Sunday, December 28, 2008

Acedia & Me

From my 12/19 post about favorite books of the year, this one has been the most impactful, Kathleen Norris' "Acedia and Me". Here are just some of the thought-provoking passages for me:

Chapter 7

"Simone Weil... declared that Hitler's rise to power would be inconceivable without 'the existence of millions of uprooted [people]' who could not be roused to care about anything except their immediate circumstances... our failure to acknowledge our inner blockages can make us incapable of recognizing the blockages we have created in the culture... we come to assume that these conditions - injustice, poverty, perpetual conflict - are inevitable, the only possible reality, and lose our ability to imagine that there are other ways of being, other courses of action.

Wendell Berry laments the extent to which economics has been elevated to a position that God once held... We have come to 'treat economic laws of supply & demand' as though they were' the laws of the universe'. If there is a religion that encompasses all the world, it is the pursuit of wealth.

True sloths are not revolutionaries, [but] 'the lazy guardians at the gate of the status quo'."

Chapter 8
"One great difference between these monks and today's pop psychologists is that the monks' process of discernment was likely to result in more self-knowledge, less self-consciousness. In our day, this is often reversed. People whose speech remains stuck in therapeutic jargon, for all the 'work' they are doing on themselves, often remain stubbornly unreflective. Even if they can catalogue their neuroses with great facility, they seem stuck within them.

Carmelite Ruth Burrows... regards any authentic religious experience as entailing 'a slow, demanding generosity,' one that does not short-circuit within us but flows outward naturally, until what we believe becomes what we do.

... 'What is integrity?'... 'Always to accuse [oneself]'.

By 'selfish' I do not mean observing the basic care of the self, knowing when to retreat, to hunker down in waiting out a storm... I may need 'time out'. I may need to 'cocoon'. But a cocoon is effective only as a means of change."

Chapter 9
"... my husband and I have benefited on several occasions from marriage counseling, I have found therapy to be of limited usefulness, constrained in ways that religion is not, because it consistently falls short of mystery, by which I mean a profound simplicity that allows for paradox and poetry.

Anthony of the Desert once said that a true prayer is one you don't understand."

Chapter 10
"To keep romantic relationship alive, one must be mindful enough to recognize the danger signs of inattention and sloth... Over time we found the accumulation of shared experiences provided us with a storehouse of memory that helped bear the worst of circumstances."

Chapter 11
"For me, the most basic definition of sin - to comprehend that something is wrong, and choose to do it anyway - is still the most useful. It frees me from the narcissism of fretting over my more trivial failings, even as it forces me to admit to those actions that have hurt others.

As I experience the repeated ebb and flow, the danger is that I will grow weary and more easily discouraged, unable to appreciate that grace is real, and as available to me, as acedia.

How might I be solid as a wall yet alive with movement? How might I build on all that I have learned yet not resist new challenges and transitions? Two vows that are unique to the Benedictines are of use to me here, the vows of stability and conversion.

We live our lives not at the end, but... in the interval between birth and death... There is good psychological basis for the impulse, borne out in many of the world's religions, to pray in the morning, at noon, and at night, at the hinges of time, when we might be most open to God but are also susceptible to acedia and its attendant despairs. The psalmist asks us to place our hope in a God who will not grow weary of watching over us at these risky moments, who will 'guard [our] going and coming/both now and for ever' (Psalm 121:8).

'Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,/ they shall mount up with wings like eagles'... [Hope] is an action... To hope is to make a leap, to jump from where you are to someplace better. If you can imagine it, and dare to take that leap, you can go there - no matter how hopeless your situation may appear..."

Chapter 12
"One of Saint Benedict's 'tools for good works' is to 'day by day remind yourself that you are going to die' (Rule 4:47).'

Commitment always costs, and there is a particular burden in loving another person, if for no other reason than the fact that this beloved will one day die."

Chapter 14
"... the word transition cannot convey my struggle with the rigors of grief, a residual exhaustion from years of steadily increasing adversity, and the promptings of acedia to respond to all of this by not caring...

The monks and mystics of my faith all teach that persevering in a spiritual discipline, especially when it seem futile, is the key to growth.

... it is one thing to pray when you feel like it, and another to make it as much a part of you as breathing... 'we don't always have to say a prayer, we can live out a prayer'.

'... God is trying to get us to accept a state where we have no assurance within that all is well... where no clear path lies before us, where there is no way...' Only when we admit that have 'no way' do we have any hope of finding one. Out of what seems desolate a newly vigorous faith can arise, a certainty that is not subject to change in moods or feelings, or the vicissitudes of life.

People often remark that they would write, or paint, or sculpt, if only they had the time. But this is pure fantasy: the artist does whatever is necessary to arrange her life so that she will have the time to write.

... my sadness increases as I am less able to see the world as I know it to be: ablaze with significance, potent with meaning. Yet I know that even if I am too exhausted to see them, the images, correspondences, connections, and metaphors that would free me are there, to be discovered, and to live as a poet means not to abandon my search for them. Such insights may come as gifts, but it is the prepared and fertile heart not the one dulled by acedia, that is best able to receive them."

Kierkegaard in "Either/Or": "I would wish not for wealth or power but for the passion of possibility, for the eye, eternally young, eternally ardent, that sees possibility everywhere."

Currently watching: Young@Heart (2008)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

the way of incarnation and transformation

Some good thoughts in Brian McLaren's recent, "Finding Our Way Again"...

p. 58 "Had I been forced to choose between remaining a traditional member of the Plymouth Brethren plus nothing for the rest of my whole life or dropping out of church, I would probably be a dropout today, because as grateful as I am for my heritage, it lacked breathing room. As I drifted away from the brethren nest, I went through a few experiences of what I call a 'lateral conversion', meaning I became a card-carrying Calvinist for a while, and then an amalgam of both, holding to each tradition's practices with the same proprietary zeal with which the Brethren had taught me to hold to Brethrenism, with no learning or borrowing from others. Eventually, I felt the same claustrophobia in my new traditions, so instead of converting to yet another tradition to which I would adhere in the same way I adhered to my original tradition, I converted to a different way of holding traditions in general."

p. 69-71 "...the kind of person who wants to participate in the healing of the world is very different from the kind of person who wants to leave this world behind so she can go to a better one... by making heaven after this life the destination of our way, we are spiritually forming people who run away from fire, disease, and the violence of our world. That's certainly a major step up from forming pyromaniacs, disease vectors, or violent delinquents. But it's not as good as what Jesus set out to do... Jesus was more like a firefighter or doctor or social worker who walks boldly into the danger in order to try to stop it. If a healed and healthy earth is your destination, the way to that goal promotes involvement, engagement, risk, and participation. If the earth is a lost cause to you, then you will... choose the way of withdrawal, isolation, self-protection, and self-distancing. By choosing one destination, you will follow the way of incarnation and transformation; by choosing the other... you choose evacuation and abdication."

