. Birnbaum. Cougar never took his eyes off the bag.  I watched his graceful exit as he padded after her and across the yards to her backdoor.

I thought my heart would crack and splinter and ache. But it did not.  My Cougar, my valiant friend and champion was no more.  In a sweet 30 yard journey, he had left his feral life with me to become the adored, well-fed Biggie Birnbaum.

And now I was ending my time as a feral girl. Tomorrow, I would move into a beautiful townhome in Cleveland with Barbara Scully. I would learn the joy of doing girly things like makeup and putting pink rollers in your hair just right.  I would learn about Buddha statues, Night Gallery and Sha-Na-Na. She would teach me to cook eggs and make Irish coffee. For three weeks, I would learn to be a normal human girl again. Barbara was an amazing lady. And like Cougar, she would be my friend for the rest of my life.

 

Cougar: Fur Family Part Two

Oh, my friend! My little love. My family. Cougar the bright and shining had spent the last three weeks being my furry beacon of hope.  Summer was almost here and I would leave this place for good. I spent nearly all my time in the garage.  I slept there and ate there with my friend.  I couldn’t cook the hot dogs, so I would buy spaghettios and eat them cold.

Everyone was waiting out the school year before they sent me off. I had been to school twice in the last week. Once to give my book report on “Socks” by Beverly Cleary.  Once to show up to a parent meeting in the office in my mother’s place.  They had called and called the house, but did not get an answer. They sat me down and barked at me.  I needed to come to school.  I needed to bathe.  I needed to wear clothes that fit.  I needed to make a damn effort.  I needed…what I really needed was anyone who cared to make a difference.  What I had was a feral stray cat and spaghettios and $7 in my sock drawer.

They asked for my mother’s work number.  I gave them the number of Carney’s Tap where she tended bar at night. I said go ahead and call.  They were still barking when I left.

I used to get scared being alone at night when mom worked.  Back when she still drove the Cobra, before Cougar, I would ask if I could just come with and sleep in the back seat in the parking lot.  She let me do this one time and then not again. She said it wasn’t safe.

But now things had changed. I slept in the garage and Cougar slept on my back or on the high, soft space I had created from old sofa pillows. There were people in the house now that I did not know.  When I did go in, I went in and out through my bedroom window and kept my door locked. One of the people staying there was named Howie. He was a mean, hairy guy with giant nostrils and big round eyes. I called him Cowie because he was the closest thing to a minotaur I had encountered. He hated kids. After a week of his moving in, our electricity and phone was restored. My mom kept saying, “See?  He’ll take care of us.”  But I had already heard him say he couldn’t wait for me to be gone. Everyone was running out the clock.

The cash from my grandparents arrived every week on Friday. I had to get it from the mailbox to my sock drawer unnoticed. I had a routine for this, but Howie had been watching. Friday came and I stuffed the envelope under my shirt and ran upstairs.  I locked the door and opened my sock drawer and the magic red box.

Then suddenly the door swung open and there stood Howie.

“What you got?”

“Nothing.  It’s just a note from my grandparents.  They write to me.”

“Bullshit. You’re a lying little shit, you know that?”

He’d broken the lock on my door.  The magic red box was empty. My food money and Cougar’s food money was gone. I still clutched the envelope and bolted for the window.  I slid and jumped before he could get to me. He stood there thrashing, cow face all red, nostrils flaring.

“Hey Howie,” I yelled up at him. “You got some white shit on your nose, you fucking thief!”

By the time he hit the door, I was already across the field by I-71.  Out of his sight, off his radar.

I walked to Lawson’s like nothing happened. I called my grandparents collect and told them not to send me anything else. I could make it until summer okay. I spent all the money on spaghettios and cat food and a pack of donuts.  I had to haul it to the garage and hide it, but I doubted Howie would steal cat food.

“And just let him try, Cougar!  You’ll vanquish Cowie and send him to the minotaur cave.”  Cougar purred loudly and kneaded my leg.

