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Eating Well Is a Ritual of the Goddess

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If you, as I am, are a reader, there are articles, chapters, bits and pieces from a book that you know that you’ve read, that you can never find again. This used to be far more common, but even now, even with the internet, instead of a shelf in a library late at night, there are still things; things that poke at you in the early morning hours and things that tweak at your memory whenever your read something else, things that you long to find, tie down, quote with authority, but cannot find.

If this is not your lot in life, it’s OK. Rejoice. You are not one of the damned. Go, and, as Kahlil Gibran said, “laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.”

Many and many a year ago, I read an article by M.K. Fisher about how to prepare a meal in order to send a lover off to sleep before his amorous intent could become manifest. It may have been in the New Yorker? I may have read it sometime in the early 1970s when I was babysitting for a couple whose apartment was full of old cookbooks? But what was memorable was how, after every line, you would go, “Oh, yeah, that would make me completely ready to sleep.” I’ve been trying to find that article for decades now and I’d still love, love, love to find it.

But today I want to write about Frances Mayes, who’s written a wonderful post about her favorite meals. You should go read it here. In the same vein, and with the same abandon for the strictures of time and place, here’s my own perfect food day.

I wake up in New Orleans and, well, of course, I wander through the graveyards, go to Cafe du Monde, and have chicory (that blue-flower root brought from France to America by Thomas Jefferson) coffee, thick with cream from Wisconsin cows and sweetened by cane sugar from Cuba. I have a second cup. I have a third. I take a long time with the third.

I materialize inside the Algonquin Hotel in New York. My wonderful DiL is there, as are my lovely friends E. and J. I have a bagel so tough on the outside that it takes incisors to bite through it, and it is spread with rather sour cream cheese, and topped with chipped, smoked salmon, capers, paper-thin red onions, and lemon juice. There is a bloody mary there, with Stoli, Clamato, lime, celery, and the juice of fresh New Jersey tomatoes. Celery salt is involved.

The Algonquin cat steps past.

For second breakfast (because, of course, second breakfast), I am just outside Muir Woods, in an old lodge, half WPA and half Rivendell. The Earl Grey tea is served, as it must be, in a thermos. The oatmeal is thick, salted, buttered, and scooped from earthenware bowls into our gentle mouths. The berries are laced with cream, the mushrooms and butter are married with love, and the woodsmoke is redolent of cedar. There is trout if you are really hungry. It was fried in bacon.

I can’t have lunch anywhere except the Palm in Washington, D.C. Tommy knows me, seats me right away, and sends over one of the best Stoli martinis in DC. Maybe I’m interviewing a new attorney. Maybe E and I are celebrating our week-apart birthdays. Maybe DiL and I have come there with an infant G/Son. Or maybe, and this is most likely in my perfect week, it’s 9/11, the world has gone mad, the president is hiding underground away from DC, almost everywhere else in DC is closed, and the white-coated waiters at the Palm are there, composed, serving shrimp cocktails, rare steak, braised asparagus. They bring me more than one martini. And then, before, in the late afternoon, I drive across the abandoned TR bridge, they bring me another.

It’s afternoon tea and I’m back in San Francisco at the Compass Rose Bar in the Westin St. Francis. I’ve just finished reading The Compass Rose by Ursula LeGuin and I’ve left the legal meeting, abandoning contract interpretation for watercress sandwiches, clotted cream and oyster puffs, and fish tacos on the beach in San Diego.

I watch the sun set in San Diego and then I’m back, time-travelling hours ago, to a tiny diner in the northern bit of the southern bit of Appalachia. Landscape Guy and I have been at the Virginia arboretum and now we’re in the kind of place where everyone looks up to see you walk in. You’re not locals. We pick up a bag with two chicken barbecue sandwiches and two jars of cole slaw. We head on out to Hollywood Cemetery and we sit down outside the gravestones of Virginia Woodmen. We watch the river roll by.

I’m sitting on a soft blanket beside the banks of the tidal Potomac on a Spring night in DC, watching the waxing Moon. I’m with you, and with you, and with you, and with you, and with everyone I adore. We can see the full Moon shining through the branches of the flowering trees that the Japanese gave to us over a hundred years ago. The Moon shines on the water outside the Jefferson Memorial. We have fried chicken, and corn biscuits, and the Moon shines into whatever we’re drinking, allowing us to call it Moonshine.

Eating well is a ritual of the Goddess. I won’t be gone long. You come, too.

What Ursula Le Guin Said

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Anyone who doesn’t accept religious dogma as truth should reject the religious definition of saintliness as virtue transcending ordinary morality. We’d do better to see institutional saints for what they are: people whose unquestioning and unquestioned belief in the righteousness of their acts may well make them spiritual bullies, moral tyrants, suicidal or murderous terrorists.

Read the whole thing here

Picture found here: here.

Monday at the Movies

I loved, loved, loved this movie when I was a girl.

Sunday Ballet Blogging

Raven Mistress

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May 1, 2027.

Dawn came. Although she waited until her cell’s alarm went off, she’d really already been awake for over an hour. Her first day. Ella rose and put on the jacket.