p. 126 "The rising numbers of church dropouts don't want to be part of a flat spiritual malformation community. In a sense, they agree with the apostles Paul & James, whom we quoted earlier: it's simply better for aspiring disciples not to gather with those who have lost their way, because by joining them and unconsciously learning from their misguided example, aspiring disciples learn malpractices that take them further and further away from the way of Jesus Christ."

p. 134 [In referring to all the Christians who fought for abolition of slavery despite the church's universal acceptance of it at the time - "most churches defended slavery as being God-ordained"] "... Margaret Middleton, wife of a naval officer... She was a consummate networker, an undervalued hero in Christian history. This circle became safe space to think, dream, and conspire for justice regarding the slave trade. Their little circle connected with a larger circle of Quakers who had heard God call them, in a time of contemplative silence, to oppose slavery... Their fledgling movement grew in the spaces between the institutional structures of their day, not within the structures themselves."

p. 145 "The Gospels weren't written until decades after the events they described transpired-perhaps because Jesus created such vitality and foment that it took decades for anyone to have time to catch their breath and write down what had gone on. Similarly, the Epistles are hardly histories of the early church, but rather literary artifacts of the early church, most of them written by a fellow who was constantly on the move and couldn't slow down enough to write until he got shipwrecked for the winter or thrown into jail. There's a breathlessness about the whole affair... How different is a breathless, history-changing learning community from a placid or contentious panel of scholars and experts who are less interested in learning anything than they are in defending what they already think they know and attacking what other experts think they know."

p. 128-129 "How do we break the cycle into which we've fallen? Is it better to try to reform our existing faith communities that have lost their way, or simply to leave and start new ones? Do we work for reformation and renewal on one hand, or for revolution and refounding on the other? My answer, as you might expect, is both... Those unwilling to be silenced, domesticated, or marginalized are thus forced to engage in dramatic revolution rather than the gradual evolution of renewal and reform... By getting distance from the groups that are not ready for them, they get space and time to experiment, learn, fail, and learn some more. Eventually, some of their experiments prove healthy and viable, and before long, the very group that rejected the reformers starts learning from them. But meanwhile - this is so predictable and universal that I can't think of a single exception - the very zeal that propelled the rejected-reformers-turned-revolutionaries to bold innovation wears out, and their courage hardens into pride and defensiveness that renders them invulnerable to the next wave of reformation and renewal. They become exactly what they reacted against."

Currently watching: Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Best Reads of the Year

I read so many books in any given year that it's nearly impossible to narrow down favorites, but I thought, as I've been keeping lists of books I read for some years now, that I'd pick out a few that were highlights for me in 2008 for whatever reason. So without further ado (and in no particular order)...

  • The Optimist's Daughter, Eudora Welty - Though I read Faulkner, Kafka and Waugh this year, one simple (though Pulitzer Prize-Winning) book rose above the greats... this gentle of Southern writers and her heartrending picture of loss in a middle-aged woman's heart - I was teary more than once
  • The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James - How I connected with the brilliantly depicted heroine of this engrossing masterpiece... and how I grieved at her demise under the false illusion of conformity and "security"
  • The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton - Cloaked passion underlies restraint, not with the usual British reserve, rather, as an American novel (from one of our female greats), as a sign of times in turmoil, where old clashes with new, the past with the future
  • The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger - I'm mortified to say, as a literature lover, that I'd never read it before now; there is nothing new to say but that I couldn't put it down... perfection
  • Thirst, Mary Oliver - Her conversion and great loss expressed tenderly, beautifully
  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Joan Didion - The great Joan... loved her essays on life in Northern California in the '60's, on New York, her cultural insight
  • Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White, Adam Hamilton - Not so much a well-written book, or even one in which everything is presented as well as it is a hundred other places, but the constant beat of his drum for balance, acceptance and middle ground is a voice much needed now
  • A Stew and a Story, M.F.K. Fisher - Who can compare to the master? And she is. This collection contains many revelations, which is a common occurrence when reading the great M.F.K.
  • Straight Up or on the Rocks, William Grimes - This book changed it all... not only for the cocktail literary world in the '90's when the book was first released, telling the exquisite, long-forgotten history of drink and bartending in its days of glory, creativity and elegance, but for Dan & I, ushering us fully into the cocktilian revival and renaissance we've been participating in for years
  • The Man Who Ate Everything, Jeffrey Steingarten - WASPish and technical, this at times, factual, dry book made me smile as his detailed knowledge of food reveals insight into his profound passion... I love what he has to say about the fallacy of food allergies and the unadventurous eater!
  • Surprised by God, Danya Ruttenberg - An atheist becomes a fully practicing Jew... but this isn't sensational writing milking a religious conversion, rather an honest, heartfelt awakening to God written as engaging memoir
  • The Shack, William P. Young - I'm reluctant to list this one as it's poorly written compared to the rest... but the heart and message of it need to be heard
  • Acedia & Me, Kathleen Norris - My dear Kathleen's book was probably the most impactful for me this year; hard to read both in content and occasional dryness (Dan and I joked about coming down with Acedia in trying to get through it), but it actually left the biggest imprint and awakened rigorously honest self-examination
Currently listening : 20th Century Masters: The Best of the Mills Brothers

Friday, December 05, 2008

more faith in honest doubt... than in half the creeds

"... what does it desire of us, this Meaning of our Life that is revealed and yet concealed? Not to be explained by us - that us beyond us - but only to be done by us..." - Dr. Martin Buber

Buber's quote exemplifies 'the Key'... LIVING it, not merely explaining or talking. Jon read John Baillie's book from the 1950's, "Our Knowledge of God", and found it speaking to him profoundly from a philosophical vantage point. I read it and found this passage in Chapter 7 particularly good (love the Tennyson poem, of course - and we all had the joy of discussing it on his deck overlooking the Miami bay at night, lights twinkling):

"... the central thing of religion is not our hold on God but God's hold on us; not our choosing Him but His choosing us; not that we should know Him but that we should be known of Him. And it would seem that sometimes, even when we deny Him both with our lips and with our minds, He still retains His gracious hold upon us, dwelling within us as it were incognito and continuing to do His work in and for our souls. Some of us would have to confess that even within the circle of our own acquaintance there are professed unbelievers whom we must acknowledge to be, in some very real sense, better Christians than we are ourselves. Of such men we are often inclined to say that though they cannot themselves see God at work in their souls and in their deeds, yet we can see Him there...

