Dusk is quite possibly my favorite time of day. The soft blue hues are even richer and more beautiful along the river. Here is a sight that was a balm to my spirit this evening.
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Yesterday Mr. Mountain Man took me and Ella to the coast. It was a rare treat because it was actually warm and sunny and I discovered to my great joy that, contrary to previous belief, it is possible to enjoy splashing about out in the waves! We frolicked blissfully on Hobbit beach, tossing frisbees and running into the water to cool down.
After a quick snack in Old Town Florence, we went to catch the sunset at South Jetty Park on the dunes. Here are a couple images.
Though pretty, they fail to capture to magic of the sand flying somehow slowly over the smooth surfaces of the dunes, or how the light on the dunes shifted colors from pink to lavender to cadet blue and finally a beautiful silvery grey. Nor do they show how, when the sun was just a sliver at the horizon and the clouds above that line were a pale luminescent gold, the wet sand at the edge of the shore mirrored that gold, mixing it with pale pearly green.
It was a gorgeous and blessedly peaceful finale to a wonderful day.
The smallest kind gestures can make lasting impressions. Seated in my little rocking chair, trying to self-soothe with hot tea and contemplation of the beautiful view out my window, I recall such a gesture…
One of the things I miss about the southeast is the dramatic weather, particularly the crazy thunderstorms. There is something powerful and cathartic about them. But as a small child, I felt very differently. I can still remember crying in terror when storms blackened the skies and rattled the doors and windows. A particular occasion stands out in my mind.
I must have been about four years old, because my parents had recently bought our house. It was a weekend or evening because my aunt Irma was there. The clouds rolled in, the lightening blazed to illumine the landscape like a sonic camera flash, and massive sound rolled over everything. I was scared, frightened to tears. I must have run to the adults because the next thing I knew, my aunt had scooped me up in her arms, found us a chair, and sat down to hold me in the safety of her lap for the duration of the storm. Her action did not diminish the storm’s violence or noise, but encircled by the compassionate embrace of my aunt, I was comforted.
Those storms don’t usually last more than a quarter of an hour- a brief moment in a lifetime. Yet it is a moment that I’ve never forgotten.
Life does not get any easier for us as we grow up, but for some reason, we are less likely to offer such safe harbors to our fellow adults when the storms of difficulty darken our horizons and shake us up. Maybe it is easier to respond that way to children because their hearts are more open and they are more vulnerable.
Whatever the reason(s), I am grateful for that moment; I am grateful to my aunt for seeing my fear and responding not with advice, or reasons to feel differently, or judgement; but with her heart. I am grateful all the moments of loving comfort that others have given me, some of which have occurred even in adulthood.
May we all learn to see and respond to one another with more love and compassion.
Waking up is hard enough for most of us, especially on early weekday mornings. The traditional alarm jerks you harshly into reality by screaming at you, a method that does not exactly take the edge off the painful experience of being roused before you are ready. Our new service, “Angel Alarm” is designed to make the transition from dreamworld to waking world as painless and pleasant as possible. When you sign up for Angel Alarm, you are signing up for new way to start every day: happier, calmer, and more prepared for the challenges ahead. You will no longer limp helplessly toward your coffee maker, clutching at your bathrobe in despair, cursing your own existence. You will rise from you bed slowly and peacefully, enveloped in a sense of love and care.
By now you are probably asking yourself what this miraculous Angel Alarm is. I will not keep you in suspense. The Angel Alarm is a personal service program. You pay a monthly fee for a Morning Angel to come to your house on your workdays to wake you up. You will be required to provide the Angel with a latchkey.
What does the Angel Alarm do? She* quietly enters your room, carrying your favorite mug or thermos full of fresh gourmet coffee, and begins the process by partially opening the blinds to let in gentle light. If you are so unfortunate as to require a pre-dawn waking time, we will install a special lamp in your room that the Angel can turn on to its lowest setting. After setting your coffee down on the bedside table or other appropriate, safe location, she will sit down on your bed close to you, gently put her hand on your shoulder, and say your name softly. She will squeeze your arm slightly and wait a few seconds. Then, as softly as before, she will repeat your name a second time. After another pause, she will explain, in the calmest, mildest, most apologetic tones, that it is time for you to get up.
