la fin d’été manique // catching one’s breath // a short, short story & a poem
you lean slowly toward the exit, “i have no idea what i am doing here, actually.”
"are you afraid?"
"then i’m not either."
"i know you are. you always are."
"how is it even possible that we’ve come to know each other so well?"
you pause to shift and contemplate, “it defies all reason, really. doesn’t it?”
i take a sharp breath in and look away from you. i look at the ugly interior wall and wish so badly that it was a lake, or a line of trees, or some sort of formation of rocks that i was looking at instead. i wish that my knees were scraped and that my skin tasted of salt and that i felt tired, holy, and warm instead of this nothing. this non-thing; this not knowing that crept into my bones & kept me trapped within my body like a prison. occasionally i could escape, like a burst of ephemeral light, but i did not know my terrain enough to understand how to make that happen. it was always by magic accident, so i remained mostly stuck.
"my fingers feel like they might burst." i heaved awkwardly into the silence, like some kind of impossible life preserver.
"because they have been still for so long."
"what do you mean? you are twitching and fidgeting with them constantly."
"i meant that figuratively. like, not literally still."
"oh. i see."
"no, not really."
"look, if you wanna’ go, just go."
"no. i said that i was done escaping. remember?"
"no. i think that you said that to yourself, like silently, not to me."
"oh. well, i meant to say it out loud."
"okay you meant to say it out loud."
"what about the not running part? you don’t have anything to say about that?"
"did you say not running? i thought you said escaping."
"whatever. running, escaping: po-ta-to, po-tah-to. anyway, you’re just being evasive."
"i am not. linguistic precision is very important to me. there are no such things as synonyms. everything means something different. something unto itself."
"you are so infuriating."
"then why are you still here?"
"i told you. i am not running-slash-escaping anymore."
"i’ll believe that when i see it."
"ah ha! so, you don’t trust me?!"
"of course not. you don’t trust me either. we’ve both fucked this up too many times already for some sort of precious, simple trust situation."
"it’s not too late though."
"i didn’t say it was too late in general, necessarily, i just said that it was too late to be simple."
"but when is it ever simple?"
"look, there are three entities here: there’s you, there’s me, and then there is our relationship, which resembles a mangled, helpless animal laying by the side of the road."
"i know, i know. but it’s still there, isn’t it? it’s still laying there. And us here, us talking right now is like we’re bending over it and inspecting the nature of its injuries."
"it’s not that easy."
"why can’t it be? i can’t believe that you’re this defeated. are you really this defeated?"
"look, i will probably always love you, but —"
"i’ll probably always love you too. i do! i do love you. i love you and i’m tired of just theoretically loving you. i want to do something about it."
"i want to too. i’m tired of just theoretically loving you also, but i’m more tired of theoretically loving myself. i don’t know what i want, or even how i feel half of the time because i’ve been too scared of myself for so long. too scared just to listen! i don’t know how to hear myself around other people. how do people learn how to do that? i don’t even know what the fuck i’m doing! how the fuck do they do it?!"
after years of good intentions speckled with a few slightly pathetic potted herbs & tiny tomato plants, i finally have a legitimate garden at the community plots near my home. a friend & i decided to join efforts & share duties so we can have more freedom to travel & be occasionally forgetful (let’s be serious — we are both artists), but still have a successful harvest of fresh vegetables & herbs. and we have a very happy little garden, with everything from catnip for the neighborhood stray that likes to linger there (who has been snubbing us lately. i think he overheard us talking about possibly taking him to get neutered & he got really uncomfortable. can’t really blame him, i guess), to okra, beets, chard, greens, tomatoes, peppers, & herbs galore. i have been finding an incredible amount of inspiration from this small, edible patch of fecundity.
humans are meant to dig in the dirt.
there is nothing quite like taking a little stroll & cutting something that you watched & helped grow from a tiny seed, then walking home & cooking it up.
although my stroll & chard harvesting were interrupted by a fidgety, middle-aged man trying to talk me into going on a date with him to burger king & attempting to lure me into his vehicle after i turned down the bk breakfast tryst, but that is a story for another time. (my first thought of a response when he started following me in his car was, while instinctively reaching for my pocket knife, shouting, “when i said no to burger king, i said no to you!” there’s a sentence that an appropriate context for had never occurred to me as a possibility. i really couldn’t make this shit up if i tried. )
i’ve also been in a bit of a bread baking phase the last week or two.
after two delicious attempts to get the recipe just right, may i present to you:
walnut oat banana bread
it’s gluten-free & vegan, but multiple omnivores with intestines that do not attack them when they consume wheat (lucky fuckers) gobbled it down happily.
makes one loaf
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup of earth balance buttery spread
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 teaspoons ener-g egg replacer, mixed thoroughly with 4 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 cup gluten-free oat flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/4 cup potato starch
1/2 cup gluten-free rolled oats
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
preheat the oven to 350 degrees farenheit & lightly grease a standard-sized loaf pan.
mix up your egg replacer & water until frothy (i know, i know. you had almost finally forgotten about the grossness of rick santorum & here i go reminding you — sorry!) & set aside. thoroughly mash your bananas with a fork in a large mixing bowl, then add in the buttery spread, agave nectar, brown sugar, vanilla, egg replacer, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, & salt. stir until well-mixed. there will be some banana lumps; just accept them.
in a separate bowl, stir together your xanthan gum & flours until well integrated. add it into the other bowl. (you know, the one with the banana lumps & the frothy egg replacer. mmm.) add in the oats as well & stir just until combined. don’t over do it. step away.
add in the chopped walnuts, reserving a handful to sprinkle on top for added pizzazz. stir in.
