thanks for (the) nothing

 

How little do I need in order to have everything? ~ Alix Kates Shulman

The truth is this —  on any given day, even when it seems otherwise, even when the fridge and the cupboards look a little bare, I have enough food in my house that I really don’t have to add a thing. Nobody here is anywhere even close to going hungry. We live in a culture of needing more than we need.

The truth is also that I love farmers’ markets and good bread, an olive bar, fish mongers, cheese shops and the Bulk Barn, but I don’t like a house full of food. What I love more is a house with some food, enough that I can forage, but not so much that I always know ahead of time what I’m going to be eating.

I rarely cook for a crowd anymore so I have this luxury.

Sometimes I don’t shop for weeks, I challenge myself instead to figure out what can be made with whatever’s on hand… a decreasing amount of rice, chickpeas, flour, raisins, walnuts. Right now there’s goat cheese and Coronation grapes, apples, leeks, only one egg but a jar full of pickles. (I love how those tomatoes that need to be eaten turn into the manna of roasted tomato and oh-look-a-few-jalapenos! over a cup-of-cooked-quinoa-I’d-almost-forgotten-about.) And that egg. There are two of us. Will it be shared, scrambled with a bit of recently made pesto, a scraping of cheddar (because, look!! we have just enough)… or deviled and divided in two? Or will we flip a coin to see who gets to have it all to themselves?

I know. It’s a wild ride in my world.

But, honestly, some of my best meals have come from cupboard/fridge foraging. And some seriously cherished memories come from a time when this was a lifestyle not a choice, when I had very little and valued every tea bag, when something like mild euphoria would occur at the discovery there were still two  Digestives left in the packet, when I’d thought there was only one. But we’ve all been some version of there, yes?

Part of me still taps into that lack-inspired euphoria, maybe it’s why I’ve never really embraced shopping in any regular kind of way and why I’m so comfortable with my occasional (and relatively speaking) empty cupboards.

Or maybe I just embrace a certain kind of culinary laziness.

Oh, I’ll buy food this weekend, but not for me and mine. **

I know this is a privilege, this choice to celebrate the abundance by embracing the absence. Not everyone has that choice and so there’s gratitude in equal measure for both the shortage of eggs and that full jar of pickles.

Wherever your own wild ride takes you… happy Thanksgiving.

** (Update: I’ve been told that an exception must be made for mushrooms. Mushrooms MUST be included in the stuffing. Fortunately the other stuffing ingredients and the chicken were acquired last week.)

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things i learned in a few patio hours with my favourite eccentric

A teaspoon of red wine vinegar tossed into a bowl of lentil soup just before serving apparently turns lentil soup into nectar.

Shivasana is THE most important yoga move. Ten minutes is good.

Persimmons for arthritis.

Raccoon poop is best disposed of with a) gloves, b) crumpled newspaper. Forget the trowel or shovel because then  how do you clean off the toxic??

Margaret Carney, nature writer and birder extraordinaire, once upon a time worked as an editor at Harlequin.

Lima beans, aka butter beans, will last — tops — three days in the fridge once the tin is opened so after you use half a tin for making a butter bean flan, use the other half — straightaway! — in a butter bean salad (red onion, celery, dressing of choice).

A lavender farm has opened not a million miles away from my front door.

And if that isn’t enough there’s ANOTHER lavender place even closer.

Ways of peeling garlic. (The knife crush is but one.)

Levine Flexhaug.  (1918 – 1974)  Famous for more or less painting the same cheesy landscape scene over and over in audacious colours and with various ‘differences’. So bad it’s brilliant.

The word minim.

 

 

closing time

 
It took the better part of two days to install.

Just over an hour to take down.

The weeks in between were a sheer loveliness of spending time with my own couches in a public space and meeting people and having conversations start out of the thin air of upholstery.

The woman who told me her grandparents were happy as clams all their livelong lives together and maybe not in small part because of the mickeys of hootch they kept down the sides of their respective armchairs.

Another who said her first couch was an old door on top of bricks (for legs) and a slab of foam with fabric wrapped around it and several pillows propped against the wall.

The couch someone had forgotten but suddenly remembered hauling from a curb in Whistler and how much they loved it for the year they lived there.

The people who left me postcards.

And the strangers who sat down and talked as though we were old pals.

The kid who told me that sleeping on a pullout feels like a vacation.

And the kids who came on the last day to play the lava game and the scavenger game and ran around looking for things in the photos… a fire hydrant, geese, a porch, leaves, a rock, curtains, stairs, a dog wearing sunglasses. I loved their names— Violet, Autumn, Pandora, Audrey, Lucas, Madeleine, Maxine, Susie… I’ve forgotten some, but not the boy with the glasses and the girl who was so painfully shy.

The friends who brought me greenteacoconutmilkmachalatte, and those who were there when wine was on offer. Friends who travelled a distance to see this show and those who couldn’t come but were there in spirit. (I felt that spirit!) To friends who gave up part of a Sunday afternoon to hear me talk about how underwear affected furniture design. And to friends I missed seeing… sorry I missed you! Thank you all for coming and making this experience exactly what I hoped it would be… a stirring of memory and invitation to story.

Above all, thanks to The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, and the amazing gift that is Gallery A, for allowing me and my orphaned furniture this time and space.

Putting rubbish to some good purpose is my whole thing, after all.

