Here and There

Monday, October 30, 2006

Sometimes, When the Light

sometimes, when the light strikes at odd angles
and pulls you back into childhood

and you are passing a crumbling mansion
completely hidden behind old willows

or an empty convent guarded by hemlocks
and giant firs standing hip to hip,

you know again that behind that wall,
under the uncut hair of the willows

something secret is going on,
so marvelous and dangerous

that if you crawled through and saw,
you would die, or be happy forever.

--lisel mueller

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Blog memory jog..

I read a great blog called I'm Mad and I Eat. It is fun and a little eccentric. The writer is clever and likes local food. This is an excerpt from today's post at

"So: Fig chutney. This is not a recipe (you know me better than that), this is just my notes.
Wash and cut figs into sixths.

Cut up some onion into little, but still identifiable, chunks.
All right. Spoon a little honey into a saucepan. I used more than a little, because to me, figs taste like honey in a shell.
Add a nice splash of wine to the honey (rosé happened to be on hand), and toss in the figs and onions. Warm it all up on low heat.
Now, start tinkering with flavors. I threw in fennel seeds, mustard seeds and black onion seeds. A little salt. A little more salt. A crack of black pepper.
More Spanish sherry vinegar than I would have thought.
Taste, tinker. Taste, tinker.Simmer, simmer, simmer.
An hour or so later, if it's to your liking (and the whole house smells divine), turn off the flame and let it cool."

This "recipe" reminded me so strongly of something I did as a young person. I was old enough to use the stove, so that seems pretty old to play pretend, but maybe kids just don't play pretend long enough anymore... We had a little playhouse in the back of our house, I played there most afternoons when I was small, scrubbing doll clothes, having company, puttering around my yard in front. The whole thing. It was world to many pretend games.

As I got older, I didn't play there anymore but I still wanted to play house, pretend like I was housekeeping, humming and simmering things. I would gather leaves, flower buds, pussywillows, seed pods, grass-whatever was pickable, putting it into my apron. (Because I always thought a little Mrs. Tiggy-winkle like me would carry things I was gathering in my apron.) Then I would put them all in a little pot in the kitchen. Just a small little saucepan with a little water and I would simmer the mixture, stirring it occasionally, pretending all the while that I was concocting some delightful herbal brew that I would serve my guest for tea, or stirring up some remedy for my ailing child.

Not that this recipe for fig chutney is so off the wall, but the approach sounds much like my leaf stews. Which didn't even smell aromatic, but rank, bitter and very green.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Let's take this party OUTSIDE.

We saw Marie Antoinette last night. I have been wanting to see it ever since I saw a trailer for it ages ago. In the trailer, 80's music was playing, and Marie Antoinette was riding home from a party in a coach at dawn, putting her hand out the window to feel the air. I was kind of fascinated by that image. The whole idea.

So, even though I knew that every 12-16 year old was as well, I've been truly excited to see this movie. So we did. On opening night.

And I have to say- I sure liked it. It was crazy-decadent, fanciful, amusing. It was really breathtaking to watch all the colors and clothes and food. The whole idea of these teenage queens and duchesses and comtesses, with the money and power to indulge any whim is shocking and sad and satisfying all at the same time.

One of my favorite scenes was after Marie's birthday party. She and her friends are tramping about in the gardens at Versailles. They are laughing and tumbling down and they plop down at the edge of the beautiful reflecting pool and they watch the sun rise. When they are walking through the grass in that grey light, I knew that smell of the wet grass and the muffled sounds of birds waking and all their laughter and loud voices before morning. I felt a little tinge of sad later, thinking about parties like that or staying up that late...

One important detail about that scene. And one of my favorite things about a party that is hard to achieve in Berkeley. Maybe when we have some lawn and a heat lamp for the not-so-balmy nights. Party outside. More specifically, party moves outside. Night smells and the way that things reach up and out at a party, laughter, gazes, smoke. It is lovely to be outside and be in good company, quietly settling together, it makes departure more natural. Everyone is thinking their own thoughts, looking up at the sky, contemplating the evening. Then it can be over. An indoor party doesn't have that flow. Everybody talks, talks, talks, then maybe it gets silent for a second and then people leave. Lights on, lights off. Outside, people sit, lie on the grass, it's dark- but softly.

It's nice. I was glad for that scene in Marie Antoinette because I remembered that feeling and I realized that since having sleepovers in a tent at Brooke's house in 6th grade, I've loved the wee hours spent outdoors with friends.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Fun with Stephanie!

Last night was Stephanie's birthday party. In the picture of Gid and I, you must know we were posing as for a junior high yearbook picture. (Thus, Gid's faux enthusiasm, which looks real and is why I love it.)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

First Rainy Day

Today I was walking around in the library, choosing some books, and it was quiet except for a dull roar of an airplane outside. But on this rainy afternoon, it sounded like the clouds moving.