Men may continue to believe in God 'with the top of their minds' while consistently denying Him in that part of their souls which governs all their deeds. 'The devils also believe, and tremble'. Surely then it is those whose every desire and deed deny God that come nearest to deserving the unhappy name of atheist, and not those whose denial is an affair mainly of the intellect. We should ask ourselves whether some who profess belief in God are not much more genuinely atheistical than are many of our rationalist and communist friends who take to themselves that name. The real unbeliever is not he whose life witnesses to a belief that he thinks he does not possess, but rather he whose life proves that he does not really believe what he thinks he believes. We might quote:

Perplext in faith, but pure in deeds,
At last he beat his music out.
There lives more faith in honest doubt,
Believe me, than in half the creeds. * Tennyson

But it is on certain other words that we should prefer to rely. 'Lord, when we saw thee and hungered, and fed thee? ...And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Insamuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.' This cannot mean that we are judged by our fruits rather than by our faith, it can mean only that we are known by our fruits, and that if the fruits are truly manifest, some germ of faith must then be there, however unrecognized."

Currently watching : The Savages

Monday, December 01, 2008

Favorite November Moments

Another insanely up and down month... I feel so alive with the highs and the lows, as painful and as spectacular as it can be, I am wide awake.

1. My Sam (Phillips) at Yoshi's - two magical, front row sets
2. Almost weekly 4-5 hour sessions of prayer and radiance in Nyquists' home
3. Moving forward in greater numbers with our Human Trafficking leadership group as will as with dinners at the Mentone (Tenderloin SRO)
4. A warm, deep night of Taize with McCs, Tyler, Karen, Chesna, Chuck (plus late night laughter & coffee at Kochs afterwards)
5. Wonderful food excursions and cafe hours spent alone and with my Daniel
6. An incredible weekend in Miami with dear, old friends, Jon & McKean, at their fabulous high-rise over the water... AND Manka driving down to join us for a day of adventuring and profound conversation on Key Biscayne
7. EVERYTHING about our brilliant New Orleans trip - I fell in love completely; Dan & I did it right, savoring every spectacular meal, conversation, drink, jazz club, nap, book, writing and romantic moment together
8. Cozy nights of food, cooking, movies and talks with Jus & Jason as they stay with us a week over Thanksgiving (a great Thanksgiving w/ McCs, J&J, Kochs, Kristi & Adam)
9. Dickens Fair w/ Dannee, J&J ("Sweet Nuts!")
10. My unexpected, painful, family reunion-filled, bittersweet trip to Oklahoma (after just returning from New Orleans) for Grandpa's funeral... he passed away late Thanksgiving night

Currently listening: Purrfect: The Eartha Kitt Collection

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Favorite October Moments

It is an unbelievable time... so much sadness and fear as well as love and hope. Dan's Dad was diagnosed with cancer this month, right after we returned from my sister's joyous wedding week in Ventura County. Dan flew right back to Orange County for another week, the longest week apart we've had, to be with his family and await outcomes. His Dad is going through chemo and we're praying for miracles... as we're acutely, keenly aware of every moment, of each other, of what we have and how amazing it is. Especially as we face loss and pray for more time with those we love... always more time.

1. Concerts (like Robert Plant/Allison Krauss or Hammer!), film nights and cozy meals with many dear friends (Tash, Chesna & Tisch, Becca here from NYC, Tyler, Amanda, Scott & Louise)
2. Stolen weekday lunches with Dan, trying new spots around the city
3. Palo Alto day with Dannee, eating (Bistro Elan & Sultan), coffee, writing, cocktails and cigars while talking about our upcoming trip to Miami & New Orleans)
4. Crazy Thrillville Dean Martin ("The Silencers" - hilarity!) movie night at El Cerrito Speakeasy w/ Tash & Dan
5. Entire wedding week for Jus & Jason: from the raucous LA bachelorette party night, to the family and friends reunion, to staying at Jessi's, to the big family dinner night in Santa Monica, to the gorgeous wedding and dancing the night away, tears and laughter... such joy
6. More East Bay dinners with Amy & David
7. Charleston-ing the night away at Mobster's Ball with Tyler, Chuck, Chesna, Karen, Maria
8. Amanda staying with me when Dan left (brunch at Brenda's, "Honey, I'm home!")
9. Geriatrics Party at Karen & Gina's
10. Yoshi's w/ Tash - fab Rupa & the April Fishes show; alive & delighted w/ my girl
11. Dave's steakhouse birthday dinner at Joe DiMaggio's on a hot Indian Summer night
12. Marie-Brizard West Coast Cocktail Challenge - the best industry-only party I've been to yet; I'm becoming "official"!
13. A cozy Halloween at our place with six friends watching ridiculous old horror movies like "House on Haunted Hill" while sipping pumpkin martinis
14. Being finally re-united, intensely and ecstatically with my husband after 7 painful days apart

Currently listening: About the Blues By Julie London

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Favorite September Moments

I cannot believe this year is so nearly to an end - it's going by like seconds! I could not limit my memories this month - there were so many; what a rich month of goodness.

1. Roaming my gorgeously blue, pristine city with my Mom on Labor Day
2. Sitting out on my fire escape with a clove, in a skirt and bra on a warm, sultry night... being, praying, singing, listening
3. A warm, vibrant, starry night on the patio of Coffee Bar, having a two hour Ethiopian meal, wine, a cigar and a deep talk with my husband
4. Italian night in North Beach with J & J (Jus & Jason) - food & "Il Postino" under the stars
5. Spontaneous singing and playing of guitar and piano by candlelight at our place with David, Anna & Amanda
6. Uproarious laughter & delight with my Tash over absinthe & champagne at Water Lounge before meeting Dan & Ben at Conga Lounge
7. Another great night serving at Tenderloin SRO + helping w/ Human Trafficking website launch & leader's group
8. Incredible industry-only food events I got invited to (La Cocina & Orson private event w/ John Scharffenberger & Elizabeth Faulkner)
9. Good talks & laughter with Ben on his weekend visit (especially our Caribbean/Jamaican meal on the water at Miss Pearl's Jam House)
10. Examining amazing classic cars and watching Charleston champions at the Great Gatsby
11. Dinner and life-giving prayer at Amy and David's
12. Reuniting with Salem friends at Randy's luncheon
13. Perfect meals, beers, talks (+laughs/Jovi Punch!) w/ Jason at Monk's Kettle & Magnolia
14. Goodbye nights with Anna at Medjool, OSHA, Chloe's, B&B
15. A cozy 15 of us in blankets watching "Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?" in Dolores Park
16. Louise's beautiful ordination ceremony (we did music) at Miraloma
17. Heartwarming prayer & a fab home-cooked meal at our place w/ Ty
18. Early morn & late night talks/walks w/ Dannee, specifically magical, romantic meals & conversation at Bar Crudo after my hellish work week & the relaxing, sultry Saturday after

"Bad is so bad that we cannot but think good an accident; good is so good that we feel certain that evil could be explained." - G.K. Chesterton, "The Man Who Was Thursday"

Currently watching : Persepolis

Friday, September 19, 2008

Waking hours

In a week of sleepless nights, sickness, then breakthrough (what a beautiful, freeing night at Amy & David's last night!) ... spiritually, as well as physically, I feel gratefully overcome even as I am heavy to face the upcoming hurdles at work and in many commitments.

