Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Slow Revisited

"In this media-drenched, data-rich, channel-surfing, computer-gaming age, we have lost the art of doing nothing, of shutting out the background noise and distractions, of slowing down and simply being alone with our thoughts. Boredom - the word itself hardly existed 150 years ago - is a modern invention. Remove all stimulation, and we fidget, panic and look for something, anything, to do to make use of the time. When did you last see someone just gazing out the window on a train? Everyone is too busy reading the paper, playing video games, listening to iPods, working on the laptop, yammering into mobile phones. [Add texting, Facebook, and Twitter here.]

Instead of thinking deeply, or letting an idea simmer in the back of the mind, our instinct now is to reach for the nearest sound bite. In modern warfare, correspondents in the field and pundits in the studio spew out instant analyses of events as they occur. Often their insights turn out to be wrong. But that hardly matters nowadays; in the land of speed, the man with the instant response is king. With satellite feeds and twenty-four-hour news channels, the electronic media is dominated by what one French sociologist dubbed 'le fast thinker' - a person who can, without skipping a beat, summon up a glib answer to any question.

The anecdotal evidence is everywhere. In Los Angeles, a man starts a fire at a supermarket checkout because the customer ahead of him is taking too long to pack his groceries. A woman scratches the paintwork of a car that beats her to a parking spot in London. A company executive tears into a flight attendant when his plane is forced to spend an extra twenty minutes circling Heathrow airport before landing. 'I want to land now!' he shouts, like a spoiled child. 'Now, now, now!' ~~Carl Honoré, In Praise of Slowness, Challenging the Cult of Speed
I come back to Carl's book again and again as the Cult of Speed rudely, vulgarly tries to stick its nose into my life.

In my neighborhood park, on a wooden bench, under a tall decorative walkway lamp, in the last remaining light of the evening sat a thirty-something woman. Smartly dressed, posture straight yet comfortable, her thumb between the pages of a closed book in her hand, she pondered. Right there in the park, surrounded by flowers, evergreens, expansive lawn, sunset's first glow, and amidst people she sat thinking, mulling, lost in thought. Her face relaxed, pleasant. I smiled at her, she smiled and nodded at me. She seemed at peace yet somehow out of place as the world scurried. At the same time she was the most in-place, sensible, real part of the landscape. Engaged in life as opposed to driven by it.

I think of her often and am encouraged. The Cult of Speed lost that day. The woman won.

And so did I.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sunny Tuesday

After a cold - for us - night with temps in the low 30's, today dawned azure and misty. The mist surrendered to the blue. Our closet rattled. The tennis rackets and balls wanted out, to play.


I have to say, I do feel sorry for people who have to work inside on days like today. A cubicle, office, or any building must seem like a prison when the sun bathes a perfect spring day. Flowering trees, bushes, and bulbs in yards and parks. Delicious air, ebullient scenery.

Exuberance! Tom and I on the court whooping when we slice an excellent return, chuckling when we goof. Across the park that way a group of young men similarly whoop and laugh, breaking into impulsive back-slapping and noogie-giving. Over the other way another group of kids laugh on the baseball diamond, suddenly, energetically wrestling each other to the ground, legs and arms sticking out from a mass of joyful grunts and victorious proclamations. More impulsive back-slapping.

Leisure spent with neighbors in the pursuit of pleasant sports lifts spirits and calms bodies. Friendliness, sweat, courtesy, fun.

Afterwards, my tennis partner and I share a bistro lunch together, then off to work, Tom to his job, I to mine. Both of us thoroughly enjoy our occupations. Most of the time.

Today, my work consists of tutoring my youngest in geometry, then allowing her the pleasure of tutoring me in French. Outside. On the sun porch. Amidst awakening strawberry plants, California poppies, oregano, lavender, sage, and chrysanthemums.

Below is a photo of my tutor. While cradling our French text, Caroline enjoys a grissini (Italian crispy breadstick) from the school-restaurant where Cassie learns her culinary arts. She and I ate there yesterday, in the Renaissance Room, with Cassie as our waitress.

I hope where ever you are that you make time for fun with those you love, that you open yourself up to serendipity, that life gives you a special and good surprise today.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Common Art

Taking the jar off the frozen tomatoes from my freezer exposed this little ice sculpture. Fascinating. Stopping, stooping to get a closer look, marveling at the intricacy and beauty, all this left a question in my mind. Do other people stop and ponder life's seemingly ordinary occurrences the way I do? I wonder. So many lovely things, right under my nose, right in my hands. Like the bubbles in the sink as I wash dishes, silky, tickling, popping, each bubble displaying a rainbow of color.

Like sharp, cold, glistening ice crystals forming above frozen tomatoes.

Simple things. Beautiful things. Everyday things.


Please click on the photos to see the ice crystals more clearly. They are so pretty, and amazing.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Tennis, Anyone?

My Aunt Joyce never stops learning. She never stops, at all. After she turned forty she learned to fly an airplane. She also took up golf, and tennis. And those are just the hobbies I know about. Forever my role model, I think of dear Auntie Joyce every time I pick up my tennis racket.

Every. Single. Time.

Naturally I thought of her this morning when Tom and I gathered our rackets and two bags of tennis balls from the closet. We practiced serving today and even had a few good volleys going by the time we were ready to stop.

We've played on and off, mostly off. Things get in the way, you know. Kids. Jobs. Yardwork. Housework. Oregon rain. Life.

But we decided this will be the summer of tennis! Perhaps we'll even work up to playing a game someday.

Like any discipline - whether work or play - practice is the key. I have to practice baking to learn to get it right, and cooking, and teaching. And tennis.

Tom and I had a blast today. At one point, after a good volley, Tom said, "That was good practice." I responded with, "It's all practice. And it's all fun." We laughed.

Life is full of delights. Pick a few. Like Aunt Joyce.

And practice.

(Incidentally, my aunt played tennis for nearly forty years. In her mid-80's her doctor recommended she stop after a fall on the tennis court. She groused about it but didn't want to risk becoming hurt and gumming up the good life she carries on with Uncle Floyd. Wise move, Auntie. She's still learning, though. A very high-tech octogenarian.)

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

Today is Farmer's Market day for our family.

Aisles and booths of beautiful food await us. We see, we smell, we savor. We select. Into our basket go the freshest most delicious vegetables, herbs, meats, eggs, and fruit. Vivid colors, varied textures, greens, reds, yellows. Ruffly lettuce, smooth duck, geese, and chicken eggs, sleek green and white leeks, pungent chives, cilantro, and parsley, crunchy orange carrots, red chili peppers ripe for heating a tongue, lifting a smile.

As we carry our precious cargo home enthusiastic sharing ensues. Ideas about egg dishes, soups, salads, savory meats rubbed with herbs are cheerily blurted. Senses stimulated with the sights, sounds, smells, textures, and tastes of the edibles enrich our food experience even as they will soon invigorate our bodies.

A quote from Mireille Guiliano comes to mind.
The best cook in the world can't make good food from poor ingredients; and it takes some perverse genius to turn great ingredients into bad food. Good food responds best to the simplest preparation; you really can't go wrong when you start with quality.
The Farmer's Market, bringing the best of the earth to our kitchen table.