washed away

I can feel the tug of the cosmos.
Gravity and proximity.
Tides and blood moons.

The water in my body, expands and contracts, like them tides. It often leaves me feeling high and dry or submerged for a season.

I certainly feel swallowed up sometimes.

And then it retreats, just like it came, washing away but also leaving behind little treasures. A few shells. Jetsam and flotsam.

I imagine the sands all smooth-like from the constant back and forth of the water, adding and taking away. I sink my feet deep into the cool wet sand. I let them disappear, feeling consumed by the elements. Eating me alive, watching me slowly incorporate into the rhythm of forever.

These are trying times.

There’s a lot of me, staring out into the sky, and feeling as though I’m dissolving into the air. Sometimes I rise like smoke out of a chimney, able to be seen from far away.

But not usually.

I used to say I wanted to disappear.
When the pain was too much, I wanted to dissolve into the earth and lay barely awake for centuries, until maybe I could figure out what to do next.

I felt a great need to reconnect. To give thanks to the things that were keeping my feet on the earth. Things like gravity and speed and mass. I looked at myself in the grandeur that is eternity, both before and after.

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I am tiny.

But like the sands, I shift and move and absorb. I wait for the tides to move over me and wonder at all the things it leaves behind. Those special bits that I can say I was a part of when no one was looking.

A hermit crab changing its shell.

Jellyfish glowing like the moon itself.

God I am thankful for it all. That I get to be a part of it all.

The high and the low, and the messes of men and creation of something new. Like a baby or an idea, that is challenged and allowed to grow into something that is endless.

Because from what I know, the cosmos are endless. As are we.

We are all floating and falling. All the time.

Sometimes it’s too much. Other times, we are bone dry, praying to be made into something bigger than ourselves.

It’s not hard to see though,
when you look up (or down)

All of this star stuff and we aren’t dazzled by it anymore.
I am glad I’m part of something bigger. Something that has seasons and room to change.

I am eternal in this mass of things bigger than I could ever see.

It won’t stop me from letting the tides pull me deeper,

and deeper,

until I am washed away into the Great Mystery.

Then Came the Meatballs…

It was one of the best meals of my life.

I was new to Woodlawn C&P, my most recent place of employment. We were across the street from a rustic Italian joint called Firehouse.

Appropriately enough, the building itself used to be a firehouse; back when pictures were just black and white, and a giant rail car ran through the streets.

Matt, the chef and owner of the restaurant was around a lot during the beginnings of WCP, so one day he said, “Come to dinner tonight, I’ll take care of y’all…”

I wasn’t used to industry talk. We had been saving for a night out, anyways.

Hannah and I got dressed up well, or maybe she did, and I just did my best.

My favorite server Stephen, which I didn’t know at the time, was serving us.
“Hey, I work over at Woodlawn…Matt told me to come in and I think we’re just gonna leave it up to him!”
“Sure thing.” said Stephen. His presence helped the entire place feel warmer.

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I don’t think anyone at the time knew I was any good at cooking (not even me), or that I knew what good food was supposed to taste like. I had been reading cookbooks and memoirs about kitchen life, and I was still antsy to soak it all in.

I watched the inferno in their gorgeous wood-fired oven lick the top of the dome where they would cook pizza and mussels and bread. Wood smoke on food is amazing, if you didn’t already know that.

For the life of me, I can’t remember everything we ate.

But it began with fried cauliflower. Like most of the meals I continued to eat at Firehouse, it always started with fried cauliflower. Nutty, brown, and the first bite was always too hot, but you bit into it anyways. Served with lemon crème fraiche, it was the most comforting thing.

Sliding over our cocktails came a few more dishes. Romaine hearts, with anchovy, lemon and shaved pecorino. Bruschetta with chevre and acorn squash.

Then the pizza.