"I learned the best way to manage some kinds of painful thoughts, is to dare them to do their worst, to let them lie and gnaw at your heart till they are tired; and you find you still have a residue of life they cannot kill." - George MacDonald, "Phantastes"

Dan and I talk of death in bed in the wee hours while it's still dark as I awake, unable to return to sleep. The brevity and fierceness of existence overtakes and paralyzes me in those moments. My sweet husband talks me through, shares the fears but ultimately, lets it go. We cannot hold on, terrifying as it is to accept death and old age (granted, I'm far from there, but I see it on the horizon, clearly at times).

We've shared many a tender talk of death and the swift passage of life before - talks that always remain special to me for the vulnerability in which we see the thin thread always between us and death at every moment. The thread we'd rather not acknowledge but ultimately have to.

Oddly, what comes out of and is left from those waking hours is gratefulness. I realize in the brazen light of day that I wouldn't feel such an ache of loss if I didn't have something rich to lose. We have so much, Dan and I. I am cognizant, as I am whenever I stop to reflect, that we are truly happy together... we have fought to find and keep each other and it hasn't always been easy, but we've been supremely happy together and our daily life reflects that.

Never am I happier to come home than to him, and he to me. Never has it been better to share all the things I love most than with him. Never have I regretted leaving my singleness behind, just as being with him has not taken away my independence but only made me more of who I am, freer, strengthened in unity as we reach for the same things. It's amazing to look at our life now, the habits we share, the way our cozy nights home play out (we've had a number of sweet ones lately) and see that even to the littlest detail, we're living the life we dreamed of living, we're in the kind of space we hoped to be in.

We have not, and do not, talk of forced stereotypes we have to fulfill with each other, in marriage, in life. Our home, whether in chores, decorating, obligations, daily activities, is not divided into 'his' and 'hers'. Sure, we share many passions, though not all - we each have our little things we work on separately (though in the same room as we share in our industriousness - Dan sews, works on the website or music, while I read, write, organize). He and I each have nights with girl or guy friends and both love our alone time. Always have. But there is no labeling or restriction, no closing in or dividing. All is on the table. All is possible but that we dream it together. All can be had if we agree and are lead to the same place... the point is to seek together, create together, evolve together, form who we have been, are now and will be, together.

That's why even pursuits like my food writing, I do with him. Though I write and research, we both enjoy the fruits of the research together (it's great to have a household of passionate eaters!), he builds and works toilessly on the website, making it ours, even with my name on it.

Community efforts, Arts Nights, human trafficking (and other issues we work in together), hospitality, constantly opening our home up to guests, groups, talks, meals and creative exploits. We create that space together, as we long prayed our home would be such a place, even though a one bedroom apartment. We've seen no end to incredible memories here - almost five years in this apartment! Hard to believe.

We travel together, planning in excitement, each into the details. We go to places of European ethos like we did alone in our 20's, sharing the same desire and value to live out that ethos (of the arts, lingering, good food, wine, culture, conversation, aware of beauty, poetic) in our own life, which we do in the life we've created here in San Fran.

As we did at age 18 when we met, we still both thrill to the foam on a cappuccino (or crema atop a good coffee), the gentle light of sunset, to the strains of a classical piano solo or a jazz quartet, the chime of ancient church bells, watching people and pigeons in a town square or Italian piazza, smelling the smoke out of a BBQ hut in the South, whatever it is, we come alive in the details. How rare a gift is that? It means we can create a life of these things, celebrate them, embrace them, surround ourselves with them and soar in the freedom of our spirits when fully ourselves.

How can I not be grateful? I ache to lose because I love my life. I sometimes fear loss and old age in my sleepless hours because it could mean losing this, losing Dan, losing the freedom we take for granted, losing the beauty of a life made by two best friends, not two people trying to make the other into a certain image, ideal or mold (thank God, I got broken of that in a fierce way in the years before our marriage).

I fear because I have so much. I realize I cannot love my life too much nor hold on too tight. For what we ache for most... together... is ultimately not fully fulfilled now. Every thing we love and share is a taste, always leaving us ravenous for more. I have to believe that over that horizon called death is all that more. Not the end but the next chapter... more full and ragingly beautiful than I dared hope.

Currently watching : The Office: Season Four

Saturday, September 13, 2008

the effect is cumulative

I've been reading through a book I picked up at work, Danya Ruttenberg's "Surprised by God", one of the many we get from publishers (usually pre-release - I love my job!) It looked intriguing and I have to say, is way better than I expected. It's a memoir from a young atheist living in San Francisco, who gets in touch with her spiritual side here, growing from hazy spirituality to a full on, practicing Jew (her heritage, but had not been her religion).

Interestingly enough, she avidly studies the Christian tradition, including my heroes like Merton and the Desert Fathers, weaving together the rich traditions of faiths into her Judaism. Her honesty and commitment come through in her writing and it's a refreshing read.

There are many passages I resonate with, am mulling over. Here are merely a few:

"I would listen to Tchaikovsky on my Walkman and weep at the moon... I was equally moved by the shadows that were cast across the lawns by porch lights and the chunks of paint peeling off the old houses, or the weeds sprouting tenderly between sidewalk cracks. It was all too much for me to take... Colors seemed deeper, corners sharper."

"It seemed that I was always floating... not on absinthe, but on how beautiful and free it felt to be young, alive, twenty-three, and living in San Francisco. Watching my breath was beautiful, the rainbows on the lamps were beautiful, everything felt mystical and light, airy and full of limitless possibility."

"That's the thing with instant change - it's usually not change. Either that, or it's not actually instant. The real story of spiritual awakening tends to live beneath the surface for a long time. It's much more subtle and much less linear than it may appear; many of us absorb small changes in tiny doses over years before they even begin to flit up through the upper layers of consciousness... Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi writes... 'There was a long series of these epiphanies, often unrelated to one another, and the effect was cumulative.'"

