about bliss

Friday, February 29, 2008

organic girl

Today I found a new array of organic produce at my local Copp's grocery store: organic girl. The ubiquitous earthbound farms clamshells of greens disappeared, and in its place are more shapely, non-petroleum based clamshell containers of greens and salads. I selected the baby arugula blend, took one of the $.55 off coupons, and finished my shopping.

The blend is good, composed of mostly arugula. Peppery, distinctive, and fresh, it provided just the bite I needed on a Friday evening after a long week. While it's good to see the container is not made of fossil fuel, the fact that it's made of corn ("I'm in everything!") isn't all that much better, but it's a start.

I dined on a salad of baby arugula blend, roasted chickpeas, oranges, and cucumber with a balsamic orange dressing. Tasty. Then, I made a pizza with a part whole-wheat crust, spicy tomato sauce, roasted red peppers and broccoli, caramelized onions, arugula, and kurt henning's mozzarella. What a wonderful meal!

While most of my meal was decidedly not local, some of it was organic, and all of it was delicious. And, it was inspired by Barbara Kingsolver and her family's tradition of pizza Fridays, a tradition I'm trying to practice here as well. I cannot wait until Spring, when fresh veggies and fruits begin to show up at the farmer's markets and even on my own terrace garden. For now, snow continues to fall, melt, meld into ice, and fall yet again. We're experiencing the snowiest winter on record, and everyone is weary and grumbly because of the interminable stretch of winter. Spring seems a fantasy, a fairy tale, a gossamer dream...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

ice floes

Today the temperature soared to thirty, nary a cloud drifted in the sky, and brilliant sunshine streamed down, melting the massive snow piles and inches of ice. To riff on country singer Deanna Carter, "I still remember when 30 seemed cold." And I have to disagree with former midwesterner T.S. Eliot--February, not April, "is the cruelest month." Everyone I know in the frozen tundra or nearby states reached the point of utter frustration, impotent rage, and/or depression weeks ago. But. Today the sun, the sky, the warmth called me outside for the first time in weeks.

As I walked the treacherous sidewalks, seeking one foothold after another, I found myself drawn to the layers of ice ensconced between inches of water. The ice bubbled, cracked, and shifted under my feet, and a fresh stream of water flowed upward. How like my heart, at moments in my life, beginning to thaw from the inside and out, with a translucent, cracked resilient layer of ice in the middle. I also thought of that wonderful scene in *Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind* where Joel and Clem venture out onto the ice and first share an intimate moment, surrounded by major fractures, but buoyed up by thick layers of frozen river water.

To boost sagging morale at work, I've baked chocolate chip cookies for my colleagues. And, in anticipation of my upcoming birthday, I've baked two dozen chocolate cupcakes to tuck into my overflowing freezer. I envision a pink meringue frosting with pink coconut gracing their naked tops. And now my home smells of home, of sweetness, of bliss.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


I'm trying to find the Gretel Ehrlich quote that speaks of home being simultaneously nowhere and everywhere at once, a rather po-mo, po-co concept...but my sleepy eyes aren't alighting on the right words tonight.

Where is home? Is a place always home even after I'm gone? How long must I live in a place before it becomes home? What determines home-- landscape, architecture, food, culture, people, and/or the visceral intuition that zings through my body-mind-soul?

And what is homesickness if not for that tortuous ache, akin to unrequited love?!?

My landscapes shift, couldn't be more different, and yet are beloved each.

Austerity of snow and ice, fecundity of humidity and abundance.

Home. Homeless. Homeful.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

the loveliest village

The one drawback to the fixed webcam is the image reversal you see here. C'est la vie. I'm composing this dispatch from Auburn, where I'm attending a conference. My "posse," the former Jane Austen Reading Group, has yet to assemble, so I walked to Mellow Mushroom tonight to pick up pizza and a large Abita root beer to go. I strolled down the street, as the sun set, leaving the temperature hovering around 50, and I felt glad. I ate too much pizza in my hotel room and then finished my presentation. It still needs a round of proofreading, but I can't look at it anymore tonight.

Where to begin drawing the contrasts between this former home and school of mine to where I am now? A vast gulf divides us. And I realize how I've become re-midwesternized when I'm surprised that every person I pass on the street says hello, and every man holds open a door. And the accent....oh, how I love it. And miss it. I had a moment of cognitive dissonance this afternoon when I drove into town and was listening to NPR and hearing a thick Wisconsin accent (of course the Dairyland State is receiving major press attention because of the pending political primary on Tuesday).

