Category Archives: writing

on writing, rewriting, & taking notes

Towards

This day is unlike any other we have had a long while.


I wrote that in October, but it can apply to any day.

That October day: After days of tranquil mild weather, when the landscape is so achingly beautiful, and fall transforming itself to a summer that still lingered, it rained in a winter’s way. In Maine, they are expecting snow. Here, on the Cape of Cod, the balmy warmth of the day gave way to grey and drizzle, the kind that brings up images of salty sailors in yellow fishing gear, the loneliness of lighthouses, and a vacant fog. My throat itches, as if the change in weather heralded the end of reliable health for the sniffles of autumn.

I feel a pull, a desire to nap, eat honey and hibernate, and wake refreshed to my own spring step.

This day, meant for oyster crackers and warm soup.

Any day, soup.

And any day knowing that happiness is a pursuit, a possibility to be worked at, and harder still is a settling of self. An acceptance of what and where one is.

Here below is To Autumn by John Keats:

(copied by the Poetry Foundation website)

(And a thank to the WordPress happiness agent to helped me today.)

To Autumn

by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, 

   Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; 

Conspiring with him how to load and bless 

   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run; 

To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees, 

   And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; 

      To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells 

   With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, 

And still more, later flowers for the bees, 

Until they think warm days will never cease, 

      For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells. 

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store? 

   Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find 

Thee sitting careless on a granary floor, 

   Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind; 

Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep, 

   Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook

      Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers: 

And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep 

   Steady thy laden head across a brook; 

   Or by a cyder-press, with patient look, 

      Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?

   Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,— 

While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day, 

   And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue; 

Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn

   Among the river sallows, borne aloft 

      Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies; 

And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn; 

   Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft

   The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;


And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Recovery, Reverie

The day was going to be different. Isn’t that always the case? I was going to go in to Boston for my weekly class, but because a guest writer was giving a reading, we were going to use the time after to write. News of a nor’easter came, and I woke to find the power gone. I wrote to my class to enjoy the reading without me,waxing poetic about the rain and wind, and how this was the kind of weather to birth pages of words.

But instead of clearing my desk, I noticed that the radio station where I volunteer at needed someone to cover a shift. Well I could do that, I thought, driving over. Somehow I managed to cram three hours of business donor ads into an hour, play some music, overturn a loose leaf folder which emptied its pages onto the floor. A listener called to gently correct my prunciation of an artist’s name. I managed to continue to miss cues, knock my headphones apart, suffer three coughing fits, and finally gather my raincoat to exit.

One reason I thought I’d cover a shift was because I woke in acute pain from the shingles vaccination I’d had the day before. As I write this, with mild fever , a fuzzy head, and achy body, already in bed at a quarter past seven, I wonder what fresh hell is this? Let’s roll out all those cliches. Being sick on your own is no fun. Who can you call for comfort? These days it is all texting. So you take some Advil, a teaspoon of honey because a friend of yours makes it with her bees, and wait for the morning.

How many nights do I just wait for morning? Tonight, I made a dinner out of a can of vegetable soup a friend recommended, adding some rasam powder, garlic, and mustard seed I fried in a small amount of olive oil, and several pieces of corn tortillas. I watched an episode of Doc Martin, wishing it was The British Baking Show, and finally made my way to bed.

It seems to me that I should host a dinner-making party, where every one gathers to make food for the week. Of course, it would have to be vegetarian in my kitchen, and there will be two curious cats around. And I’d have to scrub everything down to keep the dander away, and already the thought has exhausted me.

Somewhere in this essay is a cry, muted, but hovering: vaccines hurt; the immunities lower, the eyes get weepy, the body aches. I am grateful for a full belly, a warm bed. I want more, but this enough. Yesterday was different,as I listened some truly amazing music on the radio throughout the day and night in the car, went to a play, and came home to stay up until past midnight googling the play I had just seen. Tomorrow will be different. Outside, it not raining, but only the sound of wind filling the air.

A Single Woman and the Farmer’s market

 

Indira Ganesan, Bounty from a friend and the market, 2019

The problem is that everything looks so good.  And maybe if I lived in my concept of France, I could be one of those women who chooses one tomato, one cucumber, a small head of lectuce, garlic, one zucchini, and go home to make a lovely and delicious lunch for one.  I would pour a hand-made kombucha, and salute the validity of humanity, life, and food.  Instead I go and reach with my hand to grab several eggplant, add beans, add tomatoes, add kale, add and add until my bag bulges with dinner for four for a week.  And coming home, exhausted, hot and sweaty, cursing the already sky high sun, and eat a cookie, as the vegetables, packed away in the fridge, photographed in their lovely wooden bowl, languish.  Of course, France has nothing to do with it.  It is this self-care I learn again and again to make a meal for one, a meal not to show off culinary prowess borrowed from a score of cookbooks, but simply to feed and fuel myself for the day.