My mother told me that night that I would be going to live somewhere else until summer. She had talked to the school. She had also talked to Howie. I was to move in with my stepfather’s ex-wife, Barbara.  Relief washed over me.

Anywhere but here. That was my reply. Anywhere but here. She almost slapped me.

But then she didn’t.

I had two days.  And I realized I would have to say goodbye to my champion, my love, my family, my Cougar.  I could not be his feral girl any longer.  I had to find him a home. 

(Artwork by Daz Lartist)

Cougar: Fur Family Part One

We were rat poor. Meaning we could no longer afford trash pickup. The awning of our patio had fallen. The garbage grew. The rats came. Two bloated, scurrying, toothy pirates clicking their nails across our pavement and keeping me from my own back yard.

When my stepfather John died, it derailed my mother. It broke her heart, her mind, peeled her tenuous grasp away from the workings of everyday life.  It was not her fault. He died suddenly, the day before my 10th birthday, from a heart attack.  When he had the heart attack, he was driving a semi and travelling across an overpass on I-74 near Danville, Illinois.  The rig went over the side.

By late spring of 1979, the rats came, our lights were shut off and I had outgrown all my clothes. I knew I would be headed to my grandparents in summer, but for now my world was dark and cold and small.  I took cold showers by candlelight and ignored homework and the world outside.  My grandparents sent me $20 every week in the mail. I would walk down to Lawson’s and buy bread and hot dogs and cheese food slices and always one Whatchamacallit chocolate bar.  I hid the money in a small red box in my sock drawer. I hid myself from the world.  I hid in the back row of 5th grade because I was failing. I hid in my room because the neighborhood thought I was a bad kid. Being a bad, poor, stupid, fat kid made me quiet and lonely.

At night, I would sit on my dresser and dangle my feet out of the second story window. I would name all the constellations I could see. I thought Orion was the best name for a man ever. And Orion had two dogs. I wanted to grow up and marry Orion and play with the big and little dog and live among the stars.

I looked down one night and noticed that one of the rats was lying half eaten on the patio. I didn’t see the other one anywhere.  Something larger than the rats had done them in. There was no time to imagine monsters for me now. I usually wallowed in the escape of a good horror movie or novel, but life had gotten too close, too real. I needed to make it until summer. I grabbed my flashlight and climbed out of the window, hanging a bit until I could drop onto the tall grass.

The moon was bright enough for me to see a path to the side door of the garage. No one ever went in there.  My mom parked her old brown Duster in the driveway. The woman had driven a Cobra and a Mercedes and a Cadillac at one point – always parking in the garage. But they were all gone now. Now she bolstered herself for the nightly dash from the beater car to the front door cursing rats.

The garage had its own life, a slow breath of dust, secrets and remnants of a creative life. It housed random bits and parts of craft projects so long gone that even the concept was a jumbled haze. Old acrylic paints, damp particle board, warped paneling, dried up markers. It has a dresser full of old books from a neighborhood garage sale – back when the neighborhood somewhat made an effort to include us. I had looked through them once, but it was mostly old romance novels and books filled with cleaning hints.  One was a fake book that opened to show two plastic figures in various sex positions. It was poorly made trash.  At the time, I felt like I was too.

Suddenly, I heard a soft rumble growing louder. A grey calico tomcat slid himself around the corner of a cardboard box and tilted his head at me, eyes half closed.  His name was Cougar. I just knew it.  I knew it like I knew he would be my friend. I sat on the floor and he leapt down and settled into my lap. He was bigger than any cat I had ever seen. He had vanquished the rats and made my backyard safe. He was my hero.

He rolled on his side and put a paw up on my face. The tears came like a waterfall. I had a friend who required nothing of me. I stroked his face and scratched the top of his head. I was afraid I would make him angry or skittish by crying. I had heard that cats hate to be wet.

But he stayed and napped a bit, his rumbling purr blocking out silence and fear. It was nearly 2 a.m. when he slinked away from me and outside to prowl the night.

