There are so many ways that we crave and try to wield power, we mortal beings. We think we’re in charge of our own lives, if nothing else. We are wrong.

Our short trip to Portland from Thursday through this morning provided me with a fine refresher course in this form of necessary humility. While our house is in utter disarray during our move to an apartment and our lives in mild chaos during a busy fall season of school, concerts, travel, and conferences, I am about as far from in control of my own little existence as I am from running the world. I did my very worst job of packing, for Portland, that I think I’ve done since somewhere around the age of four. If my parents were dumb enough to let me help pack my luggage then.

So I arrived in Oregon without several of my simplest toiletries, one pair of socks short of the full trip’s worth, and sans laptop power cord. Hence, my first series of several days without daily blog posts in nearly four and a half years. And I must tell you that I was plenty irritated with myself, and mightily disappointed to break the string of consecutive posts so unwittingly, if not witlessly. But you know, the earth did not cease to rotate on its axis. The rain and sun still did their little minuets, people still talked to me as if they genuinely liked doing so, and music still sounded magnificent and more than a little miraculous.

Because it’s not my power cord that connects me to the universe, and it’s most certainly not my power that connects the rest of the universe together. I can’t fix what’s wrong in the world, not by a million miles, but I am not the source of any of its strengths or its life force, let alone its myriad joys. I’m just the lucky participant and recipient, who (when the power is plugged in) gets to report on my view of it all. I’m happy to be back online, but I am reminded that the very best of what I enjoy in my remarkably blessed existence is not born of my own merit or power, and not even remotely connected to whether I’m plugged in or not, figuratively or literally. I’m just plain glad to be here.

Photo: Out of Gas

Yep, I ran out of gas. But I reminded myself, however inadvertently, that it takes letting go of my driven need for power, sometimes, to refuel my spirit.

Foodie Tuesday: Start with Simplicity

The end of the year is a good and fine and happy thing. I would never claim to be so tough and unsentimental as to reach the end of anything without a glance backward, without a touch of wistfulness about all of the great things that have been. I’m much too thankful for my wonderfully blessed life to leave it all behind without a blink. But the obvious upside of the end of a good thing is that it is, potentially, the beginning of any terrific other thing I can imagine and am willing to work toward experiencing, knowing, or achieving.Photo: Sparkler

I’ll toast that. Something sparkly is always appropriate for inviting the most dazzling future imaginable to come and be mine. So whether it’s mineral water with a little fizz, elderflower or fruit pressé, or some refined adult bubbly beverage, I’ll drink to a magnificent future. Some delicious food is appropriate with that, not to mention a good way to slow down the drinking of the sparkling drinks in a good and healthy way. My preference for occasions like this is food that is easily prepared ahead of time, varied in flavors and textures and temperatures and all of those lovely kinds of qualities, and easy to eat without a lot of fiddling around with cutlery. Yep, a cocktail party. Kids love hors d’oeuvres or appetizers just as much as their elders do, and most of us get a special kick out of miniature stuff, too, so finger food with spritzy drinks wins!

Photo: Smultron

Well, maybe not *that* miniature. A girl could starve to death.

But a new year also begs me for a new attitude in general. One of my particular wishes for the year ahead is that, despite the many worthwhile and appealing events that guarantee a busy twelvemonth, I will live as mindfully as I can. I want to savor all the food and drink of which I partake, just as I should relish all of the events of the day to the fullest extent I can. Do less, and do it more slowly, just because I can get more out of what I do choose, from the food and drink I enjoy to the events of the day in which I enjoy them. What a thought.

For my New Year’s Eve and Day celebrations to gleam the most brightly and beautifully, perhaps a contrasting context of unhurried, uncomplicated quiet and calm will be the best setting for the jewels of newness and anticipation. I resolve to unplug sooner, more often, and for longer periods throughout the year ahead. Our recent power outage adventures were a marvelous reminder of what sweet benefits come from that one easy commitment. A single evening with the lights off, the oven, microwave and TV out of commission, the batteries of our computers run down to empty, and the bridge into town closed by the same storm that knocked out the power—that night was an unexpectedly welcome and timely reminder of what really gives me joy. Even a dinner of cold cereal was a remarkably delicious last-minute substitute for the intended hot food, when I ate it in the company of my beloved, the two of us leaning in over our bowls by amber candlelight and laughing like little kids at the campfire-casual quality of our romantic evening.Photo: Candlelight Dinner

Later, we sat on the couch, with our handful of candles occasionally flickering brightly enough to reach as far as the rain-blurred windows, and enjoyed sipping an exceptional red wine while doing nothing more plugged in than attuning ourselves to an actual, slow, lengthy, lingering, lovely—hey! Watch those minds of yours, y’all!—conversation. Heaven. An uninterrupted evening of candlelit dinner and conversation over a superb glass of wine. I’ll enjoy this New Year’s Eve with my medium-rare roast beef and baked potatoes, the dessert of freshly baked apple and brown sugar crostata (pictures to follow!), and the happy midnight toast of sparkling goodness, yes, absolutely. I look forward to many more such delights in the year yet to come. But I’ll take better advantage, too, of the day with a plate of fried eggs, a rasher of bacon, and a glass of milk, or the evening when I thought I was going to have to eat on the run and a canceled event let me stay home instead and fix up a nice, slow-simmering ragout of vegetables and mushrooms to eat with chewy, crusty peasant bread, perhaps complemented by another glass of that marvelous red wine.

Photo: Dawn's Early Light

A new day is dawning…

Slow and steady doesn’t just win the race; it is the race. Happy New Year to us all!