Intentional is my favourite word. Not terribly sexy or exciting, I’m afraid. But for a long time now, I’ve relished it. How it sounds and how it looks and how it’s a word used – fittingly – with certain purposefulness.
In 2009, Sameer and a few others picked a word for their year. I quite liked this idea, of choosing some term of reference for a fresh slate of days. Years (and time for that matter) are a curious thing for me – the notion of crossing one 365-day threshold to a next. It’s a concept that I’ve never really been able to wrap my in-the-clouds head around.
As years go, my 2009 was a bit of a blur. Of my own making, and I am gradually working that out. I told a good friend today that I don’t really remember March through June of last year, and I’m still so unsettled at the thought. But as I try to figure out why, I understand that losing my intentionality was part of my self-centred morose. As a rule, I am a quietly contented sort of person. I believe we play a hand in this little world we create on our little piece of planet, for better and worse. Sadness and confusion are not intentional. They are not something with which I’d try to paint my days.
Many years ago, I pulled a Dorothy Parker quote from a Real Simple issue as I sat on the long train to Windsor from Kingston – It’s not the tragedies that kill us, it’s the messes. (The editors were referring to ironing, not life, but what have you.) Life throws some really crappy things at us, some unexpected things. But the tragedies, I realize more and more, are not the instances in which we lose ourselves. It’s the creep, over time, the unintended complacency. The little messes that we haphazardly clean up and leave to sort out tomorrow. That’s what Dorothy had in mind, I imagine, as opposed to Real Simple’s untidy laundry closet.
My 2010 will be intentional.
In my actions, toward my family and friends, with my career, when I write and cook and create – and mainly in this deep-seated yearning I’ve always had to learn and explore and find a constant place of contentedness. A struggle to be meaningful and present sweeps me away sometimes. I worry I don’t have it in me to be at peace with me, whoever she is, if that makes any sense at all. I don’t think the need to be better will ever get easier, but I hope with each year I more willingly embrace this elemental shell I’ve inherited.
For last year’s words belong to last year’s languageAnd next year’s words await another voice.And to make an end is to make a beginning.
With this new year – this end and this beginning – I regain my intentionality: something, I’m afraid, that I unconsciously swept away without realizing at all.
When people find this little corner, often they say after a cursory read “oh, I didn’t know you keep a food blog!” And yes, I have what has morphed into a food blog of sorts.
That is to say, I like to remember things and so many of my memories in mind and heart are about food, or at least I translate them that way. I grew up in a restaurant with a family that shares stories through meals and by feeding one-another. And I live a life that centres around my stove and recipes and others who share their worlds through kitchen tables. There’s joy and sanctity in breaking bread as there is with no other activity.
Mostly, I write a blog about life – and often food creeps in – as I try to figure out this day, this perfect day, the only day I know.
Thanks for reading along.
Twelve things I wrote in 2009
And these photographs keep us alive (January)
The last line, though, is the most interesting; that the pain of leaving is appeased by the beautiful. And it gets me to thinking about human beings as gatherers: of places and things and people.
Reconciliation with the angels (February)
There isn’t any reason for me to even wrestle with this. I will heal, as we humans do – I will placate the screaming angel on my shoulder.
A stranger and airport sounds and stranger things have happened (February)
But to destroy the notion of you, an ocean away, slipping in and out of my thoughts? I’ve always been one to romanticize things.
Oregano and olive trees (March)
It comes as a surprise that my heart can be so heavy for my vacation home, that I am able to smell the thyme and salt-water midnight air waiting for the ferry – that I conjure up the welcome death-dry Athenian heat in my bones.
I anticipate that I will find his words tired or trite, but still they stir me: “With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world…”
But the rhubarb (June)
There she was, propped up in her flowery pink bed, ubiquitous crochet needles alternating in her shaky arthritic hands with the equally ubiquitous chain of cigarettes and china tea cup rattling on its saucer.
Being alone (July)
I like to see movies alone, and lunch as one in a pretty dress, and sit in the park on a blanket making up love stories for the squirrels. I’m a lot like my little self, actually, who went about things deliberately and quietly and alone.
The night is alive and I am alive and my heart is filled and it is so beautiful.
Licorice scented (September)
The details are blurred, but I eventually sweet talked a shot out of my Papou an drank it down like an especially potent juice…
Here I go generalizing, but as I see it we humans fall pretty nicely into two groups.
As I know it (November)
And then laying flat, placid for a moment, staring at the sky and its clear grey cast that makes everything prettier, more saturated, incredibly fall-like.
Belly and heart (December)
We triumphantly proclaim that in the history of friends and recipes, none has been better and none will be better, until the very end of time…
Twelve things I read in 2009
The Price of Tomatoes by Barry Estabrook, Gourmet (March)
The kitchen consisted of a table, four plastic chairs, an apartment-size stove, a sink with a dripping faucet, and a rusty refrigerator whose door wouldn’t close.
Release and The Return by Sameer Vasta, I Tell Stories (April & August)
I came home from work last night to find a small UPS package waiting for me at my apartment. In it, a plush toy and a two-page letter.
Amusing Ourselves to Death by Stuart McMillen (May)
In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.
The Scandal of Food Waste by Tristram Stuart, Financial Times (July)
If the fruits rotted, or the venison putrefied, before he could spend it, he offended against the common law of nature, and was liable to be punished …
Memories of a French Summer by Béa Peltre, La Tartine Gourmande (August)
I told her about where our food comes from. When I took her to the village, I showed her the cows and sheep and chicken and rooster and rabbits. I pointed at eggs nested at one corner of the hen house.
Set it on Fire, Part II by Francis Lam, Gourmet (September)
She had a sweetness to her, and I suddenly felt like I was disappointing my grandmother, only my grandmother is an awful human being and this woman seemed like a perfectly lovely one.
The End of Gourmet (And Why I’m So Bummed) by Sarma Melngailis (October)
All the food world would be there, dressed in dark clothes, and easels everywhere with giant cover images. Then everyone would drink really really good wine, and eat lots of beautiful food, and feel the comfort of communal mourning.
Raising a Glass by Molly Kath, Les Cadeaux (October)
There is no minimum occupancy for a home: if you live somewhere, you have a home. And you should be comfortable in it, whatever that means.
Leap and the Net Will Appear by Luisa Weiss, The Wednesday Chef (October)
You’ve got to listen, really listen, in order to hear what the universe is trying to tell you. And move mountains, then, when you finally know what you want.
The Vanish Project by Evan Ratliff, WIRED (November)
People fret about privacy, but what are the consequences of giving it all up, I wondered. What can investigators glean from all the digital fingerprints we leave behind? You can be anybody you want online, sure, but can you reinvent yourself in real life?
Extremely Dead and Incredibly Gross by Kiera Butler, Mother Jones (November)
People often set up these false choices, these false dichotomies, and it’s not like we have to do either of them.
Dealt a Bad Hand in Life by Ashley Ambirge, The Middle Finger Project (December)
A circumstance is a condition, and sometimes when you’re suddenly hit with an unfortunate set of your very own, they can quickly morph from being what would normally be a temporary setback into something closely resembling a big, gloomy, threatening cumulonimbus cloud sure to make any respectable weatherman rush to fetch his brightest yellow slicker on the double.
And we leap into a new year, a new decade. Onward to 2010.