Neapolitan style. Almost gooey-like in the middle, as it should. 6-8 minutes max in that blazing hot oven, and they are done. It was a simple but perfect margherita. Basil, light tomato sauce, and buffalo mozzerella. Doused with a bit of good olive oil before hitting the table, and with a pinch or two of chili flake to taste.

I was almost full.

Then came the meatballs.

Three rich, fatty, sweet balls of meat that I’d never had come close since then. Braised in a light tomato-rosemary sauce with lucinato kale and a hunk of pugliese bread.

Hannah was done, but when someone is giving you the whole nine, I ain’t stoppin’.

We did it.

We ate all the food.

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Then came the digestif.

And then some sweets. Perhaps one of their pot de crèmes or tarts. I can’t quite recall, I think I was so blissed out that I lost some subtle conciousness.

If Matt read this, I know he would probably shake his head, and downplay how dramatic it was to me.

They comped our entire meal that night.

Not only was it a gesture of thanks, but it was a welcoming. I was becoming part of a bigger family.

It was this meal that taught me how good and simple and close to home food could be.

It changed how I cooked at home. It changed a lot more than that. It set the bar for what I wanted for myself.

I kept going back. For cauliflower, for meatballs, for the pizza. Each time, throwing my hands in the air (at least in my head) and submitting to the whole damn thing over and over again.

It allowed me to venture into other places that took just as much care of their food. I was spoiled rotten, I tell ya. Rotten.

Yes, it was one of the best meals of my life. And I will hold it deep down with all those good things that make me want to be a better cook, and how all the work they put in, came out to me on that table.

 

Word of the Day

Today I want to talk about words.

I suppose one word in particular.

At the beginning of everything, the word “divorce” was terrifying. In my mind, I saw scenes of a courtroom. Both sides are furiously throwing around passive aggressive statements. There’s the scene of the dad (or mom) with all of their things taking off down the road, while the kids are left waving goodbye. And this is a story more often true, than not.

Divorce conjures up a lot of imagery. A lot of it is painful from my past, and my present.

I guess to say it out loud takes a lot of work. People generally start out with “separation” and “splitting” and eventually get into that nasty word.

Divorce.

A huge separation of life and spirit.

It sounds a bit violent to me. Unfortunately, it is the word we have deemed necessary with the action.

I’m sure it derives from something in Latin. I’m sure I could just google it, but I’m not.

I’m writing all of this because I wish I could’ve read something like it when I was going through everything. Well, I still am, actually.

divorce

Those of you who read this blog often know that I started writing about my pain almost instantly. There wasn’t any way around the fact that I was going through a very hard time. At one point, I just had to say it out loud, “I’m going through a divorce.”

And that was all it took to have everything come falling in on me. It’s such a sad word. Don’t let me take anything away from the seriousness of this decision. These things are important. The weight of words are important. But I wanted to take a minute to explore its weight.

Divorces are not all the same. Kids, no kids. Some both agree it is for the best. Some are knock down, drag outs. And some have to deal with money and property.

Whatever you’re going through, try not to lump yourself into something you can’t grasp. It is a very personal thing, but don’t hold it in. I’m not saying be proud of it, but if it’s a word that’s making you sick, take it out and examine it.

You and your partner are getting a divorce.

If I could have talked to myself eight months ago, this is what I would have said:

Let me be the first to say how sorry I am.

I will not give you a silver lining to look towards, because they are temporary.

How are your finances? Are you okay with bills? How can I help you in this transition? Who’s feeding you and are you taking care of yourself?

If you want me to, let me sit beside you in the darkness and I will listen to the parts of your pain.

I can tell you that things will get better with time, but you don’t want to hear that either. You know things will get better. But right now, you’re really hurting.

AND NO ONE HAS HURT WORSE THAN YOU AT THIS POINT.

No one in history knows your pain. And you are right. We are wrong.

Your pain IS unique. There are lots of variables and emotions that we all have to embrace.