At this point, most clients will be aware of the Angel’s presence and pleasantly half-awake. For heavier sleepers, the Angel may need to repeat the announcement that it is time to get up. She will never raise her voice or become demanding. When the Angel sees that you are beginning to wake up, she will pick up the coffee and bring it close enough for you to smell. Then she will tell you, “I know this is hard, but it is going to be okay. You can do this.” When you sit up, the Angel will give you a hug to welcome you to the world.**
Once you are sitting up with the warm coffee vestibule in your hands, the Angel will turn up the lights, or open the blinds more, to increase illumination. She will then withdraw and leave you to your daily preparation.
We are confident that the Angel Alarm will make your mornings better. We offer a money back guarantee within the first two weeks of service if you find you are not satisfied.
For more information, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
*I have opted to use the feminine pronoun because according to our market research there is a much higher preference for female-gendered Angels.
**The hug is optional. If you prefer not to be touched upon waking, the routine can be modified to meet your needs.
There are days that it is hard to get up; there are days that it is REALLY hard to get up; and then there are Saturdays and Sundays.
When people ask, “How are you?” before 11:00 a.m., I want to reply, “I have a don’t ask, don’t tell policy.”
Blood is to vampires as coffee is to me, except I don’t have to kill to get it.
This is my first post in a long time and it isn’t very literary. Instead, I want to share a recipe I threw together last night. Chicken soup is very comforting to the body and mind, but sometimes the same old standard of rice and basic aromatics feels a little stale. Yesterday I decided to spice things up a bit.
Improvised Chicken Soup Variation
Rotisserie Chicken (I bought this a couple days ahead and ate some of the breast and one thigh.)
1 large yellow onion
3 Anaheim chilies
3 Serrano chilies (I ended up using two)
Thin rice stick noodles
There are two phases for making this soup.
Phase I: Make broth, prep soup ingredients.
1. Tear off as much of the chicken flesh as you can and put in a separate bowl. It’s okay if there is some meat still on the bones here and there, it will enrich the broth. If you like more fat, keep in the skin. If you want less fat, put in less of the skin.
Put the flesh back in the fridge, throw the carcass in a large stock pot.
2. Separate the stalks of celery. Set aside a few stalks for the soup. Take the inner leaves and put them in the stock pot. Cut another stalk in half and put in stock pot. The young pale yellow stalks make a good snack while you’re cooking.
3. Quarter the onion. Put one quarter in stock put. Set remainder aside for soup.
4. Unwrap 1 or 2 garlic cloves and add to the pot.
5. Cover all with water, add some salt and a bay leaf. Cover with lid.
6. Heat the broth on high till it comes to a boil, then lower heat to simmer steadily for 20-30 minutes. I usually just keep an eye on the color and quality of the water to figure out when to stop. Tasting helps, too.
7. While the broth is cooking, you can prep some of the soup ingredients:
- dice the remaining 3/4 of onion
- chop the celery stalks (1/4 width-wise slices)
- mince 3 garlic cloves
- grate some ginger (about a tbsp?)
- chop 1 anaheim pepper
These can all be tossed into a bowl together.
8. Once you are satisfied the broth is done, strain it into a heat-safe bowl. Throw out the carcass, etc.
Phase II: Make soup
1. Heat olive oil and coconut oil in the bottom of the stockpot.
2. Add the bowl of prepped ingredients (onion, celery, garlic, ginger, chili pepper); salt slightly if you want to sweat them faster.
3. While they are sweating and getting soft and translucent, thinly slice 1 anaheim and 1 serrano into rings.
4. Add the broth back to the pot. Add the sliced peppers. After the soup simmers for a bit, taste for heat preference. If you want more heat add another sliced anaheim. If still need heat, add some minced Serrano. I usually buy extra chilies because the heat intensity is often inconsistent.
