and Flying

and Flying

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I’ve finally accepted I don’t handle big, celebratory life events like most people. So I wasn’t jumping up and down excited the day we got the keys to our new house. Actually, I was wishing it would go away, the moving, the moving-on from the town that is home and the many special places there that I consider mine. My high school students asked my age the other day, and when we started talking about it, I shared how I won’t consider myself “grown up” until I reach 30. They laughed at me but were also surprised because as teenagers eager for freedom, they think becoming grown up happens at the exact turn of the clock to 18.  Moving on from Corvallis means much to me for so many reasons, but at the bottom of it, it is the place where I’ve done all my formative growing up, where I belong to and am invested in the community, where my work is, and many individuals have shaped my life perspective.

William’s grandma accused me of not being very happy about the new house over the Christmas holiday. I explained it away with, I’ve only been in it once so it’s a little difficult to love yet, but I was well aware my lack of enthusiasm went deeper. Since then, many people have asked me if I love it and I can tell by their tone of voice that my honest response will burst all their happy-for-us excitement. Ultimately, loving a place (or person) comes from deeply knowing it, and this little space and I are only just getting acquainted. So no, I do not love it yet. But knowing we were eventually moving, I prayed about it for a long time. Finally, just a few days before William brought up the idea of purchasing instead of renting, I felt the peace with relocating that I had been asking for. Later, a couple days before we got the keys, I felt very strongly that there is work for me to be done in this new place, that He is calling us to Eugene for a reason, that it is okay to have little clarity right now.

 

 

A week and a half in to being a Eugene resident, I told William, I’ve skipped straight to the angry stage of culture shock with this town. I prefer a community a little smaller, a little less busy at 5:57 am, a little friendlier to my idea of getting across town, a few less barking dogs in our neighborhood, and many more cats(!). I was complaining, irritated, and aware of it. In other words, I was adjusting.

I have still to figure out which will be “my” grocery store, where I will enjoy running on a regular basis, how to take all the quiet(er) little shortcuts to where I am going. And I’ll have to meet and make some new local friends.

Corvallis taught me these things take time. But even though I’ve felt a little upended this last month since moving, I’m diving in to learning this community in the ways I tend to, with running and with food:

 

 

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A couple weeks into the relocation, I was out running out at the edge of Alton Baker Park, near where the river gets a little wild and Eugene becomes Springfield. I remembered being on my pony, Angel, back at the ranch, about a mile from the house, on the road between the creek and the calving shed. I was around nine years old.

I remember leaning forward over Angel’s neck, letting the reins out, the hairs of her long mane tangling into mine, and feeling her fly, as fast as her legs could carry her. And I remembered that wild, heady freedom that a nine-year-old feels, completely absorbed in that moment, no fear, no coulds, shoulds, if-thens, but just there, all there in that rush, that moment, going as fast as we could go.

I relived that memory a moment and then I turned to run back towards home and my car, and my nine-year-old self and Angel faded behind me.

 

Back at that exact same spot a couple weeks later, the memory came back, just the same as before, unexpectedly, as if waiting for me. And then I connected the dots. So that’s why I’ve been running all these years, I thought. That’s why I love running fast especially. Perhaps I’ve been searching for that part of me I experienced with Angel all those years ago, that wild, carefree little girl who wasn’t afraid to go all out and live.

 

And then I smiled. This little city and I will get along just fine, I thought. There will undoubtedly be some growing pains, and I do miss the comforts of home in Corvallis, but I can tell there will be good things for me here.

 

So when friends ask, do I love the new house? my answer will likely continue to be hesitant. I don’t know that I will ever love the house, as I’ve never grown too attached to a building before. But I do get especially attached to places. And I’d like to tell them, in time, that I absolutely love this new place.

 

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Broccoli, Collards + Kalamata Salad, serves 4-6

inspired by Sara’s Emerald Salad

William is on a broccoli kick lately. He asks for broccoli in everything. I had no idea he is partial to this vegetable until now, but glad I am because our school-garden-broccoli was such a success last year and I’m now planning on upping my broccoli-growing game in our new home garden this spring. Planning has already begun!

2 lbs. broccoli

1 large red onion

3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, divided

zest of 1 orange

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground black pepper

3-5 cups collard greens (or other winter greens), thinly sliced

red pepper flakes

3 Tbs. orange juice

1 small handful flat-leaf parsley

¼ cup kalamata olives, sliced

¼ cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped

 

– Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

– Chop the broccoli into 2-inch pieces; include the stems but discard the large, tough ends. Roughly chop the onion into large pieces. On a large bar pan lined with parchment paper, mix the broccoli pieces, onions, 2 Tbs. olive oil, orange zest, garlic, salt, and pepper. Once all the vegetables are nicely coated, roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, until the broccoli is starting to brown on top. Rotate the pan or stir halfway through.