People will be there for you, and then they won’t. And then they will. They have their own lives and their own battles, but it doesn’t mean they’ve also abandoned you. Your community is trying to figure out how to handle this as well. Have a bit of grace with them, especially if we are young and inexperienced with these tough things.

Let me buy you a drink.

But I’m going to make sure you don’t get out of control, and know that some nights, taking the edge off helps you to sleep better.

It’s going to take a while, and I’m sorry.

You are going to come out of it so much stronger. So much wiser.

But then, sometimes, it will hit you like a wave and you will have trouble getting out of your pajamas.

Let’s go get a cheeseburger.

You are loved and thought about. You are going to wake up tomorrow. It’ll still probably sting. But each day is a new way to process your pain, and you will. You will move and grow and change. You will be capable of such a deep love that the idea of having it again will excite you.

And some days, you will also imagine what it would be like if you were alone the rest of your life.

There’s no best way to go about these sorts of things.
If it seems like you need to do something hard and emotional for the sake of clarity and forward motion, DO IT. Your throat will get tight and your belly will burn, but it will make you stronger and softer.

The truth is, your story can go anywhere.

And this is me not giving you a false hope, but only to open your heart up again. Because you are needed in this world. And we want you to add to our lives just like you did when you were married. We want you to spend time with our kids and cook food for us and go out to get a drink, even if you are a third wheel. Trust me, the married folks you hang with will love on you. It will change, but they will, with time, love on you.

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You are not damaged goods. We are all damaged goods.

But we are good.

And the piece of earth that shattered under your feet will be bumpy and raw for a while, but things will still grow. Greener. Taller. Deeper into the earth, through the cracks that will always be there.

Be free of God’s judgement and the judgement of your family and peers that watched you get married. You did not fail.

Go easy on yourself.

Accept the love people want to give you.

Go with what feels safe in certain times. If you are cautious about something or someone, give it some time. Because you will have opportunities to fulfill your needs, and with time, it will all become more clear.

Yes time, as much as you hear people telling you, will indeed heal a lot of things. You will still feel pain, but the sting becomes less and you become more.

And that’s the truth.

But for now, take it easy on yourself.

Use that scary word when you need to because it will get smaller and smaller.

It is a part of your story now, in a way you never thought it would.

You my friend, are resilient and the world needs you.

You my friend, are endless.

 

thunderstorm

electricity fillin’ up the sky

one mississippi two mississppi

a low rumble down the ways

two miles, I say half asleep

 

I wake up to a

thump, thump, thump, thump

drips from the roof tapping my window seal

cool, wet breath on my face

and the trees slowly touch one another

 

reminding me of that brilliant dance

with her,

half way touching

and moving

 

electricity, again

one mississippi two mississippi three mississippi

quiet rumble, like the sound of water rushing over your head

a little less awake I say,

‘it’s moving away’

 

trees sway less

I am aware of the stagnant air

that now fills my space

but I smell the dampness

it is comforting

 

the storm, it is gone for now

but I am asleep

one leg in, one leg out

to keep the balance of warm and cool

 

I miss the sounds of storm

of wind making trees stretch

wet road smell

 

but then there is bright and breeze

a bird singing its dream

and I am awake.

with a big breath and stretch,

Yes! I am awake, now.

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oats.

Yesterday morning I got up particularly early. I had slept through the night, only to be woken up by this group of little birds outside my bedroom window.

I can’t blame ‘em. I think they were waking me up for something big.

I made myself oatmeal with creme fraiche I had just made and some local honey. It was delicious and simple.

I woke up heavy with anger. Not at the birds. The birds were the only part of my morning that made sense to me. The creme fraiche I had made was perfect. Thick and tangy, and well, fresh.

All signs of the morning were leaning to a good day, and all of a sudden, everything collapsed. I started weeping hysterically. I don’t always enjoy talking about the inevitable breakdowns, but I think I need to talk about it.

Living in a different space takes time. Although Mississippi is my home, there has been such a shift in my heart.