I can't seem to find the version of myself who lived here, but that's okay. I didn't really expect to, and in many ways I'm very glad that she has been absorbed into who I am now. I think of my life as a series of small transformations, whose additive sum eventually creates a new version of myself.

On my way to Auburn I had the chance to catch up with my friend M for the first time in years. We had a lovely long lunch, and then I was back on the road, in my rental car, a silver Mustang that purrs. Suddenly, my G6 seems rather weak...

Tomorrow I'll reconnect with more friends, and spend some time on my own wandering my old haunts. And remembering how much I came to love this loveliest village on the plains.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

craving chard

swiss chard, dharmagirl's trusty macbook webcam

Before returning to work in January, I treated myself to Barbara Kingsolver's delightful *Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.* She writes about food politics and the importance and experience of eating locally with an awareness of the difficulties and moral dilemmas her family and her many readers may face. These qualities, along with her lovely prose, further fired me up to do my best to eat even more mindfully, thoughtfully, and compassionately than I already do (and, I think I'm doing fairly well, not buying into the SAD--standard american diet). Still, I have miles to go before I eat, as I order chocolate from around the world and bread from Zingerman's in Ann Arbor--not exactly local, and foods that I will have an impossible time giving up as they sustain my overall well-being on these long winter days. Being amidst a deep freeze in Wisconsin does not afford many local vegetables at this time of the year. I console myself with the fact that I'm joining a CSA (community supported agriculture) this Spring, and that my dairy products are local.

Anyway, Kingsolver wrote so lovingly about Swiss Chard that suddenly, my craving for this hearty green skyrocketed. I searched my local grocery stores to no avail. I told my colleagues/friends about my Chard situation, and it seemed the only possibility was to travel to a larger city in search of this vegetable. I decided I would have to wait for my next trip to Milwaukee to find this elusive green, when, to my utter delight, I received a package from my Mom, to whom I had also bemoaned about my chardlessness. Inside I found this beautiful bouquet of rainbow chard, ready to be consumed. What a lovely surprise and perfect gift.

And so, on another sub-zero day, I will make a large pot of soup--tomato base, with garlic, a variety of herbs, cannellini beans, whole wheat pasta, and CHARD. I will eat this alongside a wedge of Paesano bread from Zingerman's and rejoice at being blessed with such thoughtful family members.

My seed catalog arrived this week, and I'm nervously dreaming of Spring and the project I'm about to undertake--growing a smattering of my own foods in containers on my deck.

And I'm writing again, squeezing in more time for journaling, working on my scholarly article/presentation, and thinking of essays that I want to polish and submit for publication. Trying to think of myself as a REAL writer, instead of someone who simply dabbles and teaches others how to write.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

the scholar at work

photo of dharmagirl, courtesy of macbook photobooth

snow swirls and spins
hot chocolate and toast
reading, taking notes
one week to prepare
back to Auburn
this time, with degree
haywood and bushnell
intrigue, scandal
breaking the mold
the question before me

busy at work, making my once-a-semester stab at scholarly writing (how i miss the possibility of a new project! how little time i have to write when i'm drowning in student writing that needs urgent, dire attention...). winter's relentless grasp drives us all indoors, seeking fleece throws, steaming beverages, and hearty fare. i can't wait to shed a few layers next week when i'm in Alabama! excited to see my friends and my mentor/professors, now colleagues. anxious to be back in the place where i lived, loved, and grew so much over the course of six years. already anticipating a surreal, bittersweet return. stay warm, stay happy, and have HOPE that spring will arrive soon (imagine my delight at receiving a seed catalog in the mail...visions of container gardening dance in my head...)

Saturday, February 02, 2008

fromage chapeau

Thanksgiving, 2007. Holland, Michigan.

To recap an earlier story and share the photographic proof (without a digital camera there's a delightful delay between event and image)...

I return to the parental homestead for the traditional autumnal feast, complete with the traditional football frenzy of the Detroit Lions versus the team du jour. This year, that lucky team is none other than the Green Bay Packers. Surrounded by my family, those dear Lions and Bears fans, I take a break from the kitchen (hence the cute apron) and boldly enter the living room wearing something special from Wisconsin. I'm met by hoots and hollers. My brother threatens to tear up the foam wedge of fromage, which I've borrowed from my friends the G-family. My cousin shields his face from even looking at me, and my Mom snaps this photo...

stream, meet lake

Lake Michigan, December, 2007