First off, thanks so much to all of you for your love, sympathy, and good wishes. It’s amazing how all of that feeling really does travel across space & time to make a difference. I remember that sensation when my father died; it was as if I could literally reach out and touch the compassion being sent my way from people all over the world. They were holding me up, buffering me. Astonishing.
I know that there are much more dramatic, intense, & devastating events than the loss of an old dog; the world is full of so much sadness and hurt that if I think about it too much, it literally impairs my ability to function. Behind every ambulance siren or news item is someone whose life is changing forever, someone whose idea of a live-able life looks, by necessity, drastically different from mine.
Life can be kind of terrifying, right? Jill’s getting on a plane this afternoon to fly away to Egypt for a conference, and while I am terribly excited for her, in the moments I allow myself to imagine my life without her I am utterly broken open. Someday, too, my mother will die and I just don’t know what to do about that.
I also know that it doesn’t do to dwell on these things. A life of terror and worry is useful to no one and does nothing to thwart the inevitable. But I do want to be mindful of the preciousness of my days, to balance being blithe and joyful with an ocean of earnest feeling. I never want to forget that potent urgency I experienced after losing my father, the absolute necessity of living life in this moment instead of planning for “someday.” For months, I walked around so mad I could spit to see all of these human beings wasting time as if they had time to waste. The job they found unfulfilling, the relationship they refused to mend, the feelings they wouldn’t share, the project or plan or dream they kept putting off.
Last week, I went to see the Alley Theatre’s very fine production of Thornton Wilder’s American classic, Our Town. Like many, I saw it first in high school. Coming to it some ten years later allowed for a potency of reflection I wasn’t anticipating. The quote my friend Marynelle wrote for me on her senior “goodbye” poster means much more to me now than it did then:
Emily: Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?–every, every minute?
Stage Manager: No. The saints and poets, maybe–they do some.
While it may be somewhat impossible to get every, every minute, I’m working on more every day. The lovely purple tulips on my desk, my students who make me laugh, my beloved who sings along to Chaka Khan in her big red truck, my dear friends who delight and care for me—all hang in the balance of what I love and what I’d miss (like Jill & her bff Bonnie):
Perhaps you are one of those people who revisit the same movie, book, or play every year or every couple of years. I love the idea of coming back to words and scenes which stay constant while we change, measuring ourselves against them as a kind of yardstick.
Right now I’m planning a re-read of Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge, to see how/if it will move me, ten years later. I return regularly to The Bhagavad Gita, of course, and The Tao Te Ching. Other re-reads I’d like to take on include Little Women (Alcott), The Glass Bead Game (Hesse), & Crime and Punishment (Dostoevksy).
What about ya’ll?
Don’t worry, in all of this “deep” talk, I haven’t forgotten about the food! Two spicy shrimp dishes here: the first is a favorite of my father’s, the latter certainly would have been, and both are excellent for football watching (Sonya & Jill tested them out a few weekends back).
CHIPOTLE BAKED SHRIMP
Adapted from Gourmet, August 2000
Look for smoky chipotles in adobo sauce on the International Foods aisle, with other Mexican condiments. You won’t need a whole can, so buy a pork tenderloin while you’re at it for some really good sandwiches.
I’ve made this recipe both with the shells on and the shells off. Tastes great either way, but shells on is more fun and also messy—you shell them as you eat, slurping up extra sauce.
1 ½ – 2 lb shrimp
½ stick unsalted butter
¼ cup dry white or red wine
1 ½ T Worcestershire sauce
half a can chipotles in adobo sauce, peppers minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
must serve with: a baguette or other crusty bread, for sopping up sauce
Melt butter in saucepan or microwave. Add in the wine, Worcestershire sauce, chipotles & sauce, garlic, and salt. Toss the shrimp with sauce.
Bake the shrimp in a shallow dish for 10-12 minutes. Serve in wide bowls with plenty of sauce & bread on the side.*
*If you like, you can remove the shrimp from the baking pan & reduce the sauce on the stove before serving.
BUFFALO GRILLED SHRIMP
Slightly adapted from Gourmet, July 2009
I’m not sure what more to say about this except that it’s really, really good. And that you’ll need a lot of napkins.
For the dip:
½ cup sour cream (use half thick yogurt & half sour cream for a slightly healthier option)
½ cup crumbled blue cheese (I used a wonderfully pungent Maytag)
¼ cup chopped green onions
2 T finely chopped dill
juice of half a lemon
a little buttermilk or milk, to thin the dip (skip if you used the yogurt)
salt to taste
Stir together everything except the buttermilk/milk. Then mix in a tablespoon or two until you reach your desired consistency. Personally, I like my blue cheese dip really chunky.
For the shrimp:
1 ½ – 2 lbs shrimp, peeled & deveined
½ stick melted butter
¼ cup hot sauce *
must serve with: many celery sticks!
I made the shrimp in a grill pan over medium-high heat, but the original recipe calls for an outdoor grill. Oil either the pan or rack and then toss the shrimp with a little olive oil, salt, & pepper.
Grill until just cooked through, about 7-8 minutes depending on the heat of your grill.
Stir together butter and hot sauce in a large bowl. Add shrimp and toss until they are coated.
As official BJG taste-testers, Jill and Sonya suggest eating the shrimp plain and “chasing” them with celery dipped in the blue cheese dip. This, they found, was more effective than trying to dip the shrimp themselves.
*We used Louisiana Hot Sauce, Gourmet recommends Frank’s RedHot.