If I’m honest with what I want to say, I don’t have enough middle fingers for things sometimes. When I start to feel sad for my loneliness, I point those middle fingers at a life I once had. I get so angry that I lost everything that I wanted.

Now I know better than that.

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Life does move on. And the stages of grief are so f***ing blurry to me at this point. People will say, “Ah, well you’re on to anger now..” Well, certainly. Only I’m angry a lot in different stages.

Grief has no formula. Sure, there are some that will tell you (and me) what to expect next. But I have no clue. We are all so different in how we heal and move on. Some of us take longer. Some of us move to different places and are forced to reconcile two pasts into one. How does one do this?

I would be worried if I wasn’t having a hard time. I see people move through these things so fast sometimes, and I get jealous. Damn, I wish I could hook up with someone that fast! Or start to see people as an old friend, instead of the ‘ex’.

There is so much I want to bury.

Like my wedding ring that I buried in the roots of those tomato plants we grew. Because that’s where our love was good. That’s where it meant the most to me…and there those roots will grow strong again, with someone else getting to benefit from our careless gardening.

Good days and bad days, as always.

No, I don’t want your silver linings, but I do want to be useful.

I do know things will get better with time. I can see past my pain.

But to feel it, is a completely different story. I didn’t think it was possible to explore these depths of my heart. To see how resilient my heart has been and continues to be.

I’ll fight for it to find goodness again. To find some peace again…and I will hold it deep down with those still waters. I know what I want, and I know it’s going to take some time.

And I will cook it slow. Like them oats soaking up water and salt and spice.

They will absorb into something entirely different from its dry state.

It will nourish and expand.

A simple, good thing,

sometimes makes all the difference.

 

swallowed up by the sea

I think often about story and narrative.

More recently, my story and my narrative.

I was having coffee with my buddy Kyle a couple of weeks ago, and we were talking about writing and story and art.

We are each others biggest fans, I think. He’s an illustrator/artist who gets his stuff published weekly in the Sunday New York Times magazine and I well, have a sort of successful blog. At least my mom thinks so.

I love hearing about his creative process. His self-deprication is hilarious, and he’s always so humble about his success. (You can find more of his stuff here.)

Anyways, we were discussing my move this past year, how messy it all has been and how things happen so fast. He told me I had a way of seeing life as narrative. I suppose he is right, I had just never heard it out loud.

I’m not going to get into the parts of the story. It’s been a while since I’ve had high school English, but it has parts, okay? Things like  exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. Lord knows resolution is sort of vague. But I suppose writing has always been in the back of my mind. For those of you who follow this blog, know that I’ve come a long way from what I originally started it for. (Which funny enough, was a food cart in Portland…)

As a person who writes, I am always looking for this outline. Rising action and conflict and then the mighty downfall. We all know it’s coming. You can only ride the wave for so long before you crash.

I know that sounds rough. Well, it is.

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There’s also clarity in story. There’s a point, usually. Thought is explored and there is some answer. Maybe not the one you were looking for.

I’m sure there is some danger in seeing your life as a story — maybe the glorification of the mundane, but seriously, why not? Why not see a metaphor and explore the depths of a left when you were supposed to be taking a right.

I am lacking clarity, at the moment. I can’t see very far. It’s good to have goals, I just can’t put my finger on any of them. My foot is still firmly planted in a lot of things I’m not ready to lose.

I am afraid to lose things — things that I have learned and the person I have become. For some reason, I think I will forget my time in Oregon as some sort of defense mechanism, and I don’t want that to happen.

Oregon was a wonderful and strong part of my character development. There was a lot of beauty and a lot of heartbreak. It surely makes my story richer. It adds depth, but at great personal loss.

I miss that love.

Even in the day-in/day out flow of my life, I know there are people out there fighting to live and for one another. That’s powerful. I suppose I have to figure out what it is I’m fighting for now. In a different way, I am having to create another exposition of my transition back to life in the Deep South. A new chapter.