"As entranced initially as I was with the fireworks, they cannot and should not be the yardstick by which we gauge spiritual maturity or power. Real power comes from doing painstaking work inside the dark, gnarly corners of the heart."

"The dominant culture depends on our sense of isolation. As long as spirituality remains an individualized, personal experience, chances remain good work will sit forever inert & untapped. That is to say, those who practice their spirituality without community are much less likely to demand change in & upheaval to the status quo, or feel that they have the power to do so."

"A committed religious life is not about chasing the next great high... It's about staying focused & present & connected to God in all the small moments, the hard moments, the drudge moments... It's about learning how not to confuse sugar highs with real, sustaining nourishment."

In talking of her feminism & how much she runs up against that, the holding back of women in faith circles /religion (boy, do I understand!): "When are we speaking out of arrogance or self-righteousness & when out of a strong sense that Divine justice is at stake? The answers aren't always clear. Nor is it always clear when it's time to work within the system & when it's time to operate from the prophetic tradition, to reject religious complacency & to follow the seventeenth-century Quaker exhortation to 'speak truth to power'."

"The thing about this 'being present in the moment' business is that it's infectious. Once you start paying attention to where you are, how your breath moves in and out of your body, what you're eating, and how you feel, it gets harder and harder to turn off awareness. It gets harder to walk past a homeless person and not look her in the eye, see that she is human and, probably hungry. It gets harder not to realize that every purchase you make has a potentially global impact, that it may support a local artisan - or a corporation that trades in sweatshop labor."

"Meeting God is about having our souls ripped away, having everything we may have ever understood about who we are pulled out from under our feet - and having to pick up the pieces afterward. We have to figure out who we are and what to do once the comfortable and the familiar have been taken away." [This is faith exactly!]

"... for every person with a religious resume and an overinflated sense of self-importance, there will be dozens of lay-folk who are slowly learning the opposite... that the hard work of a spiritual practice has an indelible effect, that deep change comes gradually. We find that, little by little, this practice takes us back to our work, back into our relationships, our families, our old hobbies, and our slightly revamped ideas of fun. We find that, through the persistence and the tears and negotiations and the uncertainty and the terrifying moments after something old and familiar has slipped away and before something new and strong has come forward to take its place - through it all, we can feel the sweet presence of Infinity humming below the surface, changing how we see the world and our lives in it... For even as one undergoes the profound transformation inherent in waking up, real life goes on."

Currently listening to: The Definitive Collection By Muddy Waters

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Southern Writers

I've long had an affection for the great classic Southern writers, first and foremost, Flannery O' Connor. Then Walker Percy, another favorite of mine for years. Faulkner I respect but can't say I love. I'm fascinated by his writing and story-crafting style (one-of-a-kind), but somehow removed from really caring about his characters. "Gone with the Wind", naturally.

Another "big one" I hadn't got around to until now, is Eudora Welty, Mississippi's Pulitzer Prize-winning author. I recently read the book that garnered that award,
"The Optimist's Daughter". What a beautiful piece of simplicity and understatement, told straightforwardly, without frills, with tenderness. The following passage moved me deeply, as the main character, Laurel, reflects first on her dead parents, then on to her husband, Phil, who died at a young age:

"A flood of feeling descended on Laurel. She let the papers slide from her hand and the books from her knees, and put her head down on the open lid of the desk and wept in grief for love and for the dead. She lay there with all that was adamant in her yielding to this night, yielding at last. Now all she had found had found her. The deepest spring in her heart had uncovered itself, and it began to flow again.
If Phil could have lived -
But Phil was lost. Nothing of their life together remained except in her own memory; love was sealed away into its perfection and had remained there.
If Phil had lived -
She had gone on living with the old perfection undisturbed and undisturbing. Now by her own hands, the part had been raised up, and
he looked at her, Phil himself - here waiting all the time, Lazarus. He looked at her out of eyes wild with the craving for his unlived life, with mouth open like a funnel's.
What would have been their end, then? Suppose their marriage had ended like her father and mother's? Or like her mother's? Like -
'Laurel! Laurel! Laurel!' Phil's voice cried.
She wept for what happened to life.
'I wanted it!' Phil cried. His voice rose with the wind in the night and went around the house and around the house. It became a roar. 'I wanted it!'"

Currently watching : A Star Is Born

Friday, September 05, 2008

Solitude gives birth to the original

"Solitude gives birth to the original in us, to beauty unfamiliar and perilous - to poetry." - Thomas Mann

Last night, a night of solitude on my fire escape: warmth, smoke, gentle waves of light and air. I returned to myself once again and knew full peace. I felt the I Am close, wrapped around my skin, and I soared with what has been my core since I was a girl. The home I know within me, a place no one can take away.

"... art heightens life. She gives deeper joy, she consumes more swiftly. She engraves adventures of the spirit and the mind in the faces of her votaries..." - Thomas Mann in "Death in Venice"

Afterwards, I wrote in my journal by candlelight in my cozy home that, "the time for singing has begun... again". There is something new stirring in the wake of loss, gain, swift passage of time, failed dreams and realized ones, slow progress and unexpected surprises. There is a new dawn emerging and I am living it expectantly, humbly raw and open, waiting, trusting.

"Here I lay in delicious reverie for some time; during which all lovely forms, and colours, and sounds seemed to use my brain as a common hall, where they could come and go, unbidden and unexcused. I had never imagined that such a capacity for simple happiness lay in me, as was now awakened by this assembly of forms and spiritual sensations..." - George MacDonald in "Phantastes"

Reading : The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible - A. J. Jacobs

Monday, September 01, 2008

Favorite August Moments

1. Getting lost with Dan in the world strains of music from Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, etc... at a Kronos Quartet concert
2. A day of tastings, sunlight, adventure, relaxation, drink and communion with Jus, Jason & Dan in Alameda
3. Weekly hashing out ways (and writing a game plan) to fight Human Trafficking with our BJM leadership team
4. Sitting for a few hours and writing in Coffee Bar with my Dan
5. Breakfast alone on one of my "writing days" at the countertop of Haight's Pork Store Cafe," talking with locals, watching eggs scrambled, sipping down coffee
6. Excitedly talking with Annelies of the possibility in our lives at the "Bottle Shock" screening
7. Bridal dress shopping with Amanda and Anna all day long (lunch at Level III!)
8. Reconnecting with lifelong friends and breathing in the mountain air and Grand Teton majesty on our trip to Jackson Hole, WY for Jon's wedding
9. Special meals (Bushi-Tei, Espetus, Pizzaiolo, Tsar Nicoulai, Regalito, Urban Tavern and so on) with my husband of conversation and life
10. Noontime Gershwin & Chopin piano concert in Old St. Mary's with Dan
11. Mama's SF visit (Bette Davis movies at the Stanford, "Mary Poppins" under the stars, roaming old ships, good food, singing/playing music)

Currently watching : Mad Men - Season One

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Easy certainty

Whether in the strains of Gershwin and Chopin during a lunch time piano concert downtown or in the stars twinkling as I lay on blankets for film nights in parks, the intimations of "more" keep coming to me in relentless, yet gentle, waves.