I stayed home from school the next day. I hid in my room until the house was quiet. I grabbed five dollars from the red box and cut across the fields to Lawson’s, staying out of sight of the school.  I hated that place. I was going to fail 5th grade and I didn’t care. Today it was more important to feed my new friend.

I bought 3 packets of wet cat food, treats and a small wire brush.  I couldn’t afford the little mouse, but I could probably make him one.

The trip from Lawson’s to the garage was blissful.  I kept thinking of songs I could sing to him. “What’s New, Pussycat” by Tom Jones was on the top of the list.  Also I could read aloud to him.  I still had some poetry books that my grandparents gave me. Cougar may be a rat-killer, but I was sure that cats appreciated the finer things.

As soon as I got to the garage, he found me. He rubbed against my leg. “Hi human girl, you are my human girl.”  He claimed me. I suspected he knew about the food so I fed him right away.  I opened the tin and sat back inside a large cardboard box watching him devour Tender Vittles.  His gratitude rumbled loudly and I noticed he was chewing mainly on one side of his face. The other side looked normal, but didn’t operate very well.  He’d survived a scuffle or two.

When he was done, he made a relaxed jog to where I was sitting and began to clean himself.  I took the brush out of the bag and held it in the air next to him.  He began stroking one side against it, then the other.  Eventually, Cougar let me brush him and his grey fur began to look pewter, then silver. He was such a big, beautiful boy!

He claimed me as his family at a point in my life when no one else would.

(Artwork by Daz Lartist)

Maya Angelou Still Speaks to Me

hubble_share“In the flush of love’s light, we dare be brave. And suddenly we see that love costs all we are, and will ever be. Yet it is only love which sets us free.’ – Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou left us here three years ago today. That is to say her body passed on and out of our shared mortal coil.  Her voice and her words, her indelible honesty, her dauntless hope are not going anywhere.  Her legacy is bright, solid as stone, smooth as truth, infectious as forbidden laughter.

I read her biographies, devoured her poetry, understood her silence at heart level.  I wrote a poem for her a long time ago. For her,  like her, about her. It is a small thing. Not so much a great work of greatness. It is a small piece of love to be added to the patchwork quilt of kindness and rememberance; the network of loving words spoken about someone when they leave us. It is the muffled muttering of minor stars when a supernova in their constellation flickers out.

FOR MAYA

Sleepy limbs, naïve time

Waiting to heal or to smile

Tethered star, worn out string

Breached scars, my hope still sings

 

Whispered hope, dial-a-prayer

Hoping God answers there

Weary lungs, heavy sigh

Raw-mouthed, my voice will rise

 

Paper skin, purple veins

Ache with cold, shake with rain

Vision weak, mem’ry sweet

Thoughts awake, my heart beats

 

Wisdom-rich, money-poor

Faith mighty, body sore

Free to give, free enough

Happy too, my gift is Love.

 

 

Momento Mori

Sir_Edward_The_Mirror_Of_Venus_1898

(The Mirror of Venus by Sir Edmund Burne Jones)

Tonight’s blog is about food for the eyes and heart.  The Mirror of Venus, shown above, graces one of our many studio books. This book on the Pre-Raphaelite painters is special to me.  It was a gift from the man I love. My eyes trace the outline of the group of girls, their wistful and hopeful search for their own beauty within the rocky pool.  But I always come back to the girl standing tall in light blue – the one who disappears and is replaced in the water by round black rocks over white forming a rudimentary skull.  A Momento Mori in the heartspace of all the beauty.  A reminder that we, our bodies, our vanities are temporal – the bare bone gleam of mortality begs us to remember that each moment alive and in love is a gift.

In gratitude, for being both alive and in love in this extended moment of beauty, I offer up this poem:

Momento Mori

In all the richness of color captured by my eye

In all the spectrum of love, hues burning vision down to the scorched cone

Of nerve and illusion, I stop here

I stop here and rest my fingers on the white carbon star at the base of your throat

Where the valley of your breath and flame of your heart trade secrets.

I stop here and wonder at the machines we are, the spirits that drive them

Where ghost and grim are one and the hum of my brain finds its rhythm

In the insistent, deep pounding of your heart.