5. Add some coriander and salt (if needed) to the pot.
6. Add chicken.
7. Chop up some cilantro.
8. Once you feel the soup is almost done, add some rice stick noodles. When they seem al dente, remove pot from heat. Stir in chopped cilantro. Taste for salt as needed.
9. Serve with some cilantro leaves as garnish.
Enjoy! I think next time I’ll trying adding some minced Serrano to Phase II, Step 2, and some lime juice after the pot is removed from the heat.
I wonder what it would be like if all the electricity in the world were to shut off for a day . . . The diminution of noise would probably be pretty remarkable.
Undoubtedly it would wreak all kinds of havoc, but it is hard not to imagine that it would feel peaceful.
Sleeping in but not too late
Blue skies as far as the eye can see
A short stroll through the cool morning air
Doing chores while listening to the conclusion of a P. G. Wodehouse novel and laughing out loud
A long walk with a happy dog through pretty neighborhoods
Eating pizza and drinking a beer outside with Mr. Mountain Man
Enjoying a sunny evening at the park with Mr. Mountain Man: playing frisbee with the dog and lolling leisurely in the grass
Coming home to an airy apartment
Winding down early with a good book and candles
It has been a disgracefully long time since I posted anything on this blog. Inspiration has been plentiful, I simply have not made it a priority to sit down long enough to record my thoughts. Life has been full of activity and when I finally do find a moment to be sedentary I usually choose to rest and read. Of the many library books I have out, The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton is one I am enjoying a great deal.
The book is broken into six chapters titled with themes of common woe, such as “Lack of Money” and “Unpopularity”. De Botton provides “consolation” for the reader by pairing each woe with a philosopher and describing what that gentleman offers for coping with the issue at hand. There is nothing high and lofty about it. It’s sort of like “applied” philosophy and the practical presentation is very accessible and at times humorous. I found the chapter on Seneca, titled “Frustration”, to contain helpful insights, many of which were needed reminders of principles I already knew to be good.
Yesterday I finished the chapter on Schopenhauer. From De Botton’s description, Schopenhauer was a bit of a grouch. But that is okay by me. There is something comforting in the cranky wit and observations of grumpy old philosophers that appeals to me. They have a way of articulating the true and difficult things about human experience that simultaneously reveals how woeful that experience can be and makes it easier to bear. Some of you may find the following quotes to be disheartening, but for me they produce a smile or even laughter. Hearing someone state, in language clearer and better than one’s own, what is dissatisfying or hard, helps one to feel less alone. This may bring to mind the expression “Misery loves company.” It’s true that misery does, but sympathetic company also eases misery; it removes the sense of being isolated in one’s disappointment. It is also a relief to hear someone else admit things are wrong, when we are so often asked to wear a mask that says everything is as right as rain.
Now that the preamble is through, here are two Schopenhauer quotes which I appreciated and were included in De Botton’s book. The first for its wisdom: I am a big believer in expectation management and often wish my expectations had been stifled, rather than inflated as they were. In my mind it is better to expect the worst, or nothing, and be pleasantly surprised by anything better that occurs. (Not that I live up to this mindset – apparent negativity aside, I seem to approach many things with an unconsidered naively optimistic attitude.) The second quote I like because it manages to express a rather bleak view of humanity in language that lends it comedy and softens its significance.
“Much would have been gained if through timely advice and instruction young people could have had eradicated from their minds the erroneous notion that the world has a great deal to offer them.”
“Human existence must be a kind of error.”
A few weeks ago I posted about iGadgets and included a link to a story from “This American Life” called “Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory.” Apparently the most salient points of the story were made up by Mr. Daisey. The radio program dedicated its March 16 program to retracting the fictions previously aired. Here is a link http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/460/retraction
I have to commend the program for making such a thorough retraction and confronting Mr. Daisey. There are some very awkward pauses when they ask him why he lied. Though Mr. Daisey is very disappointing in that he won’t really admit how poorly he behaved, it is good to hear someone be called out on what he had done.