Little Things / March 2021

1.

In a brief moment of culinary inspiration last weekend I decided I wanted to bake some scones. I’d just had my morning coffee – so the possibilities for my day were seemingly endless and I dreamt my biggest, most wild dreams – and seen an inspiring photo of local produce from Berkeley Bowl.

“What flavor scones should I make?” I asked myself as I sat on the couch, already envisioning the Samin Nosrat I was about to become. I had the essential ingredients in my pantry – flour, butter, heavy cream, sugar – and decided on lemon poppyseed: a classic, hard-to-mess-up flavor that would only require buying a lemon or two from the grocery store. And then – of course, as usual – the moment of inspiration passed before I even made it to the store.

I went for a walk through the neighborhood later that afternoon. I had spent most of the day attempting to read, but mostly ruminating, and sought fresh air to clear my mind. A few blocks from my house I came across a plastic dog bowl placed on the sidewalk with a paper sign taped to the rim that read “FREE” in black Sharpie. Inside the bowl were three large, bright yellow lemons that a neighbor had picked from the ripening tree in their yard. I smiled, picked one up, and put it in my fanny pack (yes, I was wearing a fanny pack).

Lemon x fanny pack

As I walked home with the lemon displayed proudly in the pocket of my fanny pack I felt so blessed. A lemon in a bowl on the sidewalk. It was such a small thing and yet it felt like a huge gift, to have this thing that I’d been “needing,” but hadn’t been able to give myself, brought to me with no strings attached. It was as if someone, somewhere had known that if I were presented with a lemon it might have the capacity to turn my day around.

At home that evening I stood at the counter zesting the lemon over a glass bowl. I grated the frozen butter, mixed in heavy cream and flour, and added just the right amount of poppy seeds. I’m not much of a baker but every time I bake or cook I notice how wonderful it feels to make something from scratch, to shape and create it with my own hands. When the scones came out of the oven looking and smelling just as I’d hoped, I thanked the world for the gift of a lemon that reminded and inspired me to create.

2.

The wildflowers are in bloom!

On Sunday afternoon I sat on a bench by a field of poppies and reread one of my favorite poems by Wendell Berry:

I dream of a quiet man
who explains nothing and defends
nothing, but only knows
where the rarest wildflowers
are blooming, and goes, 
and finds that he is smiling
not by his own will.

3.

Ben Howard released a new album that I (shockingly!!!!!) have not been able to take off repeat: https://open.spotify.com/album/09P40BHcaue9iF4QasXMTK?si=hVrCF0tbRQOcOkeRzxl6Og. Every time I listen to his music I think about what a gift musicians are to the world; how talented artists have the ability to make us feel and experience the world more deeply.

I read an interview he gave with Flood Magazine after the album release and one particular quote resonated with me:

“I think I’m always just looking for a little flash of inspiration rather than working on some great orchestral piece, and that kind of became what the record was—it was little fragments. I hate to use the word “vignette,” but these songs are little glimpses of life and of musical ideas. They didn’t even need to be completely finished—as long as the essence is there, it counts.”

Sometimes that’s how I feel about this blog (I am not, by the way, attempting to compare myself to a musical genius!): it’s a place where I can capture my flashes of inspiration – a poem, a wildflower, a lemon on the sidewalk – rather than trying to produce something cohesive or complete.

I’ll leave you with something else he said in the interview that I thought he articulated beautifully:

“I think that’s why I’m always reluctant to spell out every single element of a song, because feelings are supposed to change. It’s supposed to change with interpretation, and that’s one of the most interesting aspects of it all. Meaning can be quite an elusive thing. And actually, the most incredible moment is when you get presented with an image that you can’t get out of your brain, but you don’t know why.”

Happy spring, everyone! May it bring lots of wildflowers and hope.

Thunder Only Happens When It’s Rainin’

I never feel like more of a cliché than when I’m sitting outside on my stoop in San Francisco, wearing some flannel I got from the men’s section at TJ Maxx, listening to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” on repeat. Call me clichéd – call all of us white girls hoping to discover themselves spiritually-but-not-in-too-crazy-of-a-way clichéd – but, come on, who doesn’t want to be Stevie Nicks?

And I might be slightly less of a cliché in this instance because it’s not actually Stevie I’m listening to sing “Dreams,” it’s LÉON. I know what you’re thinking: “Not another cover of a song that really should not be covered, because who is anyone to think they’ll sing a song better than Stevie f*cking Nicks herself?” but – holy moly – I’m glad I gave this one a chance. I don’t listen to much LÉON (that might change on account of this discovery) but the simplicity of this cover is striking. She doesn’t try to get fancy or folky or ostentatious with it and the pureness of her voice is all that comes through.

So, that’s my evening. I wonder if the commuters walking by think I’m crazy cause I’m singing to myself and shedding a few tears here or there. I wanted to do more writing today about things I’ve been thinking about these past few days as I recover (AKA move between my kitchen table, couch, and wheelchair outside while reading or listening to music or getting trapped in my own head) but I’m a little too tired and emotional for that now. I also just checked my mailbox and looks like some of my hospital bills are rolling in, so chances are I’ll spend the rest of the evening trying to navigate online insurance portals which, by the way, are the only websites I’ve found that are more difficult to navigate than college websites (I could never even figure out how to access my class readings on the five different websites we used at Stanford, but it turned out to be a blessing because I also never knew my grades).

My grandest adventure today was cooking a creative dinner in which I tried to use leftover ingredients from my fridge. I leveraged the rest of the shredded mozzarella and marinara sauce I’d used for pizzas earlier this week, as well as the remains of a loaf of french bread, and some eggplant and almond milk, to make a grilled eggplant panini. My stroke of genius came when I thought to combine the marinara sauce with the almond milk to make a cream sauce for the panini. And there’s nothing like the taste of resourcefulness to really bring a panini home.

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