I imagine many people consider California the dream. Are you one of them? Would living in perpetual sunshine feel like you were on an endless vacation? Perhaps it’s the proximity to the beach that you’d love or the idea of having a citrus tree in your background (okay, actually that sounds pretty nice to me as well).
We’re all good at different things. Sure, we have big, shiny, professional-grade skills, but I’m more interested in the little talents, quirks, and interests that make us us. My older sister can speak in a flat-out flawless British accent, knows how to curl her hair to look like a Pantene Pro-V ad, and has a textbook golf swing. My little sister is an exceptional cook who can whip up calzones one-handed (with a newborn baby on her hip), and has an excellent ability to stay unflaggingly cheerful under nearly any circumstance (airplane travel, the brutal 11th hour of a damp and rainy 12 hour hike up a steep, rocky Adirondack mountain, a run-of-the-mill bad day).
My dad loves malted milk balls. Every Christmas, we wrap up a box of them and tuck it in his stocking. He knows it’s coming, but he always exclaims with surprise and excitement, as if we’ve gifted him a vintage Patek Phillipe. That’s a quality in him that I seek to emulate: the ability to make even tiny things feel like celebrations. To greet ordinary moments with extraordinary joy.
There’s a lot to love about running, but among the many things, is that you don’t need anyone else. You don’t need anything else. Just you, your own two feet, and a path. Empowering and freeing, you can achieve a kind of simple euphoria—physical exhaustion, mental relaxation—on your own terms. Runner’s high is a very apt phrase.
You don’t need an instructor, or a fancy studio. Or a non-fancy studio! You don’t need music. You don’t need the right conditions, or a schedule, or group, or a trainer bellowing at you. You do not need to pay $30. Not needing any of those things is freeing in another way—less goes wrong. Even a bad run is a great run. It’s just you out there. In structured exercise, I find myself prone to fixating on so much: is the room too hot, is the girl next to me fidgeting, how’s the volume of the music, and so on.
Viciously cold outside today. Winter is clinging to the city with a fierce grip. “Let go!” I want to shout at it. “My skin is cold! My hands are cold! Let go,” I silently plead to the sky above. On my walk home last night, I optimistically waltzed into the little ice cream shop on 81 and Amsterdam. I sampled the newest flavor (cherry heartbeet!) before realizing that I was in too wintry a mood even for ice cream. (I know! Who says that?)
As a living, breathing human being, I do love chocolate. I understand why the grocery store check-out counters are lined with chocolate bars. I understand why Willy Wonka is a great movie. (In fact, I completely understand why Augustus Gloop fell into that chocolate river. I’m with you, Augustus! I’d have thrown on my suit and hopped in there with you too!) I understand why Smitten Kitchen has a killer recipe for a cake called the “I want chocolate cake” cake. And I understand why my mom used to hide the chocolate chips at the back of the freezer when we were little. Honestly, she probably still should.
A winter storm blanketed the city last Tuesday. Emerging from the subway stop at the West 12th stop felt like stepping into a snow globe: delicate, feathery flakes swirled thickly in the air, threatening to obscure the neat rows of brownstones that line the cobblestone streets of the West Village. In this weather, the city looks quietly beautiful—vulnerable almost. The whiteness softens the grit and grime and the crooked roads of the village are smooth and bright and pristine with snow.
Pretty as it is, it’s the slippery sort of snow that feels both slushy and icy under my feet. I navigate the few blocks to the restaurant carefully, placing one foot firmly in front of the other, hurrying to get out of the biting wind. Cold bits of ice land inside my jacket hood, nipping at my cheeks.
I’ve been giving a lot of thought to cake lately, as I’ve been working on—and editing—an article all about birthday cakes for work (tough job, I know). For me, chocolate cake is one of the more tricky ones to nail properly. Let me clarify: chocolate layer cake. Classic chocolate layer cake. The other kinds, like flourless chocolate cake or molten lava cake, are generally more foolproof. (Throw enough chocolate in anything and it’ll taste pretty excellent.)
The famous photographer Yosuf Karsh wisely said that “character, like a photograph, develops in the dark.” We know this, don’t we? That it’s against the dark that we’re able to appreciate the light? Mary Oliver has more to say on this—as she tends to do—and her words are at the end of this post, and worth a read.
I suppose then, since we’re talking biscuits today, you could say: “Po, does that mean that we must go without biscuits for days in order to appreciate them when we bake them?”
My best writing comes to me at night. It arrives within warning. Sometimes it steps politely, almost tentatively, out of the dusky edges of my mind as I’m falling asleep. My thoughts recess obediently, filing out of my head, and the writing pokes its head in, as if it’s the last straggling coworker in the office, as if to say: “Excuse me? Just a few things quickly before I head home.”