Seasonal living and the sensual, sensate life.

Recent Posts

The Wait

The Wait

Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –              When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush                                                    —Gerard Manley Hopkins Spring is doing its spring thing here in Colorado, which means warm days when I don skirts and show […]

Let Winter Nights Enlarge

Let Winter Nights Enlarge

Now winter nights enlarge  The number of their hours– –Thomas Campion Winter arrives, just in the nick of time.  I’ve been rushing and rushing pulling the threads of my daily to-do lists tight, holding my breath for what seems like months now as I stare […]

In Search of the White Whale

In Search of the White Whale

Peeper Pond by Greg Marquez

Home is my great white whale.  For as long as I can remember I’ve searched for it, turned the thought of it over in my mind and longed for the coordinating x and y of permanence and thriving for the perfect place.  Growing up, I wanted to be from somewhere, but my family, kicked around by my father’s Air Force career, tumbled from state to state.  Back then, home was neither a haven nor the place of a warm welcoming embrace; instead it was a battleground.  Still I clung to the idea of home the way I thought of love then—as something that would save me.

When I left my parents’ house, my living situation was too often disrupted by more instability, this time by a series of roommates who departed for greener pastures, coupled with a few who, like a fist full of landlords I’ve known, were on the verge of bat-shit crazy. One housing situation went up in flames—literally.  Another dissolved when the cops were called. I scrambled for decades trying to find my tiny patch and a place I could afford.  Finally, at forty, I signed a lease on a 500 square foot, wood-stove heated cabin on top of Overland Mountain with my dog, Elvis.  For ten years, I thought I’d found home.

Hummingbird by Greg Marquez

I outgrew the cabin the day the artist lover and I decided to take a step closer to each other and move in together.  Pickings on the mountain were slim post-100 year flood and so we packed our bags for the prairie, a move I’ve always seen as temporary.  While I made a a home with Greg, I still felt displaced.

“I feel like a plant that’s been plunked down in landscape that isn’t native to me” I tell Greg, “I can survive, but I won’t bloom.” Our edge of the prairie existence with its proximity to highways and aggressive commuters, streetlights and other people’s backyards has worn me thin.  I miss inky nights smeared with stars and the quiet days after the summer birds have departed.  I miss dirt beneath my feet and uneven, belly-soft ground.  I miss the pine forest dotting the landscape and bear and mountain lion passing through.  I miss the view of the mountains rising like a prayer, the sense that not every patch of land is inhabitable by humans.  I miss silence. I miss space.

Aspens by Greg Marquez

Placelessness is a grief bigger than any I’ve endured.  Living in the Overland cabin taught me that I did indeed have a place.  It doesn’t matter that I was born on the edge of the desert, the mountains are my native ground.  When I left the zip code I’d had on my permanent mailing address for nearly twenty years as I lived in and around Jamestown coming and going to grad school and a series of living situations, including at the High Lake cabin, I sobbed as I handed my key to the post office clerk in the same way I sobbed when my dog and constant companion of fifteen years, Elvis, died.  Leaving was a grief. 

Three years later, Greg and I have begun the happy, if somewhat fraught, task of locating a permanent address and of making our home in a place where we can thrive.   I long for four walls that belong to me, a patch of ground big enough for a home along with a writing shack that will house my desk, a wood stove, and a fainting couch along with my books.  Greg wants a studio/workshop and a patch of sun for the garden.  Of course I want to return to the mountains, something Greg has come round to, in part, because it means so much to me.  Trouble is, we live in Boulder County and even the little Overland Mountain cabin wouldn’t come cheap by most people’s standards.  Greg, ever the optimist, is hopeful we’ll find just the right thing while I fret over mortgage estimates and the return on our investment in taking on too much of a fixer-upper or something a bit smaller just at the time when I want to be settling in for the long haul.  There are so many variables—many of them having to do with the two too common denominators of American life:  time and money—that I am wringing my hands just when I should be rejoicing:  I’d never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be able to buy a house. 

The Way Back by Greg Marquez

And maybe that’s just it.  There’s a chunk of me still invested in the struggle—I’ve had so much of it– a stubborn piece that wants to believe I can’t have what I want.

For now I’ll simply have to take my cue from Greg, who is a dreamer, and dare to imagine the best of all possible worlds:  Six months from now, on June 5th, Greg and I will be happily celebrating the release of Rough Beauty  (pre-sales available on Amazon) in a (perfect) mountain home of our own. 

Thanksgiving, With Abandon

Thanksgiving, With Abandon

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all –Harriet van Horne I have long believed that good food, good eating is all about risk –Anthony Bourdain –for Oody I’ve gone over to the dark side. For years I’ve […]

Welcome to Rougher Beauty

Welcome to Rougher Beauty

I’ll be honest:  I’ve struggled with this blog (formerly 1hotkitchen@blogspot.com) for the last year now. Sure I’ve had the convenient excuse of writing a book, a task far more lovely and consuming than I ever imagined.  But It’s also true I’ve worried for some time […]

Don’t Call Me a Lady

Don’t Call Me a Lady

Call me Brash.  Call me Bossy.  Hell, call me the other B word.  Just don’t call me a Lady. 
I’m a bit old school when it comes to the “L” word.  In my mind, those four letters are a gilded cage, a choke collar fastened to the twin chains of “modesty” and “demureness,” ones meant to keep women in line.  And they still make me flinch.

