this modern world

“I don’t see writing as a communication of something already discovered, as ‘truths’ already known. Rather, I see writing as a job of experiment. It’s like any discovery job; you don’t know what’s going to happen until you try it.”
—— William Stafford

I haven’t been writing enough. Writing is like this squiggly worm inside of me, one that sleeps softly sometimes but mostly wriggles around until I pay attention to it. I’ve been unearthing worms in the garden left and right and they veer away from too much exposure. That’s kind of how I have been feeling too. 

It’s been tough, not being able to hear much. I’ve had to shut off the music. Lucy’s giggle sounds screechy in my ear. Crowds overwhelm me. I’m not talking much in social situations. But it has been instructive too. 

What has been rumbling in me for months and has just became words is this: I don’t think I’m meant for this modern world. I imagine I would have loved living in Henry David Thoreau’s little cabin, as long as Danny and Lucy could live there too. And we could have lunch with a different friend every day. I’m better suited for hours of looking at ants with a few people I love than converging together electronically. 

When I first started this blog, there was no social media. I wrote — my introverted writer self loved the hours to myself and the chance to collect my thoughts through my fingers. I wrote with great passion and abandon, truly believing there weren’t that many people reading. There were comments to read and answer. Email too. But that was it. And I liked it that way. 

Now, I have to be on Twitter and Facebook and the Facebook fan page and Instagram and I keep feeling this weird guilt that I’m not on Google+. And I’m just overwhelmed. My brain cannot process the hundreds and hundreds of lives I’m supposed to be knowing. David made pulled pork sandwiches. Nancie posted a powerful piece about a woman speaking out against rape. Kalyn wants to share her friend’s Thai red curry tofu and broccoli with basmati rice. Is Elizabeth Hasselbeck leaving The View? Nina had a dream about angel food cake. Jennifer’s cat is giving her the stink eye while she tries to work on the computer. And that’s just in the three minutes of reading the top stories. My writer mind attaches to stories and I want to know more. I can’t seem to leave all these stories.

And then I don’t write my own stories, the hundred moments in a day that wake me up. Because I have spent so much time crafting 140 characters of something interesting and sparkling conversation with friends on Twitter and answered people’s questions on the Facebook fan page and responded to the tiny topsoil layer of my friends’ lives on my personal Facebook page, my writing muscles are already starting to flag. When I sit down to write — the thing I must do, the thing that drives me, my greatest place of discovery — I feel exhausted. 

I feel best when I know the stories of handfuls of good friends, fully, rather than knowing a shallow layer of thousands. 

We’ve been working on a redesign of this site for months. We’ll be sharing it with you soon. When we go live with it, comments will come back here. I’ve missed that conversation. I didn’t discover until I went silent here that I mis-identified the cacauphony hurting my ears.

I’ve taken Facebook and Twitter off my phone. I’m only going to be in both those places briefly, once or twice a day, to answer questions.

Other than that, there’s a Kickstarter campaign we’re crafting, a new cookbook to share with you soon, and the next book after that to start creating. There is matzo brei apple tarte tatin to make, along with buckwheat popcorn cookies and pork and mustard greens potstickers. That’s just during the work hours. 

Cooking for hours is good. Writing is even better for me. Planting snap peas in the garden bed I weeded and fed with fertilizer might be the best work of all right now. But when I look back at my life, I don’t want to remember the time I spent on Twitter.

I’d rather remember yesterday morning, when I was so tired from Daylight Saving Time and insomnia and Lu waking up at 5:30 that I let the morning be whatever Lu wanted. No constraints or deadlines. Just her and me, reading books on the couch with the sky dark outside. A couple of hours later, she came running to me in the dining room, her arms full of toilet paper she unraveled off the roll. If I had been looking at the computer, then looked up to see this, I would have reacted sternly. She giggled but she waited. She knew she had done something naughty. I looked at her, took a breath, and said, “You know, that’s the best material for a new hat. Let’s make one for you.”

At dinner, we sat on the floor of the living room. We watched The Berenstain Bears with Lucy, who is delighted by that show. We don’t get it but she does. Normally, we sit at the dining room table, which she helps us set with water glasses and cloth napkins. We share our days and tell stories and eat good food together. But last night, we sat on the floor with her, and watched cartoons and spooned up yellow split pea soup from mismatched coffee mugs.

It was a really lovely dinner.

“Whatever is happening is the path to enlightenment.”

— Pema Chodron

Yellow Split Pea Soup

When Danny asked what we should have for dinner last night, I knew I needed something simple. Something we didn’t have to test or make new or photograph or document at all. “How about split pea soup?” I asked him. He went to the store for a ham hock and some garlic. We were eating cups of hot soup within the hour.

I made some corn cakes, just wanting to play. Masa, corn flour, shredded cheese, salt, smoked paprika, and an egg, mixed and pressed into little cakes, then cooked up in peanut oil. We liked them enormously — Lu ate four — and they reminded me of something familiar. “Hush puppies?” Danny asked me. I think that’s right. I’ll make them again and write them up next time, but if you don’t need a recipe, you might want to make some with this soup too.

In the end, the soup was shimmering lovely and I decided to take photos of it after all. We want you to have some too.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium carrot, peeled, quartered, and chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and diced small
2 ribs celery, diced small
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 small ham hock
3 cups yellow split peas
6 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper

Cooking the vegetables. Set a Dutch oven over medium heat. Pour in the olive oil. Add the carrot, onion, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are softened, about 7 minutes. Add the rosemary and cook until it’s fragrant, about 1 minute.

Making the soup. Add the ham hock, split peas, and chicken stock to the Dutch oven. Stir. Bring the liquid to a boil and stir, then turn down the heat to low and simmer everything until the split peas are soft, about 20 to 40 minutes, depending on your stove. (Take out a spoonful of the split peas and eat them to test. Make sure they’re not hard.)

Pureeing the soup. Remove the ham hock from the soup. Move 3/4 of the soup to a blender. (You might have to do this in batches.) Puree the soup until it is smooth. You might have to add some water to make sure the soup isn’t too thick. Return the soup back to the Dutch oven and stir. Bring the soup back to a boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cut the meat of the ham hock off the bone. Chop it up and top each bowl of soup with some ham hock.

Feeds 8.

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