Maybe even an entirely different story. I’m not quite sure.

But I see them, on my shelf. My other stories. Some quite sad, and some very short. They’re all there though. I can crack them open and examine my character to see how much I’ve changed, and to take in deeply the pieces I’ve underlined. Even more so, the words that aren’t that special. The everyday words.

Because everyday words, are just as important, and hold up the rare moments we actually get to say what we mean.

So no, my story is not about building an arc for all the world’s animals, but things have been washed away a bit. I suppose rocking back and forth on the rough seas feels about right.

When the sun bursts out of the them dark clouds, I will feel it on my face and feel thankful that I was not swallowed up by the sea.

Advice to Home Cooks (Part 2)

For the time being, I am back to cooking at home — which to be honest — is one of the best ways to fall in love with cooking again.

Not that I ever fell out of it, it’s just different when you cook
professionally. You don’t have as much grace in the professional kitchen. You are feeding a much wider audience, and you are able to control (mostly) all of the variables. Your sauce isn’t finished reducing? At home, this is okay. In a restaurant, you best figure it out while already feeding a few two tops and have the credit card machine go down.

Needless to say, yeah, cooking at home is real nice.

Moving into my mom’s kitchen, as I call her “Chef!” when she asks me to fill the kids sweet teas, I giggle. I respect her kitchen, and find ways to make it my own. This means adding to it things I like to consider bare necessities. Let’s go:

kosher salt.
Yes, use whatever you like. Sea salt, table salt or hand harvested salt from Oregon (expensive, but worth it). I’ve been using kosher for years, and it’s just what my finger tips are used to. Because unless I’m baking, I don’t measure salt in spoons, but pinches. Keeping your salt in a bowl will aid you in this, but it’s how most kitchens work, so I like it better this way.

pepper mill.
I accidentally left my pepper mill in Oregon, which sort of broke my heart. We could have made arrangements for its return, but I decided to buy another one just like it. Hey, if it ain’t broke…yeah. You get it. This is the one I like.  I know, it’s a bit pricey. But thus far mine had lasted me a good four years before I decided to abandon it. Sorry old Peugeot, it’s nothing personal. It’s great to travel with, if you decide to cook at friends houses and it’s just damn sexy. I Continue reading

new life.

From Oregon to Georgia.
Pacific ocean to the Atlantic, crossing over the mighty Mississippi.
Steelhead salmon to them channel Catfish.

Whew.

A lot.

It feels a bit odd to be moving around so much. I realize the luxury in getting to do so. I have also been blown away by the hospitality — the people wanting me to move into their cities — don’t they know how much of a goober I am? I should really warn those people.

There has been a theme, throughout this little ride.

Daffodils blooming. Escaping the snow by a day or two. Green pastures and conversation of change.
New babies. New love.

Rebirth.

New life.

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That is what I see. In the midst of the mud and murk, I emerge like that catfish, mouth agape, feeling the sunshine beam upon my whiskery face.

I realize, that what I am seeing as I pass through states, and after I leave one place for another, are pockets of new life. All of the time, they are being remade. Whether that is a baby or a marriage or a job. I see it all bursting through the ground like them daffodils after the long, cold dark of winter.

I see Justin planting his garden behind his Tennessee home, while watching L jump on the trampoline yelling, “Okay, watch this!” And I can see both of L’s parents, smiling and admiring all of the little things they have growing. More so, L’s parents inspire me to keep moving and loving. (And that when a kid needs to dance, you just gotta let him dance…)

Abbye and Jeff playing hide and seek with their neighbor’s kids, and embracing their city and neighborhood as though they have already decided on something big. I love seeing people go all in on a place.

I see my cousin behind the bar, smiling, sharing with us something he has extreme passion for — and the relationships he’s made. I’m proud of him, but not in the way people say when someone has just started to get their stuff together. I’ve always been proud of him. I’ve missed his friendship, and I’m excited to be closer to my family.

