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On walks, scents, and being your own compass

Posted in Burgundy with tags , , , , on July 20, 2012 by ana

I’ve always loved going for long walks at night. Here, the air smells of mowed grass, trees, pebbly, dusty road, and wet wood when I walk. The last time I breathed air this clean was probably in Spain two years ago. It was around the same time of  year except the air smelled of river and stone.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about scents. I’ve been a bit violet obsessed. In part, because I think it is a suitable scent to wear while baking, but also because I like that it’s both dame-like and masculine in a dandy sort of way. I’ve also been thinking about red wine. Not the specific smells of a particular wine but the general scent. It is a layer in the olfactory memory of many great meals, and of memorable conversations sitting on couches or standing in kitchens with good friends. Then there was a conversation I had in Paris with a lovely perfume obsessed girl. Talking with her made me start thinking about the structure of fragrance and the often ignored construction of atmosphere through scents.

Trampling through the fields that are now my backyard, breathing in the green air, a group of small black birds flew by. Their wings flapping sounded almost like rain. Each time I’ve seen these bird in the gloaming sky I have thought of that Olivier Theyskens dress that Kirsten Dunst wore to the premier of Marie Antoinette at Cannes and wondered if a walk just after sunset inspired him.

I feel so sheltered, inspired, and grounded by nature right now. Sometimes limitations create expansion. I have very little internet access here. The service on my phone is also limited. Little by little this new quieter rythm is seeping in to everything. Walking back to my apartment I thought, I don’t need anything right now. I am perfectly satisfied. I am working towards things. I had a full day. I ate delicious food. I swam. I worked. I read. There is nothing right this moment that I want or need.

It has been so long since I felt that way. I used to feel that way with Leo all the time. We would be driving somewhere in his little vintage car. Zooming down the 101 to dinner or a show listening to tunes we loved, and I would feel that exact same feeling. This time, I thought, I got here by my sheer strength and will. I had a lot of help but I’ve steered it all with the needle of my own compass.

notebooks & watercolors

Posted in 38 with tags , , , , on December 14, 2011 by ana

I found this drawing in an old journal. I think I was living in Brooklyn, and quite possibly had the chicken pox, when I  drew it. I had the chicken pox when I was 27. The older you are, the harder it hits you. I looked like an alien.

I haven’t been feeling like myself lately. I can guess why but all the guesses so far haven’t felt quite on the mark. So, I’m just trying to go with it and stay as focused as I can while enjoying the feeling that exciting stuff is on the horizon. Most of the time I fail but I’m not letting that stop me from trying.

In a little over a week I’m going home for the holidays. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s my favorite time of year to be in Puerto Rico. I’m longing to breath the salty air and feel the sun on my skin. I’m craving the feeling of being in my mom’s apartment and my dad’s house.  I can’t wait to see Anouk and my three other friends who I have known forever, and I’m really looking forward to seeing my family. Going home always recharges my batteries and infuses me with perspective. Nothing like driving past your old High School to give you a sense of all that you have done right in your life and how happy you are for the choices you have made.

 

I think what I like about the drawing above is that it reminds me of how much I have always loved food and thought about it. I had a boyfriend, at the time I made the drawing, that used to always tell me that I was in my element whenever I would cook. I loved going with him to his sister’s house in Upstate New York and cooking. She had a great kitchen that opened on to a deck, and what seemed like a forest beyond her yard. When I think about it now, I don’t think I ever really heard what he was saying. I don’t think I saw what he was seeing in me or I didn’t take it seriously.

The drawing also makes me think about my friend Elle because she loves food and she loves small drawings. I’ve known Elle for a long time but it wasn’t until she was my boss that our friendship gelled. Elle has always shown me interesting, lovely, loving ways of looking at food. Working for her at epicurious was the first time I realized that there was a world of food out there and people who were excited and passionate about it.

My whole life there have always been little hints of how I feel about food. It has always excited me but it has also always been a relationship fraught with conflict because of my relationship to my body. All this has been shifting in the past year. Sometimes I feel like my old self, conflicted about my body, conflicted about food and how I eat. Other times I feel a new experience emerging that is so much healthier and kind and embracing. This newer perspective on food and body image feels exciting, empowering, and  sexy to me.  This is what I hope is the next part of my journey, more of that exploration, more of that embracing, and more celebration.

I’ve been thinking about the weekend I spent with Willa a few months ago.  I think I wrote about it before. I was in tears almost the entire time I visited her and she was so loving.  We went to the beach one afternoon with her baby. It was cold and misty, and most of the beach was closed off as a haven for seals. I felt so frustrated, so restless, so hungry for answers. I played with her baby and cried, and she said to me,  “you are like one of your collages, filled with all the things that you like and interest you. You don’t have to be one thing. You can be a collection of all the things you’ve done.”

That night we made a pasta that I learned about in the summer, orchiette with cabbage and pancetta. We drank wine and after dinner I snuck off to have a cigarette. Willa came out to keep me company. We just sat there, staring at the trees behind her house. “I think so much of what you are feeling,” she said,  “has to do with the break up, with the disappointment, with the unfulfilled expectations. And you have a right to be angry. I’m angry. Paul is angry. None of us can believe it. That he would just let you go.”  And I told her I felt so stupid for trusting, for believing in him. That I felt so disappointed  with myself. That I wanted a partner. That I wanted a baby. That I needed to loose the weight I had gained from all the drinking and candy I had eaten over the past year and do more yoga, and go for runs. The list went on and on. Willa hugged me and said, “you are perfect just as you are and love will come when the time is right and it won’t care if you have gained or lost weight. It won’t care about your accomplishments or disappointments. It will love you as you are.”

Anouk, Stevie, and Mina have also said this to me. You are perfect just as you are. When Willa said it on her deck that night, I think it was the first time I really heard what they were saying. It’s such a foreign idea to me that I’m still wrapping my head around it and embracing it. Usually before I go home for the holidays I hit the gym in a frenzy. Trying to look better, to change myself somehow. This year it hasn’t mattered. Not because I don’t care. Not because I’m letting myself go but just because I don’t feel my worth is attached to it the way I did before.

Home is often also often a reminder of all the things that I have to supposedly have at this stage in my life- husband, career, family. I want those things but, as much as I can’t often help feeling impatient, I’m also starting to see that it doesn’t matter whether I have those things right now or not. I’m following my heart and that is all that matters.

My friend Valentina called this morning to talk about a puerto rican stew she is making for her holiday party. When I told her about all my visa woes and restlessness she said, ” Ana, no stress. You are going to go when the time is right. What is meant for you is meant for you and will be waiting for you.”

I know she is right. Things are unfolding slowly for a reason. It is not for me to figure out why. I just need to trust it. I battle with that trust. I throw temper tantrums at it. But the things that I want most- to become a better baker, a better writer, a better artist, a better ice cream maker, and to fall in love again- all happen over time, with openness, and little meddling. If I look at the patterns and the rhythms of my life I have the proof that when I let go and relax, at the right moment, secrets are revealed.