Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Munich I Want to Visit

I am going to go into a bookstore in Munich in March.

I am going to go to the poetry section.

I am going to find an edition of Rilke.

I will probably look at all the neighboring R shelves and discover on the spines of books the names of German poets about whom I know nothing.

I will open some of those books and try to read a line or more with my first-year German.

I will likely find the edition of some unfamiliar poet and decide to buy it. I will have understood just enough of the words and the binding will be appealingly compact and the pages strangely beautiful with all the open space around and between the lines of verse.

I will take the books I want to the cashier and offer the credit card with which I have purchased books in Paris and Venice in recent years.

Five minutes later I will walk out onto the Munich street with a bag in hand.

No other time with those books will likely do as much to convince me of the value of the days I am planning in Munich as that half hour in the bookstore.

Wherever it is.

Whatever street.

Near whatever Munich church I will probably then wend my way.

Photo uploaded from Flickr member soozika.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Flannel and Jazz

Arms full of sheets warm from the dryer, I slow down and listen to the jazz voice of Melody Gardot. Yes, the new year has already brought this new voice – to signal, it seems, new moods. The songs I hear from two rooms away may be more late Friday night than Saturday morning. What is most important, though, is that the sound is January rather than December.

No easy or sensitive memories here. No Christmas darkness, no childhood lights. It is possible to walk out from under the weight of keeping the season and keeping it well.

I approach the bedroom this Saturday morning and start to make the bed. For the first time in a number of weeks there is no table-top tree, no ornaments to acknowledge when I fit flannel around the corners of the mattress. Smoothing the wool blanket over the top-sheet is a clean pleasure. Folding over the blanket’s top edge and aligning the red-and-brown-and-green woolen plaids feels as healthy as a solid night’s sleep in a mountain cabin.

A look around the room at task’s end brings the reassurance customary for a Saturday morning. Today it brings as well that particular January relief when decoration is over. Framed photographs have been returned to their places on bureau and window-sill.

House plants turn to the light.

Heart wakes to jazz.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Red Lentil Rhymes

I like rhymes when they occur unexpectedly, particularly slant rhymes. I am using a term from poetic analysis, but I am really focused on describing an event that echoes an earlier event in some way.

In the slow days after Christmas I accidentally came across the print-out of a recipe that I had known had to be somewhere among the papers from my move in summer 2008. I had almost resigned myself to keeping a particular red lentil soup as a fond winter memory and nothing more.

Of course I could have searched the online archives of the newspaper in which the recipe had first appeared. However, that would mean that my usual reasons for sitting in front of a keyboard had somehow coincided with a longing for red lentil soup.

That longing usually emerged on the rare occasions that I handled the squat, compact white cups from a set of dishes I had purchased for my first apartment in 1981. The cups do not hold enough coffee to displace the hearty blue mugs that have done service every breakfast since August 2008. The white cups are, however, an ideal size for a taste of something – a soup that will accompany a sandwich, an appetizer away from the table.

As though I have had enough guests in my rooms this past year to suggest habitual uses!

What did coincide this week, though, was the surfacing of the recipe and the time to shop and cook and test on a Saturday morning – yesterday morning, January 9.

This fond winter memory moved back onto the calendar. The kitchen counter still cluttered with food processor and cutting board, ends of carrots and a spray of chili powder, I contentedly ladled the red lentil soup into a white cup after its final half-hour simmer. I even brought a sample later to a neighbor who had trusted me this past year with occasional tastes of his curries.

A simple enough recipe to balance the sunny January snowscape outside the window.

And the rhyme?

The date at the top of the newspaper article that had first featured this recipe was January 9, 2008.

I like the idea that the year 2010 can be about bringing life back to sounds and flavors that I may have lost track of, to special moments and enthusiasms that bear remembering and playful reviving.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Fortune Cookies

I can’t say I did anything different this morning.

With the time that a holiday morning brings, I took a skillet out and turned on the burner. Leaning my glass bowl over the sink, I brought the wire whisk down into two eggs and beat them steadily with the milk. Later I chopped parsley that had stayed fresh enough from its purchase earlier in the week and sprinkled it over the eggs in the skillet.

Two slices of multi-grain bread went into the toaster. The small exhaust fan over the stove whirred.

At what I guessed to be the right moment, I grasped the handle and tipped the skillet, first this way, then that. The eggs, puffy and just dry, slid this way, then that. Spatula ready just in case, I tipped and tilted the skillet until it hovered over the plate. I jiggled again.

The yellow folds of the eggs slid onto the plate, the parsley a creamy green under the surface.

Nothing had stuck. My simple meal, the first of 2010, was simply fine.

Finishing the last bites of buttered toast a few minutes later, I thought of the lunch a friend had taken me to this week. In a Chinese restaurant that was new to me, the meal and the company both just the easy-going thing for the final week of the year, I joked when the bill came with fortune cookies.

Would the eerie appropriateness of the fortunes that had punctuated my lunches this past year in a Chinese restaurant near work follow me here?

“Today’s a day to nourish yourself. Feed yourself well,” I read aloud.

“I have,” I said, smiling up at my buddy, “and I will.”

Winter neighborhoods through which I rode later that day put me in mind of the approaching turn of the year. I know I welcome this one, despite the snows and the cold, with a greater readiness to be nourished and surprised than twelve months ago.

On the desk in my bedroom is another recent lunchtime fortune: “Believe it can be done.”

All right, 2010, I do believe.

Just let me know what “it” is when I’m ready for it.