pour into your loaf pan & smooth out the top. sprinkle the remaining walnuts on top & stick it in the motherfuckin’ oven!
bake for 45 to 50 minutes. the bread will be done when you can insert a knife into the top & it comes out clean.
let it cool for a few minutes, then devour a piece (who am i kidding? like three pieces). put some buttery spread on top & have a cup of tea with it while listening to a record. i am including this part in the actual recipe, which means that i am super serious. put on a record & brew some goddamn tea!
when fully cooled, remove from the pan & wrap it up in foil. it keeps well for several days.
open up the window & sit in your favorite corner-nook & think about your day. maybe write about it too. be as honest with yourself as possible. you are going to be okay.
the random, bare bones thoughts of what will eventually become some sort of treatise on art, and/or the things that i think about while i am washing dishes:
art is a way of doing things, not a result; a process, not a product.
what is the balance of intentionality and aesthetics? i am not sure. i venture to say that intentionality matters more, but truly great art is a union of the two.
art should honestly and unflinchingly reflect and comment upon the human condition. art should not function simply as another means of escape from our psychic reality—it should bring us more deeply into it. if an item is seeking to simply be entertainment or escape, it is not art. also, in this realm of thought, art should not simply be beautiful, for that is an oversimplification of life.
not every person is an artist per say, but every human being is a creator and could benefit from some sort of creative practice, if only for their own personal edification and oneness of self.
capitalist values are killers or creativity. elitism, competitiveness, and zero-sum games undermine artistic community and genuine artistic expression. we have been raised to protect our own interests, classify and categorize, and believe that other people’s success comes at the expense of our own, or vice versa. this is all bullshit and leads to even more bullshit. encourage others and remain constantly open to inspiration and opportunity. don’t try to judge and scrutinize the value of your own work or others’ work. don’t talk shit. don’t qualify. don’t make excuses. basically just do what you do as best and as bravely as possible, then shut the hell up and listen to everything.
we have to lose our fear of failure and of looking foolish in order to truly express anything with the honesty and momentousness that it deserves. with this in mind, we should never make ourselves or others feel small for hard-fought blunders. there is infinitely more space and possibility in failure than there is in withholding.
so much of art is play. getting an idea and joyfully exploring and running with it. our artistic practices need air and movement, and to not always be taken oh-so-seriously. art is wide open eyes, not a furrowed brow.
There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.
And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not our business to determine how good it is; nor how valuable it is; nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You just have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.
i walked home from work today in the bright and blizzarding afternoon. en route, i started playing a game with myself, which entailed pretending that it was the first time i had ever experienced snow directly. basically, said game involved a lot of smiling at strangers in a manner that attempted to communicate, “isn’t it incredible that this is happening, and that we are right here together now?” and telling various trees and shrubs “good job” for 1) withstanding the weight of so much heavy snow, and 2) looking so beautiful and noble with their branches and foliage capped in abundant whiteness. one particularly jovial pine tree, i swear to god, patted my head as i walked away.
i started working on a new art book about avoiding making/accessing more open space in our lives because of sensations/memories/aversions that we are afraid of allowing ourselves to really feel.
i threw together some damn good soup. here is the recipe i came up with:
snow day golden tofu thai soup
1 can coconut milk (please do yourself a favor & don’t use light. it is just watered down regular coconut milk, & tastes severely less delicious. plus, major rip off!)
1 ½ cups vegetable broth
1 tablespoon red curry paste (check ingredients to insure fish sauce avoidance)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons bragg liquid aminos or gluten-free soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon sriracha (more or less to taste - i probably put in closer to a whole tablespoon)
1 tablespoon & 2 tablespoons peanut oil
dash of sea salt
½ package extra-firm tofu
4 cloves garlic
½ medium yellow onion
1 heaping cup shitake mushrooms
½ cup frozen peas
¼ cup fresh basil
a few fresh mint leaves
cilantro & additional sriracha for garnish, if desired
cut your bisected block of tofu in half horizontally & place between two paper towels on a plate with something heavy-ish on top to press out the water. mince your garlic, & chop up your onion now. also prep your mushrooms, discarding the stems and slicing the caps into strips.
in a medium saucepan, stir together the coconut milk, vegetable broth, curry paste, brown sugar, liquid aminos/soy sauce, & sriracha over medium-high heat. while that is doing its thing, heat 1 tablespoon of peanut oil, with a dash of salt, in a skillet on medium heat. sauté the onions & garlic until they are transluscent & soft – roughly 5 minutes. add the mushrooms to the skillet and sauté all together for another 2 minutes or so. make sure all of the saucepan ingredients are well incorporated, & then add in the onion, garlic, & mushroom business. stir in the frozen peas as well.
add another two tablespoons of peanut oil & another dash of salt to the same skillet that you just used & heat over medium-high. cut the tofu into small squares & arrange in the oil. pan-fry, turning periodically so that all sides are evenly done.
chop up your basil & mint while the tofu is getting all golden & goddamn delicious. add it into the saucepan of goodness. once the tofu is done, stir it into the saucepan as well, allowing everything to simmer for an addition 2 to 3 minutes.
serve with a bit of cilantro & a few extra dashes or sriracha on top.
scribbled in a notebook on december nineteenth, two-thousand-eleven:
we will not necessarily refer to this sensation as “depression” anymore. it is, anyhow, less of that and more of the surging build up of boundless creative energy and undiluted love, almost ready to be loosed, but not quite there yet.
it is now to be called, “the stillness that proceeds rediscovering your magic and purpose.”
and i shall move into, and not away from, everything.