In all the dreaming and wrestling with lucid night

In this shadowed hour full of knowing, embers glowing dark in your iris

Of myth and story, I stop here.

I stop here and catch my breath, tracing chalked magic circles around your shoulder

Where you carry the day and the dream and desires pure and secret

I stop here and call upon every god I ever knew, the love that drives them

To be awake, present in every single moment, to love the fine dust of you,

And its resident soul without fear, without hesitation

In all the universe, I stop here and for the sweet breadth of a second

Time stops with me.

 

 

 

Chocolate Bread & News of the World

queen

“The chocolate bread belongs to John.” My mom would repeat always followed by “you wouldn’t like it.” Even at eight years old, I KNEW that was a lie. John just didn’t want me to have any “chocolate” bread.

Mom and John would sometimes go out on Saturday afternoons. He would go golfing and she would go to her ceramics class. I was left alone for about 2-3 hours. Usually, I would be so engrossed in my Legos or drawing that I wouldn’t even notice when they came back.

But Saturday, October 29, 1977, my life was thrown into chaos by three cataclysmic events.

Hallowe’en was Monday. Mom had made me this really cool and creative Queen of Hearts costume from a cardboard chest frame covered in white contact paper.  On the front box lid, she had drawn and glued cutout felt and glitter. She had copied the Bicycle playing card design.  I had black tights, a scepter and a tiara. Plus the box hid my gut. I actually heard her friend Paulette say this when she was helping cut out the red and black stripes and hearts.

As excited as I was about the costume, being on my own around Hallowe’en was lonely. And the idea of not really being alone was worse. I dreaded the basement. There was a dark patchy corner between the laundry chute and the furnace where the air swirled and wheezed. The film “the Sentinel” had come out in January. To me, the entrance to Hell from that movie had a sister gateway right in that basement corner. I could hear it whispering open in the quiet when there seemed to be no breeze from the outside. Movies playing out in my head where Hell’s inhabitants, grotesque and full of evil intent, came through that corner and up through the laundry chute. Some of them took the stairs to savor their journey of malevolence and meditate on my destruction and how tasty I would be.

To combat the silence and all its devils, I would turn on the WUAB Channel 43 and SuperHost. For 20 years, Marty Sullivan dressed up in blue tights and a red cape, sometimes donning a blonde wig and claiming he was “Rula Lenska”.  Short skits and running gags cut in between horror classics. SuperHost was my transitional horror classics mentor bridging the gap between Creature Feature and Chicago’s Son of Svengoolie played by Rich Koz.  I can honestly say that I owed nearly all of my happy childhood moments to these shows and my dog Rosie.

So there I was battling basement ghouls, surrounded by my protective circle of scattered Legos, plotting for my chance to taste the chocolate bread when the drums started.  Terrifying, definite, sharp, angry. Bump-Bump BUMP! Bump-Bump BUMP! I dashed to the top of the stairs over razor blocks and green shag carpet, all the way up. At the top, heart pounding like a cage animal, I turned to look at the screen. On my television, there was a giant robot with bloody fingers holding a dead man.  The camera panned up its body and into its face driven by the visceral deathbeat of those drums. The robot seemed confused, angry, disconnected, sorry, questioning and murderous all at the same time.

I was petrified. Nothing in my life had prepared me for this actual terror. Giant freaking robot gouging the guts out of four men with this square robot fingers. This manmade nephelim caused blood and death no apparent understanding that he was the cause. And the men in their frilly shirts and tight white pants reclining lifeless and falling like beautiful empty shells. Those drums hooking into my brain and driving home the image, the story, the fear.

And then simply “Queen: News of The World.”

Then it was over. Commercial ended. I had to pee and catch my breath. When I came back down, SuperHost was back on. I was safe. And I wanted chocolate bread now!

I figured if I took a slice right in the middle of the loaf, no one would know. I was careful to tie the red wire the same way and put it back exactly on top of the fridge as I had found it. One slice of coveted chocolate bread and it was all mine. But what do you do with it? What do you put on it? I decided to maximize the experience and make a sandwich.  I cut it in half and opened all the cabinets.