Days have been sweet and truth goes deeper into my bones, though my mind can lay claim to less and less as I age. No, not insanity, but knowledge of fact, force and surety. As my knowledge increases, my knowing becomes more primarily of gut: a knowing I've always had, but with experience and time... becomes less of head, less measurable.

I concur with Rev. Jim Wallis: "Real faith... leads us to deeper reflection and not - not ever - to the thing we as humans so very much want... Easy certainty."

Currently reading : The Man Who Ate Everything By Jeffrey Steingarten

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

"Bottle Shock" screening

Last night, I was "press" for a screening of "Bottle Shock"(love those free screenings, Guardian!) I took Annelies. As always, we had a heartwarming talk about what we both love best: cities, social justice, writing, the arts, travel, food and drink... finding our call and purpose as we grow older. Apropos then to see a film about the wine industry and a "later in life" realization of huge dreams. The film is about how California (Napa) changed the wine world in the '70's when the top palates and wine names in France chose the best red and wine wines of the year in a blind tasting, certain they were French, the world leader (followed by Italy) for many centuries prior. But they chose CA wines in both categories based on taste (red from Stag's Leap, white from Chateau Montelena - one of Dan & I's favorite Napa hangouts for over 7 years), and ever since, the monopoly on world's best wines is no longer held in primarily Europe.

It's not a perfect film by any means (Alan Rickman pulls out the best performance, not surprisingly), but it's a rousing story, showing how "the establishment" can, and at some point will, be disrupted. It shows what's possible on the other side of seeming failure... and how "the new" can invigorate "the old". Makes me proud to be from this area and celebrate such rich history and influence in my daily life of food and drink.

Even better, winemakers portrayed in the film were there, as were the husband/wife producers. The most darling middle-aged couple, married 21 years, they spoke of their love for wine and film that led to the making of this indie for well under $10 million. Their obvious passion for the subject was invigorating, as was their team approach to pursuing their dreams - it made me think of my Daniel with fond hope for a future where we continue to dream, create and actualize together. Never too old for something new.

Currently listening : Sam Cooke - Greatest Hits

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Two amazing poems that make me think of Dan...

A THIRD BODY - Robert Bly
A man and a woman sit near each other, and they do not long
At this moment to be older, or younger, or born
In any other nation, or any other time, or any other place.
They are content to be where they are, talking or not talking.
Their breaths together feed someone whom we do not know.
The man sees the way his fingers move;
He sees her hands close around a book she hands to him.
They obey a third body that they share in common.
They have promised to love that body.
Age may come; parting may come; death will come!
A man and a woman sit near each other;
As they breathe they feed someone we do not know,
Someone we know of, whom we have never seen.

TOUCH ME - Stanely Kunitz

Summer is late, my heart.
Words plucked out of the air
some forty years ago
when I was wild with love
and torn almost in two
scatter like leaves this night
of whistling wind and rain.
It is my heart that's late,
it is my song that's flown.
Outdoors all afternoon
under a gunmetal sky
staking my garden down,
I kneeled to the crickets trilling
underfoot as if about
to burst from their crusty shells;
and like a child again
marveled to hear so clear
and brave a music pour
from such a small machine.
What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.
The longing for the dance
stirs in the buried life.
One season only,
and it's done.
So let the battered old willow
thrash against the windowpanes
and the house timbers creak.
Darling, do you remember
the man you married? Touch me,
remind me who I am.

Currently reading : On Modern Marriage and Other Observations By Isak Dinesen

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Kronos Quartet and Ammons weave together in my consciousness

Last night Dan and I sifted through a dreamy Kronos Quartet concert: "Music without Borders" - music from Iran, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Palestine and more. Free orchestra seats through work - man, I love my job!

Kronos is one of my long time experimental classical favorites (especially their "Performs Philip Glass" CD from 1995 - still kills me every time). I wish there was a CD of this show... very avant garde or completely different sounds for our Western ears. The variety and experimentation was inspiring.

As I describe a few favorite pieces, I'm reading
A.R. Ammons, "Sphere: The Form of a Motion", and somehow both the concert and his poetry weave together in my spirit this week. The quotes are from Ammons:

33: "Order is the boat we step into for the crossing: when we/ step out, nothingness welcomes us: inspiration spend through..."

Kronos started the concert with the rousing, if brief, North African/Lebanese tune by an unknown artist: "Oh Mother, the Handsome Man Tortures Me", a title that amused both Dan & I.

57: "...everything in moderation including moderation..."

A traditional
Iranian 1976 lullaby was haunting and soft. Glenn Branca's "Light Field (In Consonance)"? A revelation! Coupled with the slowly changing lights on the curtains... mesmerizing, unique, dreamlike.

70: "...I am terrified of my/ arrogance and do not know and do not know if the point in the/ mind can be established to last beyond the falling away/ of the world and the dreams of the world: but if we are small/ can we be great by going away from the Most High into our own/ makings, thus despising what He has given: or can we, accepting/ our smallness, bend to cherish the greatness that rolls through/ our sharp days, that spends us on its measureless currents: and/ so, for a moment, if only for a moment, participate in those means/ that provide the brief bloom in the eternal presence..."

"Nihavent Sirto"
by Turkey's Tanburi Cemil Bey made me want to get up and dance.

143: " the time you amount to something,/ the people you meant it to mean something to are dead and you/ are left standing there, your honors in your hands..."

The Kazakh tune by
Kurt Shildebaev, "Kara Kamir", is heartbreakingly sad and chilling.

153: "...lately, we've left out the high ranges of music,/ the planetary, from our response... not homogeneous pudding but/ united differences, surface differences expressing the common,/ underlying hope and fate of each person and people, a gathering/ into one place of multiple dissimilarity, each culture to its/ own cloth and style and tongue and gait..." YES!

The weaving, multi-layered, surprising web of
Aleksandra Vrebalov's, "Hold Me, Neighbor, In This Storm", was an epic finish to an utterly unique and vibrant concert.

126: " can sit around/ and talk about it all day but you will never walk the tightwire/ till you start walking... fall off a few times to see it won't kill you..."

