Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Community of Food

Every time I sit down to a meal, I realize that I married well.

You see, my mate is a foodie.

She pays attention to the tastes of different kinds of salt.
She mixes preserved lemon into our pasta, and thinks goat cheese is one of the finest things on the planet Earth.
She buys a particular bottle of wine for its qualities, not (like me) because the grocer has it on special for $3.
And though she is not at all snooty, my mate is a woman of taste and culinary culture...married to a man who, left on his own in the choosing of foods, would happily dine on beer and peanuts all three meals a day.

Leah puts creativity, mindfulness, and her good soul into the making of a meal, elevating food to High Art.

I am a most fortunate fellow.


I heard recently that a neighbor who lives down the lane from us also is making food into art, and I thought I might use my cameras (and this blog) as an excuse to investigate. Word was that the neighbor has teamed up with a couple of friends, and that the three women are turning out baked goods that are All The Rage at the nearby Saturday Farmers’ Market in Poulsbo, WA.

My neighbor and her friends call their business The Food Shed, and, ohmygoodness, what an amazing Food Find I wandered into!

I learned (in my nosy, quasi-journalistic search for The Story) that the three women started with a business ethic that stresses ingredients that are as local and in-season as possible; and I saw that each baker seems to add a high-energy, creative flare all her own. I hung out with the women in the wee hours on a recent Saturday morning as they worked in a commercial kitchen. I watched the making of asparagus bread twists, and strawberry and rhubarb hand pies (the women also make savory hand pies using herbs, potatoes, and spring onions.) There is more that they made, a LOT more, but I need to stop typing soon, as I’m about to salivate into my computer keyboard.

After pulling a college-style all-nighter, the three bakers barely had time to get their still-warm-from-the-oven goodies displayed at their stand before market-goers began lining up. It was a typically rainy Pacific Northwest day, but I sensed the weather only made sweets more appealing, and that Saturdays in our part of the world are a GREAT day for eating.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Home and Away

The last big, Bilbo-Baggins-esque adventure Leah and I had was in the fall of 2007 when we went trekking in the Himalaya of Nepal. For three weeks we hiked and struggled for breath as our guide led us along the trails up into the thin air of the highest mountain range on Earth -- a trip that for me at least was a dream 30 years in the making. As one who has spent his adult life climbing to the mountain summits of the Pacific Northwest, I’d fantasized about what it would be like to one day climb Mt. Everest...but, as the years advanced, the idea of just being in the Himalaya seemed like it’d be pretty damned cool.

And so we went, and the trip was both more difficult than we’d ever imagined it could be, but also way more rewarding. For nearly the entire three weeks of the trek, one or both of us was miserably and even frightfully sick with one malady or another, and, if you read the journals we kept, we spent a lot of time wanting only to be back home. Still, we realize now, through the clear vision of hindsight, how much those difficult days taught us, how rich the experience was, and we’re talking about what we might do for our Next Big Trip.

“The world is big, and life is short,” a friend of ours says, and Leah and I have settled on India as our likely next destination, with a side trip back to Nepal (to revisit friends we made in 2007.) We know India will challenge us and probably give us a hard push out of our comfort zones.

Here at home yesterday, I photographed our son’s dog as he enjoyed a morning in the sunshine, watching bugs. Another day I got down on the ground and did up-close pictures of one of my favorite wildflowers, bleeding hearts.

Each day, wherever it is that we find ourselves, there is something to see...but, for most of us, sometimes a trip away offers a needed reminder to keep our eyes open.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Munchkin Chronicles

Do you ever wonder why some stuff sticks in your brain, while other stuff does not?

For example: I “organized” our garage a couple of months ago and I put an old, now-seldom-worn pair of hiking boots in what seemed at the time like a logical place. When I looked for the boots last week, I had no idea where I’d put them...yet I can remember, rock-by-rock and vista-by-vista, many of the hundreds of trail miles I walked in those boots.

And there’s this: When I was in high school, I took a geometry class and the teacher was a sweet, gray-haired woman, kind of grandmotherly, and I liked her and really studied for her (my inclination at the time would have been to give only minor effort to anything that even smelled like math.) Yet today I couldn’t solve the simplest of geometry problems.

I do remember, however, that when I was only about three my parents went to visit friends of theirs named Rockwell, and today, I can clearly recall that visit, and that the Rockwells had no kids but they did have the coolest toy box in their dining room...and I can remember the layout of that dining room and how the toy box was next to their walnut china cabinet, and what a great time I had in that house where people had no kids but there was a toy box.

So what's the deal with this memory of mine?

Now that I’m an adult, I’m of the belief that, when kids come to our house to visit, we’d better have some toys on hand. And if the kids tire of the toys and decide they’d rather play our piano, we let them do that. Even better, we have kid-friendly farm animals outside, a veritable petting-zoo.

Our niece from Montana and her husband and two children stayed here for a couple of days this week. We played inside for hours, and we also made countless trips out to our barn to gather eggs. One of my neighbors said we could come over to his place to see his turkeys and ducks and pigs, and another neighbor said we could give his horses treats.

I can’t speak for the kids, but I know that, as unpredictable as my weird brain might sometimes be, I’ll always remember what a great visit we had.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Seeing with Heart

Not long ago I was photographing an event at a Buddhist monastery for my friends in the Seattle-area Tibetan community. One of the monastery's lamas, a Tibetan who is quite learned -- and I think wise, and who I’m coming to respect greatly -- said something to me that was wonderful:

“Your photos,” he said...
(and then he touched his forehead)...
..."like a monk.”

Now, I must admit that the lama’s English is sometimes a bit difficult for me to understand. And, though I’m making an effort to learn Tibetan, I so far only know a few words and basic phrases. Still, I sensed by his words and body language that the lama was telling me that he’d seen the work I’ve been doing for the Tibetans and that he could see monk-like qualities in the images. I don’t believe the lama was telling me that my pictures are “good” or “bad” (a lama generally would not see things that way,) but that the images are made with compassion and empathy, bedrock qualities of mind practiced by monks.

It was a conversation I will remember always.


My personal photo diary this week -- the moments that presented themselves to me -- could be titled “Critters in my World.”

--A small tree frog seems to have taken up residence inside an old blue golf umbrella that we keep on our front porch.

--The neighbor’s horse has been grazing in a pasture filled with buttercups.

--The goat Pumpkin cozied up to a visitor.

In the big world-at-large, these everyday moments might be non-events, but to me they’re examples of what agrarian writer Wendell Berry calls “The Art of the Commonplace.”

I will continue to practice seeing small.