Ladies please.

I am old enough to have been brought up in a family that schooled me (however unsuccessfully) in all things “lady”; it was part of the era. Ladies sat quietly, legs crossed; nibbled their food; kept themselves tidy and presentable; were gracefully, elegant, thin, beautiful; spoke softly with neither command, nor authority and knowledge. But I was doomed to disappoint:  no beauty; my knees were always scuffed, my elbows rough and dry, my shoulders and feet too big, my hair full of knots. And I said what was on my mind.  I wanted to rub up against things, but lived under an umbrella of expectation:  Why wasn’t I more refined?  More girly?  A Lady.

When I was 16, Barbara, my petite, pearls and diamonds grandmother, gave me a black silk evening bag with a fake diamond and pearl clasp, saying, “Everyone Lady needs one.”  I was shocked that this was the most important accouterments she could imagine for my soon to be adult self when what I really needed were strong women who stood up to men, role models who showed me that a girl can grow up to be just what shewants.

Instead, I learned girls were passive, pretty adornments, like the dolls I was given meant to be looked at–things I wasn’t, nor had the slightest intention of being.  Their lot was to wait—for a prince, for happily ever after.  No one would write their story. 

Baubo
I was too impatient for all that.

Please don’t tell me to get over it, that these things reside in some distant troubled past.  The world we live in is still too ruled by archaic ideas of how women should behave. You have only to look at the all-out war on the national and local level on women’s reproductive rights and the now infamous comments of the Dictator-in-Chief and his mostly guy cabinet to see we have not come a long way, baby.

This International Women’s Day I’m celebrating by thumbing my nose at it all, by bearing my unruliness with pride and celebrating the bitchy, the bossy, and the badly behaved.  I’ll be lighting a candle for Baubo, the most unladylike Goddess of all whose bawdy act of lifting her skirt made Demeter laugh and propelled her into resuming her quest to find her daughter. Like her, I’ll proudly act in some very unladylike ways, knowing such acts have the power to change the world.  
Brave New World

Brave New World

When Miranda utters these words in The Tempest, it’s clear they are the words of a naif.  She’s young and sheltered and–frankly–lusty. Her “brave” means handsome; Miranda is all about the surface.  Most who invoke these words miss Shakespeare’s irony or haven’t read Aldous Huxley’s […]

A Mind of Winter

A Mind of Winter

   Cabin in deep snow One must have a mind of winterTo regard the frost and the boughs Of the pine-trees crusted with snow; And have been cold a long time To behold the junipers shagged with ice, The spruces rough in the distant glitter  Of the January sun; and […]

Cooking in the Age of Anxiety

Cooking in the Age of Anxiety

Smell

Rome might very well be burning. 

There is no denying the smell of smoke in the air and a horizon that looks so much darker than it did a just a few weeks ago. 
I have spent my days out of focus and a bit out of my mind.  

And yet, cooking up a storm. 
Sight
Chopping has become meditation as I let my hands move slivers of onions, chunky shards of carrots and granules of garlic into tidy piles. I keep my knife moving back and forth across a mound of parsley until it turns emerald green beneath the blade as its grassy scent rises.  And think of nothing as I slice translucent half-moons of red onions for a quick tart pickle.  How satisfying to watch mushrooms roast in a fond of sautéed chicken or listen to the sizzle of  oxtails caramelize in a cast iron roasting pan for a red wine braise.  How lovely to feel kale soften beneath my olive oil rubbed fingertips, to build the flavors of a meaty soup whose aroma fills even the basement.  
Taste

The making of things has become the one reliable way to unhook my brain from the near constant ticker of bad news, from apprehension about the days to come.  To give my body a task it can complete today, to accomplish something that sustains instead of destroys.

Touch
In times like these, we should all become bakers of bread.  There is nothing more therapeutic, more calming, more life affirming than the kneading of dough. 

Sound
My post-election advice?  Turn off you phone, your Facebook feed, your television.  Reach for the most comforting recipe you know and devote a few hours to it. Pour a glass of wine. Put on Mozart. And then give the ingredients your full attention.  Let your body do what perhaps your mind cannot:  softly focus.  Engage your senses.  Smell and taste—yes, but notice, touch, listen. Let the moment wash over you. Breathe. Imagine someone you love, read a favorite poem.  Let these small lights guide you. 

The truth is food does so much more than fuel bodies.  It sustains, comforts, calms, invigorates and binds. Its memories are fertile soil, its rituals—our roots.  Always practice the small things in times of uncertainty.   And do not despair.  

Taking Stock

Taking Stock

For a week now, the freezer door has refused to stay shut.  I will close it, only to have Greg complain it’s been cracked open all night, a puddle of water the damning evidence on the floor. Both of us have tried in our own […]