Wednesday, February 17, 2021


On our daily bicycle ride, there is a spot where we ride beneath some large pine trees. They're growing in a landscape barrier, where the road ends, and another housing development begins. The long branches of the pine trees hang over the sidewalk, creating a canopy of pine needles, large, round pine cones, and dappled light. In a literal sense, it is about thirty feet of sidewalk, traffic barriers, a dry and overgrown easement, a kind of cobbled solution for diverting car traffic, and not particulary inspired. Figuratively, it is fairway to a moment in a forest, on a journey, through a glen, into a woodland. The transition makes me mindful, take notice, feel expectant, yet if I timed it, I don't think it takes more than 4 seconds to ride through. In 4 seconds I can take a deep breath, notice whether more pinecones have fallen, look out for the wild fennel that grows in the scrubby part, note when children have left a skateboard, or ball, or have been building something in the dirt. In 4 seconds I can recall the pine trees that grew in the front of our house on Weekend Villa Road, when I was 6 or 7. You could walk up to the tree, whose branches arched from the trunk, up and over, creating a hollow dome, with a brown, fragrant carpet of dry needles, deep and cushiony. It was a perfect hideaway, personal house or fortress. I always expected magical, fairy tale events to happen when I was beneath that pine tree. Nothing ever did happen, no fairies, no talking rabbits, or tea parties, but somehow I didn't lose hope, or feel entirely let down. On our bike ride, for a moment, I revisit that same anticipation, and hope... here is a place where I might be witness to something special.

Suddenly, it seems, the trees are full of sun-bright pollen cones. They're so cheerful looking, they could be decorations for a celebration, or a delicacy we should harvest, and serve on small floral plates, with honey, and cheese. On this part of the ride, we are moving downhill, picking up speed, but yesterday I stopped to take some quick snapshots, to share, and remember.

Janece wrote lots of comments on some of my blog posts, including yesterday's, the one about baking quiche, and crostata. How I love comments! "I do wish I was more of a kitchen dabbler and experimenter. I enjoy it once I do it usually, but I'm always stopped by the idea of mess and dishes," she shared, and I loved how it made me immediately recall something. About 2/3 of the way through preparing 4 quiches, boiling eggs, and imagining a big jam pie, when I was pulling out yet another bowl for chopped veggies, or was it the sauteed ones? Anyway, I winced a little. The counter was at maximum capacity, eggs were simmering in a pot, the sink was filling up, and I was not sure I was adding enough salt to the quiche mix. And how about dill? Do I add dill to quiche? I was 100% mindful that, whatever my intentions are, however hard I try, I almost always make a mess. I have better habits. I have learned solid truths... like use a larger bowl, or pot than I think I will need, because it almost always saves me from spills. By the way, I forgot, or ignored, the larger pot rule, yesterday, and the price I will pay is having to scrub the stovetop. I could almost pass out and feel like I died, if anyone pops over when I am in the middle of Creating (or "living," as I call it.) I have managed to internalize shame and embarrassment about messes, but not the singleminded pursuit of fastidious domesticity. But, I decided to share some hard truths about what happens when I "dabble and experiment," and I posted some damning evidence on my IG stories. I reasoned, I could be temporarily, ephemerally open, transparent for 24 hours, you know, keep it real. The weird thing is, sometimes embarrassment makes me feel like I could pass out, disappear into the floorboards, but often as not, it makes me laugh, and feel perfectly imperfectly human, and creative.
Okay. These are pretty bad. If no one comes out and laughs with me, I will take them down in 24 hours.
After I make a big mess in the kitchen, I like to go upstairs and make a big mess with my sewing box, or as I like to call it "living." It's moments like these when I am keenly, gratefully, aware that I am a very very very fortunate woman. I have needles and threads, and pots and pans, eggs and dill, I have ideas, dreams, and time to play with all of it, and there is not a lot more I want, except more time, and the chance to share all of it.

Ah! A poem just came to mind, and I could not ask for a better finish to this post...

Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better To paint a picture, or write a letter, Bake a cake, or plant a seed; Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there’s not much time, With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb; Music to hear, and books to read; Friends to cherish, and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world’s out there With the sun in your eyes, and the wind in your hair; A flutter of snow, a shower of rain, This day will not come around again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind, Old age will come and it’s not kind. And when you go (and go you must) You, yourself, will make more dust.

by Rose Milligan


Teresa Kasner said...

I completely agree with spending time making art or crocheting a blanket or creating something that will be loved by one of my family after I am gone - than keeping a spotless house. I think embroidering that perfectly beautiful bird on the leafy green fabric is brilliant. Your berry rustic pie looked delish. I will never forget an empanada I had when I was in Houston, Texas - it was cream cheese and raspberry jam, in folded over pastry, deep fried and eaten warm.. o.m.goodness. Thanks for the kind words about our poor son and his near death experience. It's shaken me to the core.
((hugs)), Teresa :-)

Janece said...

I wish I had more connection to the power of day after day consistency. Your bike riding routine is so inspiring. I am just stunned that so many days, months, and miles have passed since you got those bikes. It's incredible and I'm envious that I haven't practiced that work and gotten the rewards. I'm not beating myself up but I also feel the possibilities that are missed without doing that "just showing up" day after day work. Inspiring. And the pines are always such a treat here in SoCal. I know with them in your front yard, it's less novel, but at the same time, they are just so unique in the average neighborhood landscape. And your awareness of them as you pass through, that's a superpower. <3

Thanks again (weeks and weeks later) for your kindness about cooking, kitchen messes, et al. It reminds me that when it comes to creativity and humanity, perfection is the enemy.

Your needlework, Natalie, is so warm and alive. Playful, cheerful, welcoming, and bright.

And yes to the poem. I remember you sharing it in the past and it just allows for a deep breath and realignment to the awareness of what is dear.