on what matters

I don’t know much.

It’s good to be reminded of that, often.

This weekend, we stayed away from the computers and the phones. We sat together with new friends, the two of them on our couch, the two of us sitting on the floor by the fire. They curved their hands around their cups of cardamom tea the same way, without knowing it. We probably leaned our bodies toward the fire at the same angle. They arrived Friday night, after Lu had gone to bed, and we talked and talked until our eyes slowly started to close. We hugged and said, “See you in the morning.”

We met these lovely new friends through this site. They came to the first Dog Mountain dinner we cooked, years ago. At the end of the evening, they sat with a small group of people who had just become friends, in chairs outside, talking and watching us clean up from the evening’s work. We showed them the only copy we owned of our soon-to-be-published cookbook. They gave us big hugs before they walked up to their cabin site and we climbed in the car with our sleepy girl, who was about to turn two.

The next year, Laura and Daniel were there again, in the sunshine, at white-clothed tables, passing plates of salmon and quinoa. There were more hugs and fast conversation. After that, Laura friended me on Facebook. I don’t normally accept friend requests of people who read this site because I need a bit of a boundary between private life and public. It’s a wavery grey line but it’s still there. Laura already felt like a friend, however. We’ve been talking ever since.

So when she told me they were coming down to Seattle for a long weekend, and could they see us? I suggested they stay with us instead of spending the afternoon. I’m so glad we did.

If I had looked at this on paper, I might have canceled the entire opportunity. They are fans of the site. They are in their late 20s. We are in our late 40s. Daniel is a composer. Laura works with water issues. On paper, we don’t have that much in common.

As much as I love paper and pen, they’re pretty useless sometimes.

We spent the weekend, talking and laughing, talking some more. Laura kneeled on the floor to cook with Lucy in her kitchen, since Lucy immediately took to them both. Lu knows the good ones. They made pepper sushi and strawberry parfaits, turkey with hummus, and something involving mushrooms and oranges. Lu could have stayed there all weekend, listening to Laura’s patient, kind voice.

But there were whole-grain waffles to make for breakfast, an oatmeal bar for breakfast the next morning, an estate sale to visit, coffee at Minglement, my parents to meet on their weekly Saturday visit, and an incredible dinner at the island’s only Thai restaurant. The warmth around that food-laden table radiated.

This is when I realized it, how little I know on paper or in categories. The reason we are friends with these two lovely people we feel lucky to know is that they are appreciators. That’s what binds us, what is common between me and the people I love, even if I only know them for a few moments. Daniel looked up from dinner at the Thai restaurant, a smile rising above his long beard, green curry chicken and tamarind sweet and sour prawns and pumpkin curry with pork before us, and said, simply, “This is good.”

It was. It was very good.

We live in a cynical world that prizes snark and arcane knowledge over the humble letting go of being in the moment and saying, “This is good.”

Let me not know. I have so much left to learn.


My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird —
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

— Mary Oliver



Laura has been living with Type 1 diabetes since she was 9 years old. Watching her choose her food this weekend was a revelation to me. If I thought I had to be conscious with celiac, I now feel like an amateur in comparison to Laura’s thoughtful choices. Not only does she have to take her blood sugar readings about 12 times a day, but she also has to calculate the number of carbs, fiber, protein, and fat for every meal and snack before she eats it. I might crumble and give up carbs entirely, if I were diagnosed. But Laura? She’s an inspiration. She loves food. Adores it. And she doesn’t shy away from any foods or food groups, except gluten (she has celiac too). She embraces food, entirely. Instead of living in fear of certain kinds of foods, she makes the most of every meal. And she’s healthy and laughing.

I’ve been thinking about mindfulness a lot lately. How deeply being in a moment feels much more alive than rushing through the day to some imagined end. There’s much I want to say but I’ll hold off for now. Just to say that eating with Laura this weekend has inspired me.

On Saturday night, Laura and Daniel said that they have steel-cut oats nearly every morning for breakfast. Sunday morning, we had an oatmeal bar, one of Lucy’s favorite meals. It’s pretty simple. Make up a pot of good gluten-free oats (we love the ones from Bob’s Red Mill). And gather tiny ramekins and glasses full of toppings. Each person, particularly the kid, has a great time making up her own bowl. And then, dig in.

Toppings we like around here:

dried orange zest (Danny zested a dozen heirloom oranges recently, spread out the zest on a sheet try, and dried it at a low temperature)
dried cranberries
dried cherries
sunflower seeds
slivered almonds
good maple syrup
creamed honey
almond butter
hemp milk
green tea (seriously!)
brown sugar
frozen wild blueberries
crunchy fleur de sel (Laura and Daniel brought us some from Vancouver Island Salt Company)

Lu is such a big fan of this concept that she and I had another oatmeal bar breakfast Monday morning, this time in bed. She’s a big fan of the Bakery on Main instant oatmeal, especially the maple multigrain flavor. I’m fine with that. Enough breakfasts of oatmeal now mean she’ll graduate to steel cut oats later.

I find that a good breakfast of oatmeal, dressed up just the way I like it, helps me keep my mind on what matters.