– While the vegetables are roasting, remove the tough center stem and thinly slice the collards. Put them in a large mixing bowl. When the vegetables are roasted, pour them atop the collards to soften slightly and give the mix a good stir. Add the orange juice, pepper flakes, remaining tablespoon, if necessary, and toss with olives, parsley, and hazelnuts.

– Serve warm or chilled.

Savory Grape Syrup on Black Rice with White Beans + Collards

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I go down to the edge of the sea.
How everything shines in the morning light!
The cusp of the whelk,
the broken cupboard of the clam,
the opened, blue mussels,
moon snails, pale pink and barnacle scarred—
and nothing at all whole or shut, but tattered, split,
dropped by the gulls onto the gray rocks and all the moisture gone.
It’s like a schoolhouse
of little words,
thousands of words.
First you figure out what each one means by itself,
the jingle, the periwinkle, the scallop
       full of moonlight.
Then you begin, slowly, to read the whole story.
                                     – Breakage, Mary Oliver
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I was at church a few weeks ago, an hour before mass. The college-student musicians were rehearsing and as I spent a quiet hour in contemplation, the fits and starts of their rehearsal played out in my periphery. Soon my mind wandered to simply listening. Their music is just what I need each Sunday and one of the reasons I go to the ‘sinner’s mass,’ the last one offered. As I listened, I silently marveled at how such a beautiful performance in the next hour could come from a sub-par practice.

I let my mind continue its wondering, thinking back to my own practices growing up. I played the saxophone and piano. The noise made by a substandard seventh grade sax player was a horrendous thing to listen to, I’m sure; my siblings made it clear they’d rather I not practice. The music group at church is substantially more talented but like many rehearsals, theirs was remarkably un-put-together.

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I find that life is much the same as these practices. It’s rough around the edges with fits and starts, jumping from a particular staccato section to the line down the page so as to get the timing down, and then sweeping in and out of the harmony, dropping each one part way through and picking up at another spot.

There’s a randomness to it that is uncomfortable when our expectations are linear. It reminds me of this diagram of expectations versus reality.

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In moments when I most need them, the right words often come back to me, as if in having read them once months or years before, they were saved up for just the time I’d need them again. Ryan Hall’s Facebook posts often harbor the right words:

Sometimes your goals feel far from where you’re at in the moment. Rather than feeling overwhelmed, think ‘What can I be faithful with today to get one step closer?’ and celebrate progress.

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What I’m trying to say through the disorder of these paragraphs, is that life is not meant to be clear. We don’t know what we’re in for when we start. The way through can be equally hazy. As Mary Oliver says, there are a thousand words or experiences or paths to be sorted, each one to be picked up and puzzled back together into some semblance of sense.

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Beauty can come out of the fragmented practices. The hard going and the demanding everyday workouts prepare and toughen us for the real tests, the big performances, the meeting of monumental goals, and dreams that once felt far out of reach.

Sometimes we know what lies ahead; we are confident we can pull off the performance despite not having done it before. Other times we’re simply walking in faith, offering our best in each step and celebrating progress, even the barest glint of it, along the way.

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Savory Grape Syrup on Black Rice with White Beans + Collards
, serves 4

I spent half my childhood practically living at the home/nursery/farm of my two best friends down the road. Jari and Sheila, who I consider my second set of parents, gifted us the richest, grape-iest home-grown and pressed grape juice for Christmas. I’ve had gallons of it tucked away in the freezer for months, all the while trying to scheme up exactly the right way to make use of it. I boiled down a few cups into a thick, molasses-type concoction that is heavily infused with fresh ginger and rosemary. If you have an hour or so to mostly ignore a simmering pot, grab a bottle of grape juice and make syrup! It is simply the best with earthy black rice, white beans, and whatever greens are on hand this spring. 

3 cups grape juice

2 Tbs. freshly grated ginger

2 Tbs. finely chopped rosemary

1 tsp. ground mustard seeds

1 cup uncooked black rice

2 1/4 cups water, chicken or vegetable broth

2 cups cooked white beans

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 medium onion, chopped

2-3 tsp. olive oil

1 large bunch collard greens, stems removed and chopped

a handful or two toasted walnuts, chopped

black pepper to taste

  • For the syrup:  In a medium-sized saucepan, bring grape juice, ginger, rosemary and mustard to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and allow to cook until reduced to about 1 cup of syrup.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients by cooking the black rice, chopping the onion and greens, and toasting and chopping the walnuts.
  • When the syrup is reduced, heat olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Stir in the chopped onion and cook until soft, about 10 minutes, adding a splash of water or more oil, as needed. Then, stir in the salt, black pepper and greens. Cook just until the greens begin to wilt.
  • In a large bowl or on individual plates, stir together the rice, beans and greens. Top with walnuts and drizzle the syrup over the top, stirring through before serving.