Category Archives: observation

The First Day

I recently wrote a post about processing your experiences. But today I will be switching gears (har har) to talk about a more immediate experience, one that has not been mediated by time, space, or perspective.

me and car, stuffed to the gillsI’m talking about this

Epic Road Trip I’m on.

If you’ve signed up for the newsletter, you already got a taste of it yesterday. But here is where I’ll be posting my observations and stories along the way, as they happen.

Observation 1: Leaving is harder than Going

As stressful as it was to throw a party the day before leaving D.C., it was an awesome party. Friends came from far away, in sickness and in health, bearing non-space-taking gifts and their love and encouragement for the journey.

It was still difficult to let go of things I thought I could use in the next 6 months. Friends helped.

It was painful to cart so many boxes down to the post office, my biceps and forearms protesting the awkward burdens. Friends helped.

It felt so rushed, with so much pressure to Get Out Of There. I ended up leaving 3 hours later than intended, and forgot all the coats and bags hanging in the closet. (D’oh!)

But as soon as I got out of the familiar suburbs of DC, passing through the Beltway to merge onto I-95 S, it disappeared. I felt lighter, giddy, exhilarated, yet calm.

Leaving is harder than going.

Observation #2: Social Capital Counter-Balances the Learning Curve

You may or may not have heard of the term social capital; basically it means that you have assets based on the relationships you cultivate, and what the people in your networks can help you achieve.

I realized as I passed Braddock Rd that eventually I would forget all those things I had learned, all that local knowledge I had built up, and that some of the relationships I had cultivated will dry up and drop off. The same thing happened after I left San Jose, after study abroad in Paris, after Istanbul. It’s natural, after all, to make new attachments and let go of the old.

Moving to a new place will involve new acquaintances, finding new businesses to frequent, learning local streets. The transition time will be a low in terms of social capital, but a high in terms of learning, something I’ve been missing a lot lately.

While I am learning, everything will be exciting!–new!–scary!– and then  as I settle in to a new routine in Portland, OR, things will become easier and relationships will start up again. Another wonderful learning cycle.

Do either of these ring true for you? Tell us in the comments whether you agree… or not!

Creative Endeavor Year

 What a delicious last couple of days.
Beet greens rescued from limpness, crisped up with bacon goodness

With New Year’s Eve on a Saturday and New Year’s Day on a Sunday this year, some may have groused about losing days off work, but I made the most of the celebrations not being smooshed into a few tired late-night hours, only to be confronted with the office coffeemaker the next morning. Ha!
I successfully kick-started my Creative Endeavor Year! I’ve stated lately what I’m interested in, and how differently I want to orient myself, so you maybe have an idea what I’m talking about. No? Ok, then I’ll go first with activities from the last few days, and then would you please chime in?
Lists. Yes, I made lists, in different places, on different-sized scraps of paper, and with overlapping topics. Maybe a little overzealous, but now I get to synthesize! Places I want to travel, places I might want to move, key areas of focus for my new work, my annual review, and goals. Totally exciting, right? Well it is for an introverted organizer.
Slowly Scrambled Eggs (you’re allowed to zone out while scrambling!)

Writing. Yep- as the new tagline indicates, I’m going to let writing take up a lot more space in my life this year. The focus will be on this blog, as I navigate the transition, and on the novel, which will give me a product and some experience in creative process (little out of practice).

Outdoors. A long run, several moderate-length walks in the cool air- clearing the clutter that tends to clump onto my brain if I spend too much time inside. You know what I mean: meant-to-do’s, errands, shoulda-coulda-woulda’s. Unless these get out and on a list, they just hover over my shoulder and make me unproductive or regretful. For me, moving at some speed outdoors tends to banish these thoughts. I return refreshed, like my brain had been through a permanent press and spin-cycle!
Apple, cinnamon-sugar, and perhaps a little butter was involved

Back-to-Basics. Return-to-Roots. (I like alliteration, OK?) On NYE, I made my first loaf of bread in the bread machine I received for Christmas, and have been finding ways to appreciate the simple white slice since then. Today, I tried out my first batch of plain yogurt in the new yogurt-maker, and await the results tomorrow morning. While there are a lot of blogging cooks out there who know how to combine many beautiful exotic ingredients for amazing dishes, I like to take the more minimalist approach. Because really, life is what you make of it. So if you don’t have pimenton de vera or spelt flour or fresh cilantro when the urge to create in the kitchen strikes, don’t fret. Take what you’ve got, and figure out how to honor that. In fact, I think that’ll be the philosophy for this Creative Endeavor Year.

Stale croissant, melted chocolate = uncomplicated souffle
I’ve been cooking pretty simply in the past month, both because of the desire for wintry comfort food and the need for something simply being enough. Call it an overworked metaphor if you like, but here are a few photos to inspire you to take a stab at this philosophy. Whatever you’ve got, honor that.

You may see several of the items listed in my Favorites List, which is no accident. What’s on your List?

Osmotic Pressure and Metaphorical Me

Osmosis is the movement of solvent molecules through a selectively permeable membrane into a region of higher solute concentration, aiming to equalize the solute concentrations on the two sides.”

Often I speak in metaphors which may seem out of place in the current conversation. My brain likes to dig up particularly esoteric or far-fetched descriptions for me to use when I am trying to better convey a certain feeling or state of affairs. This happens frequently at work, and while I register the lack of comprehension, I’m somewhat at a loss to replace my outlandish metaphors with more down-to-earth descriptions. Heave forbid I come off prosaic.

So here is my metaphor from today. I could feel the osmotic pressure of my Within and my Without this morning- the tug and swirl of the happiness experienced through self-discovery and creative effort over the weekend (Inside), contending with the lack of challenge and inability to focus on a long-term goal of the mundane Monday (Outside).

I just sort of floated along with it, letting myself be happy with the former rather than obsess over the latter, and you know what? About 2/3 of the way through the day, my brain started engaging and firing on different pistons, enabling some more cogent contributions to be made to work conversations. Good. Keeping the mind nimble and adaptable. Although- I am thinking maybe the forever-going-around-from-hobby-to-hobby to keep my interest in and mood up is disguising something deeper… but let that go for the moment.

What has been captivating me for the past week or two? All the old hobbies, come back in glorious technicolor: runs on Sundays and yoga on Tuesdays and writing for the novel and baking for friends and cooking for myself. Plus, a new dance course! A style called sean nos, which seems less glamorous but more accessible maybe than step dancing. We’ll see. Two classes and I’m already enjoying the improv parts!

Now as far as the more usual theme for this blog (FOOD), I’ll leave you readers with some encouragement. “If you make it, they will come” turned out to be true for me this week:

red wine chocolate cake — afternoon tea on Saturday with Jess
grilled corn salsa (salad) — Sunday luncheon with Kim and Juan
and tomato-shallot Tarte Tatin
lemon rosemary zucchini bread — brown bag lunch with coworkers (I hope- that’ll be tomorrow!)

So now I’m off to grate my zucchini with my only pertinent instrument- a microplane!- to make it easier to bake tomorrow morning! :-)

And let me know: do you want more Scotland or more food? I’ve got both at the ready…