24 Meals.

August 20, 2013 § 2 Comments

birthday

Last Saturday I celebrated my 24th birthday.

There was a moment, as we waited for my sister to emerge from the kitchen with a cake ablaze, that I paused to gaze at the faces of the friends who crowded around our table, singing Happy Birthday to my sister and me. How blessed I am, I thought, to enter a new chapter in a chorus of love.

birthday1

I didn’t expect to be home for my birthday. This year had its surprises for me — some of them sobering enough that I’m amazed and humbled to have tumbled through them to find myself in summertime, in summery spirits, surrounded by the people and pursuits that fill me up with gratitude. Good food and dear friends. May the year continue in this way.

birthday2

I’m taking this milestone as an opportunity to begin a new project, to help me expand my repertoire of recipes and move me along in my dream of becoming an exceptional cook and savvy hostess.

The goal is very simple: to prepare 24 meals over the next 12 months. Each meal should include a drink, a salad, an entree, and a dessert. I will try to host a dinner party each month to put my culinary matchmaking skills to the test.

24 years, 24 meals. This is going to be a good year.

—–

birthdaycake

Coconut Tres Leches Cake

To begin, here’s the remarkable cake my sister made for me. The recipe comes courtesy of Regan Burns at CHOW.

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Caravan

August 5, 2013 § Leave a comment

Join the caravan of those who have turned their faces to the light.

I had a bit of a revelation yesterday when I was walking past City Hall with dear L.

Government Center is uglier than not on its worst days, with its cement overhang and the drab, geometric rim of its office towers. But the sun has a way of dignifying things — even brutalist concrete building faces.

These days have been surpassingly lovely. I scroll through my iPhone gallery and it’s all lens-flare and dusky diffused light. Yesterday, as we shared lunch on the Esplanade, a fog descended over the river and there was a gale of dewdrops and sunlight. It turned the riverbank into a prism and the picnic blanket (thrown around our shoulders to shield us) into cape-like wings. I read somewhere recently that sunshower is a word somewhat unique to our region.

sunshower

On our way back to our cars, the sun shone bright again, painting the rooftops and steeples and making the sidewalks glimmer. Even Government Center became a beautiful arena filled with gold and warm shadows. I grabbed L’s arm and cried a bit, right there on Cambridge Street, because it was too beautiful and it came upon me in a wave that we only have so many moments here in the sunlight. Our time here is finite. If I were prescient, I could count the hours left to me.

With that thought, I was overcome with a profound gratitude for my time and place in the sun – for the warmth and glow and hush and perfume and abundance of it. So thankful for the kindred spirit beside me, for those who make me revel in the moments we are given together.

I wonder how I can ever overlook these graces. They are the pulse of life. They move our caravan along.

Wishes for the good traveler.

April 29, 2013 § 2 Comments

For a venturing soul I love very dearly,
and all the others who journey alongside.

If each day is a step within
a journey, long and true:
Then, as you go,
good traveler,
I wish these things for you:

A wishing well at every stop,
at every stall and stay,
to hold your cheer,
to stave despair
and parchedness away.

A precipice to venture up;
a trail to test your mettle;
a thousand thorns
to make you strong
and flowers to make you gentle.

A vision of your noblest self
to haunt your dreamer’s heart,
that you might strive,
against the throng,
to set yourself apart.

And outlooks grand to ground you –
that, from a bright plateau,
you recognize
how far you’ve come,
how far you yet can go.

May birdsong bless your wanderings
through desert, fjord, and vale;
may every path
deliver you
to welcome and a tale.

May Earth on her round table spread,
in her abundant manner,
all vibrant, rare
and wholesome fare:
nectar, spice, and manna.

I hope each day above your head
God paints a splendid sky;
a backdrop brave
to vivify
your worn and searching eye.

May sunlight bathe and kiss your skin
and trumpet you along;
and when the stars
bedeck the sky,
may you imbibe their song.

And if, in some uncertain hour,
a tremor fills your soul–
a darkened shroud
puts confidence
and calm past your control,

I hope you find your faith in God;
that, pouring from above,
you feel the peace
that emanates
from His enduring love.

