Friday, August 26, 2011

Insufficient Funds

Science class was never my thing in school. Dissecting frogs, knowing what molecules made certain compounds, discovering what happened when you added heat to a situation... all of these things were lost on me. However, the one thing I do remember, and it still sticks with me to this day, is the law of matter: nothing is created or destroyed. It simply takes on a different form. Hydrogen can make water, and then evaporate into something more. Compost can become earth again, if you add enough time. A life can recreate life, if you add chemistry. Or something like that.

This morning has be thinking of life's giant checking account, where things are added and taken away... added again and then taken away... and the cycle continues. Or so it would seem. However, on this beautiful Friday morning, I feel like my own personal bank account has big red lights flashing, telling me to slow down, don't put anything else out there until something comes back in. I feel depleted. Spent. Overdrawn.

If every action has an equal and opposite reaction, then when does the act of giving turn to recieving? When do you get back what you put out? Does chemistry, physics or the law of matter have a time limit? Or are we just to keep acting, keep putting it out there, until the tides turn and we are no longer thirsting in the desert?

Tuning in is never a bad thing, but often it's a sad thing. As turning in, means there's no one reaching out. Which often means that the 'equal and opposite reaction' is not happening.

If only life could be a bit more cut and dry like science class. If only there were rules we all abided by. If only there was a guarantee that what you give out, you get back easily. But life is seldom simple, and rarely ever easy. But maybe its the complexity of life that makes it more wonderous than science, as you never know what you will get until you get out of bed and get out there to see what happens. At some point, something has gotta give...right?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Anatomy of an Artichoke

Living back in the South, one of the things I have thoroughly enjoyed is having a proper kitchen. You know the kind with a full-size fridge, stove (used for cooking, not storage space), 4 eyes that actually work and counter space for slicing and dicing vs being used as a book shelf. I swear, living in a Manhattan studio makes you look at everything differently.

With all this kitchen space, I get to do one of the things I enjoy most: having dinner parties. That could be for two or twenty, but regardless of number I love cooking for people, drinking wine while preparing, chatting about anything that comes up and just 'relaxing' at home and allowing others to enjoy my home.

Last night was no exception.

Having realized the summer was slipping away and I had not put my kitchen to good use, had me hosting an intimate soiree with recipies I had learned at "scuola di cucina" in Tuscany. One of my favorite dishes 'Penne ala Carciofi', required the dissecting of four overgrown artichokes I had picked up at Trader Joes over the weekend.

While my dinner guest picked at the cheese and charcuterie laid out before him, I stood on the other side of the counter picking apart this flower-like vegetable, petal by petal, leaf by leaf. Given the monstrosity of the ones I had picked, getting to the core was no small feat. Which obviously required some effort as my guest asked several times, "you okay over there?" To which I replied every time, "of course, keep talking..." all the while gritting and grimacing and wondering at what point I just cut the darned thing in half and extract the heart that way. But this was the way Mario had instructed us, and when in Rome...

(I will say in my guests defense, he had been banned from my kitchen space as I was cooking for him, vs us cooking together, as he is usually right in there doing the dirty work, too.)

As I got to the final layers of the prickly flower, I realized that the heart of the artichoke was missing... or based on my knowledge it was. I immediately called a group inspection, as my guest knew way more about this stuff than I did. And he confirmed, no heart. I started pulling apart another one, and learned the same thing, no heart. And then two of us dug around in a frantic pace at the remaining artichokes to see what we could find. And again, the dried up remnents of a heart. Nothing worth saving, nothing that was edible, and into the bin all four went.

We divided and conquered the next step of meal preparations. He went to Publix for replacements, leaving me in my 'cucina' to continue preparing dinner, and in a place of solitude mentally allowing my thoughts to simmer along with the olive oil and garlic I had just added to the skillet.

So many layers of an artichoke, so much work to get through, and then there was nothing. It was sad in a way. Had I purchased these veggies with the idea of steaming them and eating the petals, these would have been perfect. But since I had not, they had been deemed as useless. As is typical with me in these moments, I began making mental correlations from artichokes to life and back again.

As humans, we have all this 'life' we are doing constantly. From work, to play, to family, to hobbies, to friends, to all the countless things we get caught up in. At times, I know my life is a borderline zoo at times with as many balls as I get going in the air. Doing, doing, doing... going, going, going... Never stopping. Workout... work... friends... family... home... hobbies... travels... play... Its constant motion from the moment I wake to the moment I crash. And most people are like that. But in doing so, are we adding more layers to our lives, more structure and security externally, further burying what lies within? Are we adding more to the facade that someone must dig through to get to the real us in order to understand who we are at our core?

Are we really all just versions of an artichoke, with all these layers to protect our hearts and feelings from the outside world that has hurt us before? And the more layers, the more we've been hurt? The more we have to hide? And perhaps, maybe, as in the case as I witnessed just moments before, secretly hiding the fact that our hearts are dried up and withered and no use to anyone?

As the door opened, and more artichokes were procurred from the grocery, dinner preparations resumed... the conversation came off 'pause', all the while my 'artichoke thoughts' continued to sautee in the back burner of my mind.

There are so many layers to who I am, not to mention who I want to be. Having spent so many years in different places vs. my hometown, there are so many bits that add into the puzzle, the friends, the dreams, all the details that make me me. But having lived in a world where you don't say too much too soon, you keep personal things personal, and business is business, there is a lot of added layers to my personal artichoke. Lots. Maybe, just maybe, there's a part of my heart that can still be found in all this stuff. And maybe, just maybe its still open, it can be softened, and can be fruitful and found of use to someone...I certainly hope so. Unlike tonight's cooking experiment, these things can't be bought at the local grocery. You only get one heart... you gotta treat it right.