I’ve Got Something on My Mind…

Photo: Something on My MindThough many may doubt it, I’ve often got something on my mind. Much of the time it is, as you might guess, quite frivolous and fantastical. But on occasion, I have actually, factually, genuinely had a thought or two of some depth and seriousness. Thankfully, these tend to pass without causing me too much pain, though like the aftereffects of an evening of overindulgence at the cheese board, the passing thereof might engender in others a certain degree of discomfiture, for which I apologize in general here and now.

Once I’ve recovered myself I will of course return to my normal abnormality and indulge in thoughts no more intense or impressive than wisps of fairy hair and glints of glitter, and I hope that you will still accept me, bird-brained and hare-brained though I may be. And may all of your ruminations give you more pleasure than pain as well!

The Hours of the Day

Some pieces of music have an especially profound affinity with particular times of day. Those composed deliberately for such hours are of course likelier to fit so well, but even among them there are certain works that are so miraculously fitting they almost seem impossible to separate from their appointed times. Much music composed for the divine offices and devotions of the Roman Catholic church recognizes such affinities because, like many prayers and devotions in other faiths, these practices are meant to be performed at specific times of the day and evening. Like the muezzin‘s call to the mosque, a moving chant or song suited to the hour sets the heart and mind in just the right place for the meditations and oblations of the time.

I wrote this poem long ago and came across it again, remembering that it was written while listening to a specific Angelus played on the organ—Marcel Dupré’s, if I’m not mistaken—and being struck by that wonderful meeting of sound and spirit in it.Painting + text: The Angelus

The Miniaturist’s Challenge

When my family and friends were conscripted to help install the artwork for my master’s thesis exhibition, they could not help but note that it would have been a kindness on my part to specialize in something a little more manageable, say, postage stamp illustration. Hanging murals of up to nine by thirty feet in dimensions is admittedly more unwieldy than mounting a bunch of tidy little framed life-sized insect portraits or installing a series of elfin sculptures made from shirt buttons and walnut shells. Alas, though I did segue into much more portable forms in later years, it was not soon enough for my loved ones’ sakes.

My verbosity is a similar burden on my circle of acquaintance, as I am not famous for knowing when to shut up any more than I am known for limiting my opinion to those who have actually asked for it. But just as I have learned to appreciate and work at smaller and less physically demanding visual media along with my enjoyment of massive and messy kinds of art, I have a fondness for smaller and less epic essays and poems, too, and have been known to craft these with similar avidity. While scale in no way guarantees quality or lack thereof in any medium I know, it is sometimes a relief to me as much as to my friendly audiences when I get my kicks by producing petite expressions of my inventive urges.Graphite drawing + text: Movements in Miniature

I Love You Like Crazy

Acrylic mural: Tongue-in-Cheek, after Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun It’s probably inaccurate in more than just the politically correct sense to say that I love my husband like crazy, because it would imply that my affections are only similar to complete madness, and we all know I’m much closer than that in reality. While I flatter myself that I maintain a reasonably plausible façade of normalcy, everybody knows that I’m pretty nutty about my spouse. And those who know him don’t blame me.

He really is a lovable guy.

But aside from the stuff that is evident to the general public, that part about him being a thoughtful colleague, a committed and skilled teacher, a nuanced and inspired conductor of singers and instrumentalists, and all that other excellent and admirable kind of thing, he is smart and curious and kind as a person. I know that when we are together, I matter as much to him as he does to me; that he is a safe retreat from both the minor perturbations of the day and the greater dangers of the wide world when I am in need. And I have in him the great friend with whom I would rather while away the hours either in intensive work or fully at play than with anyone else on earth.

Most of all, I know he not only understands my particular brand of craziness but shares in it as well. Each day, each year, is a surprise package of a kind, and every one of them is somehow richer than all of the foregoing ones as more than the sum of their many parts. Love and admiration and respect and support are all well and good, but if they don’t have the kind of holy hilarity that life with my partner has, they can never be enough.

With that, I wish my beloved the happiest of birthdays, and many more of them yet to come, each in succession with new and astonishing delights.

A Little Something for a Friend

Photo Montage: Manhole Covers 1I discovered quite some time ago that the admirable proprietress of a photography blog I enjoy very much, inte fan gör det det (I’ll let you look up the translation, you non-Swedish-speakers, for your own amusement) shares my affection for many things that escape attention from lots of others. Among those oft-overlooked everyday objects are the steel caps that separate cars and pedestrians and the like from whatever dwells in the underground infrastructure: manhole covers.Photo montage: Manhole Covers 2

Some of these utilitarian items are made without much regard for their aesthetic potential but even so, manage to become rather special and interesting by virtue of the patina of age and use. On top (no pun intended) of that, there are many manhole covers deliberately designed to be special and interesting and aesthetically pleasing. I don’t much care what the original intent of a manhole cover’s design happens to have been, as long as part of the purpose was to keep me from falling into the sewer.Photo: Manhole Covers 3

But it does beg the question, for me, of why, outside of emergencies, one shouldn’t make every single thing one makes as beautiful as it can be. Maybe I should simply be content that so many things, like manhole covers, can become beautiful through use and time. After all, that’s what I would like to be able to do, myself. Ah, perhaps that is precisely what is at play in the manufacture of a manhole cover; it is made expressly to become beautiful through use and years. Perhaps, indeed, I’ve stumbled onto a cosmic truth, and we mortals are also designed with that in mind. I suppose I’d better get busy!Photo: Manhole Covers 4

