06 November 2013

the weather's will

Heading out the door this morning, I opened my umbrella and found just that right arrangement of coffee mug, lunch bag, and umbrella that would allow me to not drop anything and yet stay dry and caffeinated. This is a feat, I feel, at 6am.

With my galoshes on and tucked in to my pants, I felt a little like a jockey. Or a British aristocrat off on a ride. Either way, there should be horses involved, obviously.

And what a rain it was! Such a November rain, the kind you fear will pull all the leaves off the trees before you truly have time to appreciated them in their pied glory. I had listened to the traffic report on NPR tell what havoc this rain was wreaking on the morning commute, and I Had thought smugly about how easy I would have it on the train this morning.

Just a little walk in the rain while feeling British and then a dry, fast jaunt on the Metra. 'I am such a smart commuter,' I thought as I leaped over a puddle in front of the library, suddenly keying in to an ongoing clanging as I did so.

The library sits next to the railroad tracks, and sitting on those railroad tracks was a stuck freight train. Every crossing in my little town had its gates down and its clanging warning going, and I could see at 6:03 this morning that unless I was a jockey on a real-live horse that could sprint the mile to the one underpass in this town, I was not going to make it to the other side of the tracks to catch my train.

At that moment, I realized it: I may feel like a British aristocrat, but I live on the wrong side of the tracks. At least for this morning.

I turned back around, no longer leaping over puddles in my galoshes, and made my way to my car, ready to join the slow-driving throngs on the road as we all bend to the weather's will again.

05 November 2013

things that might be better than a new library book

What is better than getting a new book from the library?

No, really, I'm asking. I have some thoughts about what might be better, but I'm not convinced, particularly because I just picked up a delicious book {The Girl You Left Behind}, and every day, I can't wait to crawl into bed and start reading.

{Given that I recently wrote about how much I just want to hang out in bed, ever since I put on my flannel sheets, you may be concerned that I'm spending too much time in bed and not enough time upright and going about my normal day. Fear not, though: I am upright right now, and I manage to muddle through the days, no matter how much time I spend thinking about how I'd rather be in bed with a book.}

Things That Might Be Better Than a New Library Book

  1. Maple-bacon biscuits. Any recipe that begins with "Fry the bacon until crisp. Then pour fat into a measuring cup and stick it in the freezer; you will be incorporating the solidified fat into the dough" is a recipe for me. The step where you drench the crispy bacon in maple syrup only intensifies the pleasure.
  2. Staying inside on a rainy day. But then again, this activity is only made better by having said library book that you want to devour. Imagine it: Fireplace. Wind whipping outside. The smell of a caramelized onion, Gruyere, and ham tarte filling your home. And you on the couch with your book. It is almost too perfect, isn't it?
  3. A surprise of a card in the mail from an old friend. There is nothing like being reminded of why you're friends with someone: the way she can pull out just the right words, the way she knows what to joke about in a tongue-in-cheek reference to some shared memory, the way she can convey in just a few lines just how deeply she knows you. Add to that the delight of finding something other than a bill in your mailbox, and you have a serious contender for something that is better than a new library book.
But that is where I stop.

I cannot make it any further because I am thinking of my book and my bed. And maybe, one day when I finish this book, I will tell you about why you should rush to your library and get it right now. For the moment, I will say: This book, The Girl You Left Behind, involves France, World War I, impressionism, tempting descriptions of those unforgettable French meals, and a mystery.

Now do you see why I have no time for anything but reading?

04 November 2013

l is for lunch

Recently, I've been reading books that either explicitly or implicitly remind me to slow down and appreciate the moment where I find myself.

From MFK Fisher, I've been sampling The Art of Eating, which is a book of essays on the joy of food. If there is anything to make you savor a moment, it is an essay on rich meals shared with a wealth of friends. Reading this book, you can't help but plan a dinner party in your head, one that hopefully comes off like something out of a Katharine Hepburn film.

For me, it doesn't hurt that MFK {should I start referring to myself as KA?} lived in Aix-en-Provence for a while and wrote a book about that little town where I lived, too, for a bit. Map of Another Town: When I read that for the first time, I was very much convinced that I was back in Aix, so when I looked up from the page and saw just the normal street outside my normal suburban apartment, I felt let down. Reading about MFK sitting in a cafe on the Cours Mirabeau felt like reading a much more literary version of my own journal.

In one essay in The Art of Eating (in this series called "An Alphabet for Gourmets"}, MFK writes, "A is for dining alone, and so am I, if a choice must be made between most people I know and myself. This misanthropic attitude is one I am not proud of, but it is firmly there, based on my increasing conviction that sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly."

And that is firmly what I believe. She wrote out my thoughts long before I was alive to have them, and here I am, nodding along with her through the rest of her essay. Is is good to take pleasure in the small moment of eating alone; MFK and I know this.

Take right now for instance. It is lunchtime at work, and I'm surrounded by the din of other people's conversations. They are discussing the Bears game; I don't have much to add beyond an awareness that they are playing tonight.

Or they are talking about how much Halloween candy they still have at home and should they bring it in? {No, by the way, is the answer to that. We have enough here from everyone else who thought of that idea first.}

These people around me are talking about any number of things, and I get to wrap myself up in their dull roar, their hum of connection. It is all to me nothing but so much background noise, and I sit here alone.

Oh, don't feel sorry for me. I'm looking out the window at this November drizzle and thinking of Normandy. This rain is a Normandy rain, a kind of rain I got to know quite well when I lived there. It is gentle and persistent, but here today, it is warmer than a typical rainy day there—at least in my memory. But it's quiet and beautiful, and I walked to the train station this morning sans umbrella—in honor of those Normans who see little need for an umbrella on a day like this, a day when it's barely but constantly raining.

Eating alone, I can let my mind wander, and that is why I don't want you to feel sorry for me: because in these moments at lunch, I don't have to think of anything particular or do anything productive. I can just be here, at a slowed-down pace, taking in where I am.

Just like MFK.

01 November 2013

the draw of flannel sheets

I have had a problem this week: getting out of bed. You see, I switched to my flannel sheets and fluffy duvet for the winter—no more sleeping under a thin but handmade quilt as I do for most of the year. Cozy though that may sound—this dreaming protected by tiny, precise stitches from my great-grandmother's hands—it's never quite warm enough when the wind slices outside.

Last Sunday, I pulled out my flannel flowered sheets and immediately wanted to get in bed. It was only 4pm, though, and I still had a Halloween party to go to. {Perhaps my costume could've been bedhead?}

Through the party, all I thought was: bed, bed, bed.

Oh, I also thought about Little Pug, who was dressed up as a devil and was, of course, the belle of the ball.

But when I wasn't accepting compliments on my devil dog, I was imagining flannel and how I'd rather be eating in bed than eating little smokies at a party. And I really love little smokies.

You can see, perhaps, why I don't get invited out much: because I spend my time wishing I were reading alone while surrounded by flannel. Who needs human contact when you have winter sheets?


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