the things we do on terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. or try, anyway.
we all have them.
poor dear alexander had one. alexander, of one of the all-time best-titled tomes in the land of children’s literature. or children’s books, anyway.
poor alexander went to bed with gum in his mouth, and woke up to find it in his hair. he tripped over his skateboard while getting out of bed. and dropped his sweater into the sink — while the water was running. and then when his two best pals found a.) a Corvette Sting Ray car kit, and b.) a Junior Undercover Agent code ring in their breakfast cereal boxes, all alexander found was, well, breakfast cereal.
it was neither gum in my hair, nor skateboards, nor sweaters in sinks — not even the lack of a decoder ring that got in my way. but, it turned into one of those days anyway. like i said, we all have them. there’s not a one of us who skates through a month, or a year, or a lifetime without tumbling into the occasional pothole, or skinning our knees on the rough edges of daily existence.
and, so, i decided to cook.
cooking, following steps from 1 to 2 to 4, seemed like it might be just the thing to soothe me (and maybe the fact that i seem to have skipped right over 3, there in my count, led to the outcome i’m veering toward). hauling out cutting boards and chopping devices, yanking bottles of spice from the shelf, eyeing the crucifers i remembered to buy at the store, it all seemed like the ingredients i needed for a healthy dose of self-soothe.
it was all seeming swell as i gurgled the olive-y oil into the bowl, dumped in coriander seeds, apple cider vinegar, a fine grainy mustard (french, even!). i chopped cabbage into one-inch wedges, as instructed. i sliced a purple onion into rings. but i went clearly awry when i reached in the fridge for the chicken i needed to cook before its due date had passed. i must not have been paying attention (always a downfall), but the chicken i reached for was that swanky somewhat-newish thing in the poultry department, a thin-sliced breast. which translates to slightly-better-than-cardboard. no fat, no skin, no taste. barely any meat to the bonelessness. all the cumin, coriander, salt and pepper, could not make for taste. or anything close.
i swooped on anyway, following closely every step of the rest of the way. i pulled out my silicone pastry brush, slathered my mustardy brew all over the flanks of that cabbage. drizzled olive oil atop the onion circles. bathed my boneless hen in blankets of spice, as called for. i piled it all on a baking sheet (my cooking vessel of choice these days), and awaited the clouds of enticement rising from the cracks in the oven. it smelled mighty fine. and my terrible day was melting away.
but then the old metal timer clanged, and i pulled my tray from the oven. right away, those skinny breasts hollered “failure!” (i’ll even show you the picture; you can judge for yourself–>)
unwilling to surrender, i made a last-minute dash to the “farm,” where the last of the herbs haven’t yet been sheared to the ground. i grabbed a few fine handfuls of flat-leaf parsley, and did what any self-respecting soul in search of salvation would do: i let it rain bitlets of leaves all over my tasteless, rubbery, very thin breasts, the original meat with no point.
all of which is to say there will come days that leave us limp like raggedy dolls. days that, like my chicken, strip us to (or of) the bone.
and it is a good and wise thing to have a coterie of tricks up your sleeve for shoving yourself over the hump. no matter the stumbles and falters.
once upon a time i had no clue, really, how to make the hurt go away. or maybe, truly, it’s that once upon a time i never knew how to sit with the hurt, to let it be, to understand just how strong i could be, to find my way to the clear on the days when the fog was so thick and so dense, and the hurt was so much. it’s taken a lifetime — all the days up till now — to learn the few things that i know.
what i do know is that my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day is behind me now. and it’s the next morning. and there’s leftover cumin-bathed slabs chilling in the dark of the fridge. should anyone care to swing by, i’m putting them up for the taking. not even the possums who prowl my back stoop are likely to take me up on my offer.
what’s your cure for a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day?
p.s. i’m not saying that chopping cabbage gets to the root of whatever it is that afflicts us, all i’m saying is sometimes we need something soothing to get to the other side, where we can begin to see through what hurts or what haunts us….
here’s another something i did this week, to leave you a wisp of the beautiful…..i was trying to hold onto a wee bit of summer’s bounty, by making my own potpourri. (martha stewart said to pluck the petals, strew on baking sheet, oven-dry at 250 for an hour.) it, too, was a flop (bad week for baking sheets at my house), as the glorious marigold and nasturtium and monkshood all turned a strange shade of bllkkh (variations in brown). so i started over, and decided to dry my petals the old-fashioned way: under the sun, strewn on my window sill. a work still in progress….
Oh, you have me laughing on a Friday morning! The very best way to start a weekend. So sorry to hear of your ruined, yet still pretty dinner. Your flowers are a delight and such provencal colours! Beautiful. To feel better, just put on The Traveling Wilburys “End of the Line” or your favorite dance song and turn that kitchen into a dance floor.
long ago, i decided that — after tears — laughter was just about the best curative in the doctor bag. or, as we used to say in the newsroom, the wackier the news, the better the story. when bad stuff happens, a good story will come. either way, we kinda have to turn what we’re given into something redemptive…..
A long walk in the woods always really helps. Also, a dip into Mary Oliver, Li-Young Lee or Verlyn Klinkenborg.
amen to all of that. oh, verlyn……
My cure is music, needlework, time spent in nature, heart-to-heart talks with dear ones, a kitten’s purr, a line of poetry… The list goes on… Sending comfort and love, prayers for peace and equilibrium in your life and in the lives of all your loved ones, in the lives of all our loved ones…. I think your dinner looks delicious, btw, and those potpourri blossoms are exquisite! Those colors together, oh my….. Hugs and more hugs….
thank you, dear beautiful amy. thank you, and thank you…xoxox
I believe that your discombulated cooking day was contagious this week.
For 30 years now, I have made pumpkin cookies (with frosting!) this time of year, and my nieces and nephews, even though well out of college, still get priority mail packages of them. Last week I turned on my oven only to check it and find that there was no heat and the smell of gas. It is very old, and so has given me an excuse to get a new one – but not right now. So on my baking day this week, I intended to make 2 double batches – separately – and schlep the dough to my sister’s house to bake them in her oven. I realized too late that I had dumped double the amount of the butter needed for a double batch – 2 pounds – into the mixing bowl! At least I caught it, but it made for a juggling scenario as I tried to divide up the “wet” ingredients equally and make the the double batches. What a day! Cookies are already mailed and nieces and nephews are thrilled. I am glad to hear that I am not alone. Bless you!
you are SOOOOOOOOO sweet! can you even imagine how much they must love their annual autumnal batch of ICED pumpkin cookies (and it seems you were onto pumpkin spice long before it spread like a rash across the world!!!)?!?!?
i think i blunder in at least half of my cooking expeditions. good to know i was not the only one this week. happy weekend. xoxo
i leave this as a gift for all the beloved chairs, from David Whyte and the brilliant filmmakers at Emergence Magazine. this will bless you. i pray….
four minutes of poetry and sound and cinematography…
So so lovely…