And as around this world you weave
a web of your goodwill,
I hope you find
yourself enmeshed
in something worthier still;

That your untiring spirit draws
dear friends to share your burden;
and a happy step
in sync with yours –
Love’s sweet grace and guerdon.

So kindle hope within your heart,
its pure, undying ember.
Do right, fear not.
Be chivalrous.
And if you can, remember:

If you will reach, wherever you are,
as our two paths unfold,
my well is deep
enough for two;
my hand is yours to hold.

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Just to Bless the Morning

March 31, 2013 § 3 Comments

This Lent held a succession of heartbreaks and disillusionments for me. It was the end of an epoch, the revisioning of visions I’ve held dearly and long. It’s true that real life hits suddenly and all at once — and regrouping feels so dramatic, even when you have a little voice inside to chide you with perspective.

I came here trying to be bold and strong and unstoppable, but what I’ve found in this first month is that I’m a mess of dreams and doubts, held together by friendship and love and little graces. I’m shadowed in the wake of this by thoughts of my personal legend, and the idea that daydreams are done and destiny is at hand, if I will step into it now. I’m trying to trust myself so I will know how to live.

…..

I have a new favorite song by one Ben Howard, called “Old Pine”. The chorus goes like this:

And we stood steady as the stars in the wood
So happy-hearted, and the warmth rang true inside these bones
As the old pine fell, we sang
just to bless the morning.

I listened to it today as I walked to Sankt Hedwigs Kathedrale for Easter Mass. I went there in the hope of hearing familiar hymns and feeling a bit more at home. I was intimidated by spending this holiday away from family — even in the States, I just want to be home for Easter.

I realized that what touches me most about holidays is their generationality. They remind me always of things that endure — of wheels that turned before I had a heart to ache within me, that will keep turning long after my heart can ache no more. They remind me that the best we can do is to offer up our hearts in all love, so we can ride the wheels and not be crushed by them.

On my walk there were babies dolled up in their strollers and old folks in their finery. There was sunlight on my cheekbone, snowflakes on my brow. A willow tree soft and yellow over the slate grey Spree. Spring is in our midst, even if winter lingers.

I took this in and the began to cry when the chorus of this song began to play. It was a wave of homesickness (for Tigger, for people, for time) — but also a wave of gratitude for the sun and the snow, for Easter and the good and beautiful things that endure amidst heartache and disillusionment. For the love that holds us steady and rings true inside our bones, even when the rest is obscured. The old pine can fall, and we can still sing — just for the grace of morning.

2012

December 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

It’s strange to remember the quiet desperation I felt at the beginning of this year, as I pledged to myself to live with intention but prepared for a job that dampened my sense of agency and ambition.

Looking back over the last twelve months, I see an education in grace. What began in a place of fear and doubtfulness closes in a happy place of hope and direction. And that transition began when I let go of doubt and embraced faith and possibility instead.

This is the lesson I learned: to find the way where grace abounds, you commit yourself to something bigger than yourself, then you move towards light. I had to leave my job because it made me feel dark inside. It was enough for me to be free to sit in the sunlight, dreaming up schemes and praying for direction.  I felt unmoored when I quit, but I also felt back behind my helm.

And this is how grace works. Because I had quit two weeks before, I was free to travel when Mama booked an unexpected trip to the Philippines. I was also on hand when my first job asked for me back again – a job which let me keep other opportunities open, let me explore. And so on and so on all this year went.

I am humbled and grateful when I trace the web of moments and meetings that led me to here, where I’m poised to begin something that fills me with a sense of purpose and vocation. The way was marked with little signs. A shooting star after someone crossed my mind, or a clover near a bench side. A friend who reminded me of the worlds beyond my world. A stranger with a wishing lamp. I’ve stopped looking for flashing lights from Heaven, but have learned to rely on its little winks and nudges.

So chase the light, be on the watch for it. Gather it up and, piece by piece, let it illuminate the way. It comes in countless forms, but unfailingly it settles in you with a warmth that assuages doubtfulness. It is fearsome to behold sometimes but you know it by its gentleness — it never does any other any harm.

Seeing as this is where it’s led me, I’ll be that much more on the lookout in the time ahead. Happy Old Year! And Happy New.

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