You really could write encyclopedias, fell whole forests and smoke bandwidth trying to do justice to the loveliness of the place where we live now. I am East-Coast-born-and-raised; I miss Philadelphia and New England like nobody’s business; and I am resigned to the fact that if I want the kind of mozzarella I used to walk around the corner to buy, I must either make my own or take a 90-minute train trip into San Francisco to buy it; and even with all that baggage, I am still enchanted. I could go on and on about the jalapenos still growing in the garden in January, or about buying Meyer lemons, blood oranges, pomelos and pomegranates at the Franklin Square farmer’s market in Santa Clara. I could easily write a good five hundred pages about how Bunni came to visit for five days and found pleasure in everything from the view of the ocean at UC Santa Cruz to the grapefruit growing in our neighbor’s yard, from the soft glow of the streetlights in our neighborhood to the fact that out here, you can buy wine at the drugstore and hard liquor at the supermarket. I could write about the day trip Lloyd and I took down 101, watching as the rain stopped and the fog burned off and we were surrounded by luscious rolling greenery, reminiscent of the landscape of the Scottish countryside, driving past fruit farms in Watsonville that whispered seductively in my ear: if you like this now, you’ll really like it in summertime.
It has been so long since I’ve done anything around here but placeholding with angst-ridden internal monologues. There is so much to share. Yet I can’t share any of it.
At least I can’t just yet. As I’m sure a few people are aware, I finished my first semester of law school last month. I had big plans for the hiatus between the end of the fall semester and the start of the spring. My mother and stepfather would be visiting for five days, arriving the day after my last final. (They did, and we had a splendid time together, even though winter weather—or what passes for winter weather in Santa Clara County—arrived with a vengeance.) Bunni would be visiting the last week of break. (She did, and we had a bang-up time. Her photoset of her trip makes me smile.) I would write the letters left unwritten, get the house in order, get some practice driving our new Scion, update my resume, look for summer work, apply for fellowships to pay for my summer work (since it looks like any summer work I garner will be unpaid), pursue some other moneymaking opportunities, and, first and foremost, I would write. Finally. There would be no more curtailing my food crank impulses. I would sit and write like I did in December 2003, when PTMYB was born.
You can guess where this is going. What I did was sleep in past 7 every morning, change into a handknit sweater that grows increasingly ratty with each wearing, and knit. I tried to read, but my attention span was shredded, and I couldn’t get past five pages without thinking that I should be doing something else. The few times I sat down to write, the same horrible thing that happened during my year of unemployment happened again. Two, three, four hours would roll by while I stared at a blank screen, writing a few lines, erasing them, looking at other people’s work for inspiration, feeling not inspired but depressed that I had fallen so far, so fast. I knew that our current circumstances would not support seat-of-the-pants planning: I would need to budget my time as assiduously as I budget money, making a plan and sticking to it, but I had no idea how to do it. I began to wonder if my inactivity since December 2007, my lack of a full-day schedule, had destroyed my last tenuous shred of initiative, or worse yet, caused me actual brain damage. I wondered if I would need Ritalin just to get through the Sunday New York Times. I wondered what it would take to get me out of this, and if Lloyd would want to remain married to me after I was done with school.
Now I know what it takes. As shameful as it might sound, it takes feedback. Specifically, it takes grade-based feedback.
That was indeed a coy way of saying that my grades were posted last week. The good news is that I am not failing out of law school. The bad news is that while I’m not failing, it’s obvious that my fall methodology of Reading, Panicking, Weeping and Reading once more is not doing me any favors. My grade spread ranges from the excellent to the worrying. Fortunately, I have an opportunity to put the worrying grade right, but it’s going to take work, and help, and effort—the kind of effort that precludes staring at a blank screen for four hours, flouncing away tearily and temporarily hating the president who you helped elect because he took all the same first-year classes that you did, and you just know he aced them, hell, he probably ran practice exams for fun, and we HATE that in an incoming president.
(That was a joke. Please don’t send me hate letters pointing out where the lack of academic rigor in a Commander-in-Chief has left us. Believe me, I’ve noticed.)
At any rate. It may be counterintuitive, if not ironic, to start writing more frequently now that my free time is over and the demands of school are rearing their ugly heads, but I’m keen to try. Even if it means just weekly posting, or lots of placeholding interstitial folderol, it’s better than three months of silence. I miss the foodish conversation, and I want it back, even if it means I only have two hours on Friday afternoon, or Sunday morning, to partake.
I did get one thing accomplished during break. One day, Lloyd and I went out to the garage and brought in six boxes of my books, mostly cookbooks. The boxes are in the bedroom, waiting patiently until our cash flow allows for a new set of bookshelves. “I’m just going to pull a few things out that I want to look at right away,” I said to Lloyd. “Knock yourself out,” he replied. He didn’t even blink when he saw what I consider to be a few things.
Dear friends, I can’t tell you how it feels to sit in this new place and hold my old books in my hands, the ones that got me through biting New York winters and sweltering New York summers. I have my old points of reference back, the source of gingerbread and cold soba noodle dressing, baked cherry tomatoes and pickled greens, onion pie, buttermilk biscuits so tender they fall apart at a cross word, other buttermilk biscuits which are sturdier but no less toothsome. To have them all back is a tonic, and with any luck—and with work, help and effort—they will take all that worry I’ve been carrying around, and they will peel the skin off it.
Postscript: It is a topic for another day—hey, I have homework —but I figured a little cheesy product endorsement would get the year off to a rollicking start. My adored friend Sharon gave us this superb cookbook for Christmas, and from the day it arrived, I have been unable to stop cooking from it. If you are a fan of The Splendid Table on the radio, you will eat this up. (Not literally, of course—I mean, you want to keep it around so you can cook from it.) If you are unfamiliar with it, this might be the book to make you a fan. Details will follow—maybe even next week.