Over the summer, a student taught me to blend chickpeas with kale and broccoli, and make a soup that sits thick on the spoon. I ate some now, and am full.

It is lunch that undoes me, for the easiest thing is to grab two slices aof bread, dill pickle, cheese, a tomato, and call it a meal.I have written about this before, about the deliciousness of cheese sandwiches, cold or grilled. But it all that bread and cheese.   My mother used to make us sandwiches that were really salads in diguise, and sometimes I follow suit. But give me buttered toast, and I am happy.  Give me a sweetened bread and coffee and I am inspired.  Sadly, though I love the beauty of vegetables, I am not in love with them.

How do these words help anyone but me?  Maybe by writing, I can make nutrition happen, care for my body, live better.  Athletics were never interesting to me, but being exhausted is wearisome.  Murakami runs before he writes.  A number of women in New York walk in the park before gathering for coffee, and departing individually to write.  Me, I get in my car and drive, often to buy food or find a place to eat.  The work gets done, but there is so much else to be written, and read.  Here I am embarking on my nineth fall in one apartment, the longest I have ever stayed in one place.  It has taken me years to like where I live, and not miss where I am not.  Of course, the minute one starts to appreciate something, the more one is aware of how quickly it can be taken away.  To practice non-attachment, to place, food, people, to even my work, or the idea of work, that is ,writing books, might take another decade.  I write this to record.  Maybe to read without cringing a year from now.  To make a measure of this lived life.

More Home Truths About Food

 

In fact, it wasn’t just rice and lentils and vegetables and yogurt on the table growing up.  My mom is an excellent cook.  In the early days of immigration, there were lots of parties, and lots of food.  My mom made snacks and sweets, and specialties from all over South Asia.  Home cooks, my mother and her friends knew how to cook for the family and cook to impress, and traded ingenious ways to coax delicacies using Pillsbury products and Bisquix, in addition to what could be found from a trip to the Indian grocery store, hours away.  This supplemented the foods my grandmother had prepared and paxcked in her suitcase, and later sent through friends.  Savories like dried salted mango, homemade mango pickles, ready to fry pappadum.  

My mom would use a hand held brass press to shape chickpea batter into hot oil where the complicated shapes would bubble up and solidify into preztels.  There were pounds of carrots grated into halvah: that was my job, to grate the carrots.  I helped shape  the dough to transform into sugar soaked badushas and rasagullas, though my shapes were never as good as my mom’s.   Her hands steady, the same fingers that made perfect rounds to fry into sweets also made dresses for me, and my dolls, not to mention the slipcovers and  curtains. She had a BSc in Chemistry and Biology from india,and though her life centered around the house and us, she gave us dreams to leave and circle back.

She is in her eighties now, and doesn’t cook as much as she used to, and why should she, but she did make badushas for my niece to celebrate going to college.  And I made a hot-milk vanilla cake,decorated it with rose petals and lavender, and put it on instagram.  Unlike the beauty of the photo, the cake was less than great.  I had over beaten the batter, and a rubbery streak ran through it when I finally cut into it.

Now I have eggplants sizzling in ot oil, stuffed with amixture of coconut and spice.  Sounds good, right, if you like those ingredients.  The result won’t be instagram perfect. but I’ll let you know how it turned out.  I used Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe from her beautifully illustrated World of East Vegetarian Cooking. 

And this video in Telegu uses a different recipe but fun to watch:

https://youtu.be/ZyEQPiQvUHo

My brinjal came out okay. Like anything, these things take practice. And fall is always energizing.

 

Every Day the Hummingbird

Most every day this summer, a hummingbird visits the balcony, sometimes twice, sipping from the salvias. It has a tweet that I’ve learned to distinguish. Often, after sipping, it will hover in front of the window, as if to say hello, or perhaps see if there is more food available within. this never fails to delight. The cats, though, watch without interest, which interests me. The thrum of its wings, that distinct sound of a wooden chair scraping a wooden floor, or a distint helicopter lets me know it is near. Here, it comes again.

Indira Ganesan, Hummingbird Visit, 2019