To SJ, my sister asking hard questions and seeing beauty and wonder in all the small things.

So now, I sit at my dad’s desk, writing with the sun at my back.

I think about the Beloved community. How good everyone has been to me this past month. Giving me their beds, paying for my drinks and my food. They’ve showed me their cities and have allowed me to meet their own little communities. Usually I am exhausted by all the hustle and bustle, but I have been so lucky to meet and share a table with so many this month. It further reinforces all those big things I keep in my heart.

Because given the opportunity, I would give these people whatever they needed, whenever. The gratitude of taking in a weary traveler has always been something close to my heart.
So, I sit back and imagine what’s next.

And I feel okay. I feel loved.

I see life, and I see it moving on.

From one place to another, life being made new.

reincarnation-like.

Yeah, I think it’s gonna be okay.

 

vanishing into forever.

I imagine at some point, I will change.

That something will switch inside my head and I will be something that I can’t see right now.
Maybe that someone will look back at my current self and say, “This is what you become!

These tattoos on my body, this whole journey of mine, my love of cooking and writing, and wondering if I’ll ever take myself seriously at either.
Right now, I’m still trying to see past the heavy fog.
Wondering if I’m ready to do things I haven’t done in a while.

I think about how I will change.
I really enjoy who I am at the moment.

Sad on the off day, but so alive the next. Ready to weep with a friend, or laugh with a new neighbor whose dogs are barking at me as I attempt to run…(again.)

I’m less looking to change, than I am to move (and not just physically). I have always been a mover, so it seems. Even when I’m not ready. Looking at myself from above, I would not consider myself to be wild. At least not in the conventional ways of hanging off a mountain with no rope. But deep inside where I am scraping the walls of deep caves and reaching high to maybe stick my hand through a cloud.

Coming to accept who you are, I feel, takes a lifetime. I’d like to say I have that part figured out, but I can certainly say, it is building stronger and stronger. It’s amazing what can change if you just stop putting a lid on things you don’t want to understand.

We are all students of this crazy, wonderful, and heartbreaking world. We all carry bits of wisdom from the life we have seen. Let others fill you up, and look at them in the eyes when they do. Truly listen to people without having something to say. You don’t have to agree with everything. Just let people be, for a change. The world is full of assholes too, and you are one of them from time to time, so when you’re not, be good to others. In fact, just try to be good as much as you can.

I was loved and hurt deeply by another. My love was given back to me, and it looked different. Not necessarily broken into bits, but in a different shape, you see?

Your love is always your love. You will give it to people and they will do with it as they please. Some take more. Some give more. It is all a wondrous exchange of ourselves. And it is endless.

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You are endless.

I don’t think that thing will ever happen. Where something clicks in my head and I will know who, what, and where is right.

This is a truth in all of us.

Our best bet, is to enjoy who we are,

and to leave more good here,

before we vanish into forever.

 

 

 

Blood Buzz

I’m on a blood buzz.
Sort of, intoxicated-like,
on family and history and potato salad.

Sadness is a tingle,
much like when your foot falls asleep,
but you are very much awake. 

God, am I awake.

I tingle here and there,
this is how I know:
I’ve lost a great love.

Vibrations, almost.
a bit of shell shock.
my ears muffle when you talk to me.

Not all the time. I try to listen.
I try not to think about her.
I realize it’s a losing battle to not think about someone.

how does one snap out of this?
to fall in love again?
to kiss in the dark again?

yes, I know this.

but today, I stare outside my window
I see mostly brown,
but then again, I would.

The green is coming.
daffodils line them Miss’ippi highways;
I can see them!
(something deep inside of me proclaims)

and I am hungover
from big pains
and too much fried catfish.

buzzed. like with too much wine,
but for my family,
my history,

drunk-like,
with them old southern ways,
and hummin’ the hymns
I used to sing.