November 23, 2012

Here's What Happened

It’s been coming on slowly, this feeling that I have. Slowly, over the course of this year in which I have been coming here to write—that I would eventually make this blog more explicitly personal. I’m still figuring out exactly what that means: what it means to be writing as I do, in this way, to a group of anonymous readers and also to dear friends. We’ve been figuring it out together, you and I. That is the sense that I have.

I figure it’s time to recount some history. I’ve spoken obliquely about a number of things. And last week, I wrote about my sister in the most explicit way that I’ve ever done before. I received emails and personal notes about it. It lifted my spirits and reminded me why I like to come here and what makes this experience profound.

I think it has to do with a level of trust in oneself. Because if I’m not here, if I’m not really here, all of me, there won’t be much for either of us to hold on to.

So, here’s what happened: I started this blog on November 25, 2011. I was a nervous wreck when I did. I picked it up and abandoned it in my mind a number of times. Then, at the end of January, my fiancé (and boyfriend of 10 years) and I ended our relationship. What followed was a series of tumultuous months, a parade of meaningless dates, a reconnecting of many friendships, and a stark turn inward.

What can I say about that relationship here, now, in this way? We grew up together, he and I—that’s the most honest thing to say and the most true thing to recount. We lived overseas together, we traveled, we became recluses in a cottage in upstate New York for a period of time (in a house that was so quiet that one could hear, physically hear, the sound of a snowfall); it was a red cottage, across from a beautiful farm; I made drawings at the kitchen table in the mornings and watched the deer come to the stream to drink; it was an idyllic but also profoundly sad time for us both. We grew up together, and then, I think, we grew apart, in very different, but also oddly connected ways. Some part of ourselves is still in that little red cottage, and that’s the best that I can do to think of what happened between us, and where whatever it was—what it had been—still resides.

When it happened, I found myself coming to this blog more and more. I can’t describe what I felt or why I knew it was important, but it was. This was the place where I came to ground myself, and it always worked. There is something about seeing something that one has made, right there in front of you, that affirms to the soul that one has a home in the world. I suppose this was the reason I decided to become an artist so many years ago now. I think it was Heidegger who said something to that effect: that we make art, we create things, as a way of making a home in the world. It is something that I think we all strive for. We tear each other apart in our quest to find some bit of grace and solace. We never, ever stop searching. 

My life now is very different than it once was, and mostly for the better. I live with two lovely roommates in a quiet little house on the edge of the Mission District in San Francisco. I come here to write and to cook, and when I go home, I play my guitar and nuzzle my roommate’s little orange cat, and I drink with friends, and spend time with old acquaintances, and generally, live. I’ve forged some powerful connections to people who are now very dear to me; some from my distant past and some from a nearer present. I’ve let certain things go. I laugh a lot more than I used to. I take that to be the best sign.

I still haven’t figured out how to escape the waves of sadness—a sort of drowning that takes hold of me from time to time—but I’ve stopped trying to prevent them entirely. Yes, I wake up some mornings with tears in my eyes. It has always been this way. Sometimes I feel so stricken with sadness that I feel literally incapacitated. I feel that I simply cannot move—where my mind refuses to stop, my body will. But there is also this other thing in me; it’s the thing that makes it possible, the night after some deep moment of sadness, to get up the next day and make apple-cinnamon pancakes for my roommate. To listen to her when she tells me, “you should photograph this, Vera.”

These are the dueling impulses. I suppose, no… I trust, that we all have them.

What appears in this post, what’s been scattered throughout, is a sort of chronicle of my week. It’s incomplete, as all memories and experiences are; because what I really want to say is un-writable and un-photographable.

I inch toward it bit by bit.

This weekend I will paint my room the color of fog; that’s the best way that I can describe it. Sebald writes: “There is mist that no eye can dispel”; but we can let it envelop us, and find some bit of freedom there.

Next week, when The Moon in My Kitchen turns 1, we will celebrate with some cake. The real kind, the birthday kind, all frosted and shiny and new. 

Apple-Cinnamon Pancakes
Serves 2

This is not really a recipe, it's more of an idea. And now that we've passed through Thanksgiving, I doubt that many of you will be waking up and wanting pancakes. On the other hand, it might be just the thing. These pancakes have all of the taste of apple pie... but better, easier, and with maple syrup.

Mix up a batch of buttermilk pancakes using (gasp) your favorite mix. But if I was going to make them from scratch, I'd use this recipe, which, with the addition of oats, I think would be quite good.

Heat a non-stick griddle until droplets of water dance across the surface. Spoon out the pancake batter to your desired pancake size (I usually make four at a time), and then add thinly sliced apples (about 3-4 slices per pancake) and sprinkle with cinnamon. Wait until the surface of the pancakes bubble and make large exquisite holes across the top, and then flip once. Wait about a minute and then serve immediately, with sweet cream butter and maple syrup over top.

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