That, and writing mystery thrillers set in art galleries…

 
 

friday fete-ish

 
Although I haven’t worked in an office for years I still work office-ish hours.
So Fridays are very TGIF for me and this one in particular seemed in need of some goodness. A distraction, a need to play hookey, to get away from it all. Bird seed seemed the logical answer. So off I took myself to a nearby town where a source told me I could score some excellent Ethiopian nyger at the local feed shop.

I got twenty five pounds.

It was noon by then so I stayed for lunch. The first place I stopped didn’t want me to sit at a table by the window as I was just one person and that’s primo seating. So could I please move to another table at the back? No, as a matter of fact, no thank you… I do not care to sit at the worst table in a half filled room as penance for being a single diner.

Ta ta, said I.

And wandered down the street feeling oddly buoyant.

dsc08530The next place I landed reminded me why things happen the way they do. Had the other folks been nicer I may have never have discovered this  place, which not only said sit where you like — it was ten times busier, had a merry vibe, a shelf of books for reading not for decor, people actually seemed happy to see you and the food was out of this world delicious.

AND they had mussels… so………..

I read a cookbook about seasonal food.

dsc08529And had PEI for lunch.

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Moral of the story — How being faced with the unkind or unjust can still have a good outcome if you put your heart into it, trust your gut, stand for what you believe in, and other bodily metaphors… and how fete-ing myself on Fridays might just become a thing.

Also moral of the story — It’s one way to remain sane. 

the teachers are leaving… i hope we’ve been paying attention

 

I’m thinking of so many teachers on a morning when we woke to find we’d lost one of our best, one who taught through music and poetry, such gentle lessons… the kind that change us in ways that allow us to find the strength to build and change our world with compassion.

Have we made notes? Because it’s up to us now.

And I’m thinking about those who fought against the *isms* … Oh, to find a way of fighting without harming. Maybe that’s the hardest fight of all.

dsc07670It’s not much, but I went out onto the main street of our tiny downtown and watched those men and women march to the cenotaph. Each year there are fewer gray heads but those still there always have the same look in their faces, their eyes…

dsc07680I’m not a fan of war (are there fans of war?). Or even the military. That’s not what I’m paying respect to.

At least not directly.

I’m there for the individuals, not the machine.

I’m there for the same reason I once stood at the side of the 401 while the car carrying the body of a boy home from Afghanistan passed and the crowd of people went silent and a mother and a father were somewhere doing god only knows what mothers and fathers do at times like that.

It’s not about condoning why people die, it’s about not being able to pretend they don’t.

And so every year since this one I try to make it to the parade and stand in silence, together with neighbours I don’t know, all of us there for probably very similar and yet different reasons.

Does it matter that there are different reasons?

dsc07667 dsc07668 dsc07666 dsc07675However you look at it, it’s a sweet thing in a fleeting way.

**

Bonus: on the way back to my car this beautiful old man in a don’t-hit-me fluorescent vest, said hello in that way the very old have perfected as an art. One of those things we might have made better notes of… how to greet the neighbours we don’t know.

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**

The Gift,

by Leonard Cohen

You tell me that silence
is nearer to peace than poems
but if for my gift
I brought you silence
(for I know silence)
you would say
This is not silence
this is another poem
and you would hand it back to me.

good morning, moon

dsc07701

A crescent of bright over my 6 a.m. house… the rest of the moon is muted but visible. A single star in the still black sky. The picture didn’t turn out.
Doesn’t matter, I can still see it, can still feel the 6 a.m. chill on my face.

Went back inside to make tea and sit in the darkness for a bit. Friday has a different feel, not as frantic… that welcome to the weekend vibe.

dsc07712I thought about the week past and it was a lovely one too. Not that it didn’t have its glitches, like all weeks. Not that it was especially lovelier than any other week. It’s the thinking that makes it… and why some weeks are thought about and others aren’t who knows.

This one included a visit with an old friend who showed me a list she’d been keeping all summer. Whenever she picked tomatoes she’d note the day and the weight. Total: 18 lbs. from a single plant. It’s madness, right?  she said. Tempted to answer possibly…  but then no, there’s something important about lists, beautiful even. A way of noticing the details…

Another visit with a not so old friend, a happy surprise, the delight of chat.

dsc07703A loaf of fresh baked bread that I cannot stop eating with my own garden tomatoes. And onions from the market.

The potatoes I’ve been digging up and boiling straightaway. There’s no other way to eat fresh-from-the-dirt spuds.

A cup of coconut milk matcha latte, which makes me sound like a prig but, honestly, I consume almost no priggish things. Except this. It started in summer at Starbucks (a place I almost never go except to meet a certain friend—please blame/thank her for this addiction). Anyway, the stuff is so delicious I ask every tea shop I visit now if they can make it. The results vary but that’s become not the point… if it turns out well, yay, but the best part, really, is that people are cheerfully game to give it a whirl and I love the collaborative approach that sometimes happens and how I end up happy no matter how the actual drink comes out.

Laundry weather one day. Rain the next. Balance.

The decision to paint a frame lemon yellow. The soon to be new home to a painting of green apples.

dsc07710The way the morning light has crept into my living room while I’ve been making this list.

The chickadees and finches at the feeder that I can never get a clear shot of.

The colour out there.

The view from here.

dsc07719Did I miss anything?