Ok – Peanut butter made sense. And banana. And ooh marshmallow fluff!  And why not a sprinkle of cinnamon?  And cinnamon sugar. And raisins. Oh yes. It was a skyscraper sugar masterpiece delight. I poured myself a glass of milk and took the largest bite I could manage.

As I started to chew, I immediately felt myself gag. I sat there, eyes wide and watering, absolutely disgusted at the lump of poison-bitter, sickening-sweet lump of fresh hell sitting in my mouth.  I spit it out in the trash and continued to heave even after it was all out. I was shaking. Traumatized by the truth that “chocolate” bread was really dark rye. My mom lied about the bread being “chocolate”.  But she told the truth, I wouldn’t like it.

I sat on the floor by the trash can, shuddering and hugging myself. This was a horrible day.  Eventually, I cleaned up all evidence of my thievery and punishment for said thievery. I lay down on the couch exhausted, planning to nap until they came home. But then, the drums started again.

Queen’s News of The World commercial terrorized me until I bought it with my birthday money three weeks later. I was my first 12” vinyl. I played it all the way through until it was a warped, scratched dysfunctional version of itself. My favorite song from it is still “Sheer Heart Attack”. I played it until somewhere in my head the robot came apart and couldn’t hurt anyone. “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions” got the most radio play. But every time those drums start, I still fight a phantom twinge of nausea from “chocolate bread.”

Food Fight: Omelets

This morning I made myself an omelet.  It was an unhurried, conscious act of self-care. I’ve been eating a vegetarian low-carb diet.  I still eat eggs and cheese because no one has to die for those. I’m not getting preachy about it – I just never really liked meat.

But this omelet – 3 large eggs, butter, pink Himalayan salt, herbe de Provence and 2 campari tomatoes wrapped around a triangle of garlic herb Laughing Cow cheese. “Vache Qui Rit”.  The Cow Who Laughs.  This omelet was everything right with the world.

The process is meditative. Waiting for the butter to melt just so. The soft sound of the whisk whipping eggs to a golden froth. The patience of letting everything rest in the small, shallow pan until it is ready. omlet.jpg

I cleared the table and ate slowly and alone in quiet.

I cook for everyone every day. I embrace and thrive in the role of being a creative nourisher. I’m not a chef. I’m not a professional. But I understand what keeps my little family happy and strong. We eat dinner together nearly every night and we rarely go out.  Omelets are special to me. Omelets are the doorway.

I didn’t grow up around my mother for most of my life.  But when I was 18, I moved in with her. I was away at college most of the time, but when I was home I would make her breakfast. She always wanted an omelet with everything – which meant whatever we had. Ham or bacon, onions, mushrooms – light on peppers and cheese. Buttered toast. Hot chocolate.

And no matter what passed between us before or what was going on, the world would just stop so we could eat our omelets and talk and laugh. We’d sit in the living room of her little trailer, forks clicking against pink plates with little blue bonnet-wearing geese painted on them.  There was no formality. Nightshirts and bare feet on the couch. Usually a B horror flick from Showtime running in the background or MTV when MTV was actually music videos.  Making fun of celebrities and singers. One time she asked me if David Lee Roth had a potato in his pants and I shot hot chocolate out of my nose.

Omelets are a barometer of the heart for me as well. As I fell in or out of love with men I cooked for, the omelets would reflect it.  I know that still to this day I cook with emotion more than skill. I may know the techniques, but I follow intuition and bend the recipe rules. So when I would start to feel caged or diminished by someone, any dish I made for them would be derailed. The omelet would be too salty, overcooked, flavorless and once ended up on the ceiling hanging there in a drippy, sad metaphor.

But this morning’s omelet was about me and this moment in my life when I choose to nourish myself with my favorite things. Solitary joy.  Creating something with love. Savoring it with gratitude. I’ll be cooking for everyone else later.