It fit perfectly; His Majesty’s tailors had been careful to insure that much. Dad had worn an identical jacket before her, and his father before him, and his father, and his father, and his father, all the way back to when Charles II rejected the advice of his astrologer and refused — because everyone knew that if the ravens ever left the Tower of London, England would fall — to remove the ravens from the Tower of London. Instead, King Charles removed the astrologers to Greenwich, appointed the Ravenmasters, and blinked, good Protestant that he was, at their own old magics.

In 2007, her Aunt Moira, fresh from her stint in the Royal Army, had become the first woman Ravenmaster. When Dad had retired from the Yeoman Warders, tired, he said, of early morning trips to Smithfield Meat Market to buy beef for the birds, Aunt Moira had taken over for him. There had been, for the first time in centuries, no male heir to assume the role. Rafe was grown, but still more like a child than a man, and childless Aunt Moira had, as everyone admitted, served faithfully and well in the Adjunct General Corps. Bullied, at first, by men who resented a woman Yeoman Warder, Aunt Moira had persevered, fed the ravens, smiled for the tourists, and, at night, done the Tower Magic that no one outside the family would ever discuss. And she had pressed Ella’s shoulder and said, every time that she saw Ella, “You will be Ravenmaster when I go.” Ella had dutifully turned away from the Royal Navy and done her stint in the Royal Army, instead. The Tower magic required it.

The hat. Ella wasn’t sure if it dated from Edwardian times or even earlier. But Dad had put an identical, if larger, one on his head every morning, just after bacon, tea, and eggy bread, and just before heading out into the world to earn the money that kept Ella, Rafe, and Mummy safe and secure. The hat actually looked good over her straight bob, and it made Ella feel taller and more suited to her role. Ella remembered Aunt Moria wearing the hat over her chaotic black curls, and she remembered Aunt Moria taking the hat off, whenever she stepped through the doorway and and hugged Ella and Rafe, just before handing a tin of tea or a jar of jam to Mummy and heading over to hug Dad, sitting by the fireplace, watching one cricket match after another. “How’s Merlina, my own true love?” Dad would ask Aunt Moria, and, “She misses you and your role in the rites,” Aunt Moria would always say. Mummy would always look busy.

The patch. Ella ran her fingers over it, just above her left breast. The embroidery showed a raven’s head rising above the Tower. Bran, the Blessed. At least, that was what it meant to the family and to the few odd historians — young men with lisps from Scottish Universities and old women in tweed suits from obscure corners of Oxford — who understood or guessed at the old magics. Bran, whose name meant Blessed Crow, who died saving his sister from a wife beater, and whose head, facing France, was buried beneath the Tower of London. Ella’s finger caught on a stray gold thread.

Her cell phone rang. “Ella, get here now,” Brandon said. “The ravens are missing from the bird boxes at Wakefield Tower. They’re already saying it’s your fault.”

/To be continued.

Picture found here.

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From Byron

Robert Frost Birthday Poetry Blogging

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Today is the anniversary of Robert Frost’s birthday. He wrote a lot of wonderful poems, many of them about being in relationship with place. I don’t know that I could pick a favorite, but here’s one that I really, really love, especially the final verse, which I’ve been able to recite from memory for decades, ever since the very first time I read it. And it so perfectly describes our current weather, here in the Magical MidAtlantic.

TWO TRAMPS IN MUD TIME

~ Robert Frost

Out of the mud two strangers came
And caught me splitting wood in the yard,
And one of them put me off my aim
By hailing cheerily “Hit them hard!”
I knew pretty well why he had dropped behind
And let the other go on a way.
I knew pretty well what he had in mind:
He wanted to take my job for pay.

Good blocks of oak it was I split,
As large around as the chopping block;
And every piece I squarely hit
Fell splinterless as a cloven rock.
The blows that a life of self-control
Spares to strike for the common good,
That day, giving a loose my soul,
I spent on the unimportant wood.

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.

A bluebird comes tenderly up to alight
And turns to the wind to unruffle a plume,
His song so pitched as not to excite
A single flower as yet to bloom.
It is snowing a flake; and he half knew
Winter was only playing possum.
Except in color he isn’t blue,
But he wouldn’t advise a thing to blossom.

The water for which we may have to look
In summertime with a witching wand,
In every wheelrut’s now a brook,
In every print of a hoof a pond.
Be glad of water, but don’t forget
The lurking frost in the earth beneath
That will steal forth after the sun is set
And show on the water its crystal teeth.

The time when most I loved my task
The two must make me love it more
By coming with what they came to ask.
You’d think I never had felt before
The weight of an ax-head poised aloft,
The grip of earth on outspread feet,
The life of muscles rocking soft
And smooth and moist in vernal heat.

Out of the wood two hulking tramps
(From sleeping God knows where last night,
But not long since in the lumber camps).
They thought all chopping was theirs of right.
Men of the woods and lumberjacks,
The judged me by their appropriate tool.
Except as a fellow handled an ax
They had no way of knowing a fool.

Nothing on either side was said.
They knew they had but to stay their stay
And all their logic would fill my head:
As that I had no right to play
With what was another man’s work for gain.
My right might be love but theirs was need.
And where the two exist in twain
Theirs was the better right–agreed.

But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future’s sakes.