Currently reading: Revelations: Personal Responses to Books of the Bible

Friday, August 01, 2008

Favorite July Moments

1. Dan & I's gloriously lingering, life-filled Sonoma day
2. Stirring discussions with David & Amy at Flora or joined by Scott & Louise at our place
3. A free-spirited Oakland night w/ Dan, Tash, Ty, Karen & Gina at Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen, then Zydeco Cajun dancing, finished off with tiki drinks at Conga Lounge
4. Cozy 4th of July BBQ at McC's house w/ 15 friends
5. Spontaneous times w/ my girls: A & A over for late night talks, "Brideshead Revisited" screening w/ Anna, drinks (Fresca) and late night pancakes (Toast) w/ Anna & Lyla, Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market (bird poop!) w/ Amanda & Anna, Ryoko & Rye night w/ the ladies
6. Last minute visit: a day w/ my dear Shannon in Palo Alto
7. Jus sleeps over while Dan's away (Project Runway marathon!) - night roaming Hayes Valley and going to SF Symphony for Rodgers & Hammerstein concert
8. Many excursions with Chesna (Berkeley day, breakfast at Chloe's, rousing night w/ our husbands & Jo at Bourbon & Branch & Chutney)
9. Laughs, grillin' up sausages, watchin' Will Ferrell movies w/ "the boys" (Dan, Ty, Scott)
10. Great, long talk with Conor & Loni visiting from Canada
11. Building relationships volunteering at Mentone, feet washing at Boedecker Park Block Party & Human Trafficking meetings
12. Watching "Big Night" under the stars at Charles Chocolate Factory w/ Tash, Chuck, Chesna, Scott, Kristy, Ali, Caroline & Dan
13. Exploring old pirate and movie ships with Dannee all day during Festival of Sail

"And then the knowledge comes to me that I have space within me for a second, timeless, larger life." - Rainer Maria Rilke

Currently watching : Into Great Silence; Release date: 2007-10-23

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hearing and seeing more because we've tasted more

Reading more essays from the greatest food (and just plain great) writer of all time, M.F.K. Fisher. In "A Stew or A Story", here are some choice quotes from favorite essays, including wonderful bits on California:

From "Shall It Be... Eating or Dining?" (1944):
After describing an ideal meal and courses, ending with coffee]..."I think the magic would have happened, and we'd sit for a long time with our elbows on the table, talking easily, hearing and seeing more than we had for some time because of the way we'd tasted more."

From the enlightening "
Love in a Dish" (1948):
In describing the three basic needs of life, food, love, shelter, and the poor quality and care of food]: "...having failed so completely to satisfy in harmony one of their three basic needs, it cannot be wondered that the other two, for love and shelter, are increasingly unfulfilled. There can be no warm, rich home life anywhere else if it does not exist at table, and in the same way there can be no enduring family happiness, no real marriage, if a man and woman cannot open themselves generously and without suspicion one to the other over a shared bowl of soup as well as a shared caress."

From "
If This Were My Place" (1950):
In describing her perfect restaurant, particularly a meal in San Francisco at a crusty, classic seafood place]..."If I were running this place... I'd leave it just as it is, cluttered and funny and right - right for now, that is: a bottle of cold light white wine, sizzling crab-legs meuniere, crisp bread on an ugly thick white plate, and beyond them the fog and the sound of harbor horns. But last week another place was right, a lunch of pure fantasy, of equally fantastic expense and 'restauraterie', in a beautifully appointed and beautifully managed and beautifully dishonest Beverly Hills hash house. And far back in my mind is that light high-voiced subtle room in New York, where the champagne and the finnan haddie were so completely right. If I were running this place, the mythical Perfect Restaurant, I'd try to be honest and fantastic and artful, so that I could serve forth what would be, at a given moment, the essential food, the nourishment most needed in a man's Design for Living."

From "
The Art of Eating, California Style" (1981):
"... all I really know from experience is that the California way is the best, gastronomically, except perhaps for small places in southern France. But I have talked about California style with other people who know a lot more than I do, and they all agree that the eating, the foods, the dishes and the styles of cooking are for some reason better here than anywhere else in the United States. Why? I repeat. They reply: it's the freshness, the easiness, the availability. Or is it the ethnic influences? Or perhaps the climate? ... I have tentatively concluded that all of those factors are involved

From "
Only in Spots Have We Tamed the California Coast" (1985):
"The California coast stretches, for some thirteen hundred miles, from the Oregon border to Mexico. I have spent many of the good moments of my life along it, from the time I was three years old unti8l now, and I would ask no better than to end my days with the smell and sound of its wild surf wrapped around me."

"Across the water to the south [from Marin], blazing and twinkling at night and serene in all the changing lights of day, is San Francisco. Its court jester has named it Baghdad-on-the-Bay. This evocative title will do until a better one happens, but the City is literally indescribable... I have yet to leave San Francisco willingly... My only comfort is that I am confident I'll return, in one way or another, even as a ghost... It is the focal point of the whole beautiful coastline... The City, as its lovers smugly call it, rises pearly on its many hills, and all roads, at least in California, seem to lead to it. People feel lighter there, in their myriad ways, and there are clip joints and penthouses of utmost squalor or elegance to satisfy them, as they breathe the wonderful washed air and walk with unaccustomed vigor along the tipping streets. It is a fine place to be, the glowing jewel of the California coastline, in the planet's crown of such mysterious happenings."

Currently watching : Brideshead Revisited [Theatrical Release] 2008

Monday, July 07, 2008

Sonoma Redux

This Summer has meant a few excursions to Sonoma for Dan and I. Funny, since I hate Wine Country's scorching Summer weather, and prefer all other seasons (Fall!!) Yet somehow, it's been calling, and we've responded: exploring Sonoma Valley in particular (in the past, we often focused on Russian River and Healdsburg regions). I didn't think our near perfect June day trip could be topped. Yesterday, it was.

Starting in
Santa Rosa with a pleasant lunch at Kabab and Curry House (Mango Chicken Curry, the one real highlight), we meandered through a number of lovely wineries, tasting little, but wandering grounds throughout Kenwood and Glen Ellen. After lazy hours exploring the countryside (including a stop for our favorite Wine Country Chocolates), we ended up late afternoon on the square of idyllic downtown Sonoma.

We peeked in historic, gorgeous Ledson Hotel's open-air lobby: Harmony Lounge. Though the heat was oppressive, confronted by crisp air conditioning within. One misstep in this lush room was two flat screen TVs, though discreetly placed. Diana Krall (live in Paris) played on both, and though not a huge fan (I prefer her repertoire of standards sung by jazz greats), the lilting calm of the music was just right...