Foodie Tuesday: By the Beautiful Sea

Certainly one of the particular pleasures of this summer’s travels was for a coastal native like me to get back to the water’s edges and indulge in quantities of fresh seafoods of the kinds I have always loved. Not a bad opportunity, either, to develop some new affections in the vast ocean of seafood options. So yes, of course I ate fish, shellfish, seaweed, and other delectable dainties from the depths as often as I could manage. Spending time in the familiar haunts of Stockholm and the Pacific Northwest, I was swimming in deliciousness.Photo: Chinese Sushi in Stockholm

There were, in both locales, a few much-needed refueling stops for Asian seafood treats, since both places are rich in the resources and have long since embraced the influences of those also-rich cultures to make fine use of the wealth, so sushi and Lee’s sweet walnut prawns were on the agenda from the beginning. I can’t think of any kind of sushi that makes me happier than delicate, pristinely fresh salmon—an ingredient introduced to sushi culture by Norwegians, I gather, so I guess I feel a certain genetic impulse to put this meeting-of-cultures on my plate—nigirizushi. So my partner and I devoured salmon nigiri in quantity on the trip, but I also happily tested a few different sorts of makizushi, like Ichiban’s Salmon Lemon Roll, a refreshingly simple kind of maki.Photo: Dungeness Mac & Cheese

There were those variations on crab mac & cheese I mentioned before, and if anyone puts together two such huge addictions of mine as macaroni and cheese and Dungeness crab had just better get out of my way when I catch sight of the table. The versions I had this summer did nothing to slow me in my pursuit of such treasure, but as the aforementioned components both loom so large in my heart’s and stomach’s affections, neither did they hamper my continued mental tweaking of said dishes, and as I looked upon the photo for this post, I was moved further to contemplate joining my crab M&C lust with that for the classic and justifiably ubiquitous pairing of browned butter and sage, so you can expect to hear some groans of overindulgent happiness coming out of my kitchen sometime in the not too distant future when I get around to embracing that inspiration.Photo: West Seattle Fish & Chips

Fish and chips are, of necessity, a part of my seafood pilgrimages as well. As with these other treats, fish and chips have so many fantastic varieties possible, even before you get to the chef-specific fiddling of seasonings and sides, that it’s almost a pity there’s no way to eat every kind on offer. Will it be cod today, pollock or plaice, halibut? Salmon? Smoked cod? So many choices, so little time. I like a good light, crispy beer batter, but most end up being too doughy and heavy-handed in reality for my complete approval, so I’m more drawn to crunchier versions, whether they’re crumb- or cornmeal-based or spring from a dreamily delicate application of tempura. One of the standouts on this journey was when my parents took the two of us to a local shop in West Seattle, where we not only shared massive servings of fantastic, moist and tender and crunchy-coated wild cod but were given cabbage slaw (in a vinegar dressing) as a gift side dish by a beautiful and kind-hearted proprietress. Between that atmosphere of generous hospitality and the snappy-crusted fresh fish, the place won my vote as favorite in this summer’s fish-&-chips derby.Photo: Scallop & Mango Ceviche

I managed to go in entirely new directions on occasion, as well. Probably the favorite such dish that comes to mind just now would have to be the scallop-mango ceviche my sister and I shared when we went with my husband to a venerable but still terrific restaurant on Alki, that long and lovely public beach in West Seattle where Elliott Bay provides the blue and sparkling underpinning to a grand view of downtown Seattle’s waterfront. Beloved company and glorious weather were guaranteed to make it a worthy event, but the ceviche did its part very well indeed, too. It was a relatively simple melange of diced bell peppers and red onion and scallops and mango in a very light lime-cilantro dressing. If I had any desire to change the dish in the slightest it might be to eliminate the green pepper from the mix since it was just a tiny bit strong compared to the sweet scallops and bright mango, yet not quite piquant enough (as the onion was) to serve as a complementary spark. But let’s be honest. Did that slow down my eating or diminish my enjoyment of that refreshing little appetizer? No, it most certainly did not. If I replicate the dish someday, there will probably be no green bell pepper, and for that matter, I’d be more likely to pop in a sprinkling of red pepper flakes for the spice than to add raw onion, but that combination of tender scallops and juicy mango was just the sunny splash the day required and also provided useful ideas for my future culinary machinations. Enough said.Photo: Shrimp Pizza al Forno

Last among today’s reminiscence revels is shrimp pizza. Americans might not be quite so familiar with this sea creature as a great pizza topping as other nationals have been, but once tried, it’s kind of irresistible in its own way. My spousal person and I derive much of our fondness for the item in question from multiple happy visits in years past to a kind of down-at-heel looking pizzeria in the central train station in Stockholm, where a couple of swell Italian brothers fired up their (too-) well-kept secret wood oven and made the perfect Neapolitan crusts, lightly scorched and melting underneath a little light San Marzano tomato sauce, a nice gooey coating of fresh mozzarella, and heaps of candy-sweet pink shrimp with (unless my slightly lachanophobic husband remembered to forbid it) a dash of oregano over the top. Alas, the brothers have since packed up their oven and gone off to greener pastures, but in a bit of serendipitous sorrow on the afternoon of our discovery, we wandered down the hill from “our” apartment in the opposite direction to a restaurant we hadn’t revisited in quite some time and discovered that they, too, made a dandy version of this pie. Theirs is embellished with a little prosciutto and some mushrooms, which prove to be perfectly friendly companions to their little coral-colored shellfish pals on pizza.

What does all of this prove? Nothing you didn’t know already. I am an avid pursuer of food. Seafoods of many spanking fresh and tasty sorts rank high on the list of favorites among my food loves. And travel combines the increased access to those things that a coastal kid stranded inland in Texas craves at times with the splendors of the travel itself, that immersion in a different culture that suits me as much as it does my taste buds. Ahhh, so.