[West Marin, 2010.]
Last week I went out into the fields. Oh, maybe this isn’t such a big deal but: I miss the fields, living here in the city. When I was little my brother and I would go into the field adjacent to our house and play for hours (‘War’, ‘Cowboys and Indians,’ [ack] ‘Settlers,’ just making forts in the tall grass). At some point my dad had built us a tree house in this beautiful old oak tree there, and my brother went out to collect grasses in the foggy mornings which I’d then ‘cook’into a soup — please do not make a comment about our gender dividation, pretty please; we were happy to do it. When I got older in summers home from school I’d climb high up high into the branches, leaves scratching at my arms, and balance on those delicate, stronger-than-I-realized branches, sailing away across the neighborhood. My childhood: a lovely, wild thing.
So when you move to a white-walled, concrete-blasted — though! still lovely — city, it takes a bit of an adjustment, yes? You miss the green, and the wide-open.
Anyway: last week I went into the fields. I stared down a cow or two. I shivered into my down vest. I wished for gloves. Tomales Bay glowered grey and still from across the way and I thought about all those times my dad and I kayaked across its sleek surface, whales or seals notwithstanding, in sweet August, in hot weather (was really wishing for that hot weather). The fog and rain crept in. I remembered when my friends Randy and Logan and I drove to Tomales Point and roamed around in the mist taking photos of the old ranch. I remembered the day after when I went to the beach with my brother and his best friend and walked and walked in the cold sun; I remembered a day on the when we saw whales out-of-season turning and and blowing out to sea in the waves; I remembered the day I put my sweet cousin’s ashes into the Pacific Ocean when she was no longer here and I remembered
Today is the day.
Today is the day to call someone back. Today is the day to tell your brother you love him (today is the day to tell your cousin you can’t live without her). Today is the day to make plans to visit your grandmother. Today is the day to eat delicious organic vegetables and drink champagne in the park with your sweet girlfriend. Today is the day to write that email. Today is the day to tell your uncle you miss him. Today is the day to call your mom. Today is the day to go to bed early. Today is the day to go into the mountains. Today is the day to make a pot of tea and drink it all yourself, with milk and sugar, please. Today is the day to call your darling in England and tell her you miss her more than you even know how to say. Today is the day to start your novel.
Today is the day to take a deep breath. Today is the day to sign up for a marathon. Today is the day to lie on the couch all day. Today is the day to cook something new. Today is the day to listen to Alison Krauss and tuck her in close. Today is the to go to the library (!!) and check out a) that stupid Dylan Thomas biography b) ‘The Art of Eating’ to make up for it c) ‘The Night Watch’ (because it’s gorgeous) d) ‘The Secret River,’ which I’ve told you about ages ago but which bears repeating. Today is the day to listen to Kate Rusby nonstop. Today is the day to bake a chocolate cake for your best friend’s baby. Today is the day to tell Kate she is your soul mate. Today is the day to say ‘I love you.’ Today is the day to tell your mom to write her heart out, because you can’t wait to read what she will write. Today is the day to buy beets. Today is the day to take a chance.
Today is the day to say: I will never live this life again. So: I will live this life with no regrets. I will live this life open-armed, as fully as I can do it.
(Or, let’s be realistic: as little regret as is possible.)
But today’s the day to say: I will never live this life again. So let’s do it. Let’s . Let’s take a deep breath and go up Half Dome on the cables; let’s trust; let’s hold hands. Let’s open up and let in love. Let’s do all that stuff you and me have always kinda wanted to do. Today’s the day to let it all happen.
Today’s the day.
Today is also the day to bake a chocolate angel food cake. Oh really: it is. Trust me on this one. Forget about (for now) chasing cows/Half Dome/green fields/etc. — if you have about 6 eggs you can separate to use the whites (a delicious pudding recipe that will use the yolks will follow, never fear), you can make up for all that love earlier this week. To that end, here’s a whole cake of mostly chocolate (and eggs) — an airy, cheerful bit of the thing that nonetheless wallops you with a good dose of, well, chocolate.
My dad liked it pretty well so you know it’s OK — it’s been vetted and appreciated.
(Also, today is the day to remember there is more than just the day-to-day; we must go up and into and press our faces against the cool rocks for as long we are able; that what is eternal is the hard rock against our back, the wide valley, the endless ocean.)
Wander a whole summer if you can. Thousands of God’s blessings will search you and soak you as if you were a sponge, and the big days will go by uncounted. If you are business-tangled and so burdened by duty that only weeks can be got out of the heavy laden year, give a month at least. The time will not be taken from the sum of life. Instead of shortening, it will indefinitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal.
Lie down among the pines for a while then get to plain pure white love-work to help humanity and other mortals.
Going to the mountains is going home.
(Go please. Let me know it was. I’ll wait. Can’t wait to hear your stories.)
Chocolate Angel Food Cake, adapted from the Joy of Cooking
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Sift before measuring
3/4 cup cake flour
Resift 5 (!) times with
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup egg whites (for me, about 6 large eggs)
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
Whip until stiff but but not dry. Fold in the sifted sugar, 1 Tb. at a time. Add:
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Sift the flour over the batter gently until it’s fully combined. Pour into the UNGREASED (g-d, don’t grease it of Joy of Cooking will disown you) pan, and bake for about 45 minutes. Cool upside down, and hope to hell you can pry it out of the pan.
Honestly, this cake is a bit of a pain, but it turns out delish and despite it all is worth it, esp. if your dad really likes it.