We ordered a refreshing cocktail and a glass of fabulous Schramsberg Brut Rose as we
sat by an unlit fireplace in big chairs, with dainty tables holding our drinks. We were startled as the grand piano next to us suddenly began playing along with Krall's piano, perfectly timed! The effect was one of live concert, reverberating through this opulent room of marble, velvet chairs, and chandeliers.

Dan read a novel, and I, my dear T.S. Eliot. It's been awhile since I've revisited old friend, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", so today I did. As always, his poetry envelops. Add sexy jazz, sultry heat clashing with crisp air, the tingle of fresh mint in my cocktail, and my senses were awake, my heart alive with love for Dan... for our life.

Eliot's atmospheric words added to the mesmerizing tapestry of gratefulness holding me. My favorite part of the poem is my favorite passage still, much as I adore the rest:

"And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea."

How can one part with such perfection? Only to move on to more... we made reservations for dinner at a gorgeous, stately 1800's home we stumbled upon on our last Sonoma visit, housing an elegant Southern restaurant, The General's Daughter. The meal was as good as we'd hoped, including the best Mint Julep (blissful fresh peach! with the mint and bourbon), a rich Cauliflower Risotto (with aged gouda and maple vinegar) and addictive Shrimp and Grits (with andouille sausage and leeks).

Satiated and satisfied, we took our wine out to the front (wrap-around) porch, which we had to ourselves, and sat down in rocking chairs. Just past sunset (8-9pm), this last hour was the most blissful of all. Dan smoked a special cigar and we talked, sat in silence, ruminated, reflected. I read some of Eliot's poetry aloud. We dreamed. We were alive.

The drive home embodied our day: the hills were outlined by remnants of Sunset's pink, melding with Night's dark blue... the gentle Wine Country breezes on a cooled down (though still warm) Summer's night... the soothing voice of Ella serenading us in the car... I caressed his neck, he held my hand as he drove... smiles of complete happiness... Together. Unified in beauty, living, tasting and seeing, love.

Indeed, there IS, and will be, time.

Currently listening to:
Fight With Tools
By: Flobots
Release date: 2008-05-20

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Favorite June Moments

1. Of course, that idyllic Sonoma excursion with my husband
2. "Gone with the Wind" Ball and sleepover (watched the whole movie over Sofia champagne-in-a-can and popcorn) with Amanda, Anna, Jus (and dashing Dan at the Ball) - we were celebrities for the day in our A.C.T. rented Civil War gowns
3. Crashing the "7x7 Best Of" party at Level III downtown with Dan
4. Brian & Liz' beautiful San Anselmo wedding
5. Movie night ("I Heart Huckabees") at our place with the gang and numerous dinners with Scott & Louise
6. Coffee in the alley at 4 Barrel with Amanda & Chels (separate times - I keep going back!)
7. Opera in the ballpark with Jus, Jason and Dan on a hot, sultry night
8. Dancing (square dancing, Hambo, English barn dancing), singing (barbershop quartet!) and enjoying music all day at the free SF Folk Fest with my Hus, followed by a romantic French bistro dinner at L'Ardoise
9. Watching the Solstice moon rise orange and full, shimmering over the Bay from atop Twin Peaks with Dan at midnight as the gentle, warm breeze caressed us... sat for one perfect hour on the edge of hill looking out over pristine, sparkling SF
10. Luke & Allison's perfect wedding in San Juan Capistrano... my sweet brother ... and the time with my fam (tender, unforgettable moments like Justine and I crying on each other's shoulders during a a long embrace at the reception... or Mom & I crying arm-in-arm as we listened to the violinist at Downtown Disney... or early morning coffee w/ Dad each day)
Currently reading: The Sound and the Fury-William Faulkner

Monday, June 02, 2008

day in sonoma

Every time Dan and I explore together, I find new beauties in this spectacular area I call home... new treasures we both get excited about, expanding our pleasure by sharing it (geeky or not).

After a French brunch at Sausalito's new Le Garage (dig that French Toast with homemade creme fraiche), we drove North to some wineries near Sebastopol, before ending up at the also brand new (had to hit 'em up, you know) Hopmonk Tavern, a beer garden and hofbrau that wasn't as kitschy as we'd have liked but more industrial and modern. Still, lots of beers on tap (made Dannee happy) and a kick ass plate of German-style sausages, grilled onions, cabbage, potatoes and an unforgettable creamy mustard sauce (made me happy).

Sitting at the bar, we ended up getting into a long conversation with the man next to us, a well known chef in the area whose restaurant was Zagat-rated, and certainly known by me. He was as cool as could be and excited about our love of food, drink and travel and about my food writing. He tipped us off to a massive vintage clothing store nearby where he's opening a French cafe (unusual), so we visited that after a great talk with him.

The next step was Matanzas Creek Winery which we didn't taste at but was a magical discovery with it's lush, purple lavender field. California quail were cooing, dashing through the lavender bushes, providing childlike entertainment for my bird lover husband and making the backdrop even more enchanting for photos and lingering.

Driving through Glen Ellen that afternoon, we stumbled on Jack London Village, in one light, a plain, old Wine Country shopping mall. But for us, food discoveries awaited. A cheese tasting chamber!? Bright, fresh lemon olive oil. Exquisite chocolates at the blandly named Wine Country Chocolates (nothin' bland about the PB&J, Elvis - PB&Banana, of course! - and Cinnamon w/ Clover Honey truffles! I am dreaming of more!) Bluegrass Bar & Grill - a delightful old mill converted to a restaurant with a fabulous outdoor patio over a stream, modern cowboy decor and most of all, amazing beef brisket!

The evening ended with a walk around downtown Sonoma's idyllic square, checking out menus, walking each alley, peeking in windows and basking in the glow of that pre-twilight hour.
Currently watching : God Grew Tired of Us (Documentary)

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Favorite May Moments

1. Roaming North Beach and the Wharf with Dan for hours (after 4B coffee in the alley, fondue at Melt, reading, writing, roaming the docks by the old ships)
2. Chicago Speakeasy Ball w/ 10 friends... & dancing with my Dannee
3. Bette Davis movies at the Stanford Theatre with Jus & Amanda
4. Challenged to wake up to what's going on around us at Pilgrim's Place
6. Rousing talk over flights of wine with Karen at Cav
7. Exploring Sausalito and other parts of Marin alone on a gloriously beautiful Tuesday
8. Real talk over family style pasta at Caffe Sport with A&A
9. Bourbon & Branch, then Indian food, w/ Ben & Corie
10. Seeing Kenny Barron for free at Yoshi's w/ Dan (and R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe sitting at the table next to us!)
11. Sex & the City nite w/ girls (dressing up, cocktails, crowds, and, yes, female bonding)
Currently listening : Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes) - Cloud Cult