Old photo! Haven't used this exact one before, though.
I mentioned the book Goat Song by Brad Kessler in my Monday daybook. I am reading through it again and enjoying it possibly even more than last time. On Monday, wondering what is it about a particular book that resonates with a particular soul, I wrote this: “You know how the style of certain authors on certain topics ‘clicks’ with you? That was [Goat Song] with me.”
And just this morning, I ran across words that echoed mine, written by Kessler himself in Goat Song: “A book is like a key that fits the tumbler of the soul. The two parts have to match in order for each to unlock. Then—click—a world opens.”
The author’s descriptions of his life with goats and the contemplative art of cheese-making has relit a fire under me to get hold of raw goat’s milk and begin, again, to make goat cheese, only this time I’m not only going to make farmer cheese, but I’m going to make chevre. And I am excited to get started! It won’t be professionally done with the aid of a cheese shed (a “make room”) that has developed an environment abounding with the right cultures for this kind of cheese, as well as all of the equipment for making great cheese (though maybe this is unnecessary—I’m an utter novice, so what do I know?!).
Kessler’s rhapsodic reveries over the taste of his homemade cheese reminded me of something I saw a few years ago but didn’t pay more than immediate attention to because I didn’t really know much about him then. Gourmet magazine’s website has a series that I like (I don’t know if they still do this, but they should). Various famous people share their “Day on a Plate”—everything they ate in 24 hours. (Isn’t that a fun idea?!) And Kesslershared his. I read it, I liked it, and I stayed at the computer and wrote my own. My food for the day wasn’t as exotic as Brad Kessler and his wife’s (great cheese, great artisanal bread, great wine), but it was still fun to write my own little food log, prudishly nutritious as my eating was that day. I did break free from nutritional strictness by eating delicious dark chocolate, although, in the back of my mind, I know it is full of beneficial antioxidants (but I try not to think about such things when I eat).
Another book that has me gripped is, believe it or not, Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. I was already really interested in learning more about cultured and fermented foods (these processes make the nutrition in foods far more bioavailable than in their normally eaten state), so this book would have been interesting even if it hadn’t been so nicely and engagingly written. The ideas in the book are streamlined, straightforward, and simply put. I’ve read a large number of books and articles about sourdough starters, but nowhere is it made so simple and straightforward as here. And being one who prefers to keep everything as massively simple as I can, I love this! I will be trying many recipes in this book. I’ll be pickling and fermenting everything in sight, making kombucha and sauerkraut and kefir and yogurt, as well as a number of previously unknown-to-me fermented foods. I’ll keep you posted.
Why, I don’t know, but I’ve been looking over some books on creativity. One is a book that I’ve had for years and love. You might know it. It’s called The Creative Habit by venerable Broadway and movie choreographer Twyla Tharp. In a nutshell, her key to creativity is to show up. Just show up. Day after day after day, no matter how you feel. When you are hit hard with troubles and trials or ennui or lack of motivation or inspiration, show up anyway. Just going through the ritual of getting yourself where you need to be is the biggest step. Step into the Jordan and it opens up. So, it comes down to making a habit of showing up. Rituals and routines are powerful. They jumpstart us and get the ball rolling, and once it’s rolling the battle is way more than half over. Twyla has many other tips, too, most of them down-to-earth, real, and practical. She speaks my language.
Another book on creativity is one I bought at Borders on the clearance shelves. (60% off the latest clearance price = some almost free books! Relatively speaking. I did get Marilynne Robinson’s Home for $1, so we’re talking literally close to free. Again, relatively speaking.) I only bought Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way because I remember, long, long ago, reading about it on the Pleasantview Schoolhouse blog. Anna added it to her short list of most influential books. It’s the one that lit a creative fire under her, I believe. Loving Anna’s blog and being amazed by her creative productivity, I wanted to have a good look at the book. This one takes a more spiritual tack than Twyla Tharp’s. It’s about battling your psychic obstacles to creative productivity so that you can get in there and just do it already!
Added later. . . I perused The Artist’s Way in the wee hours of this morning when I was wide awake but it was too early to be up and about. One chapter captured my attention, so I read the whole thing. And I have to say that I think I am going to really like this book. I wondered if it would be a bit too esoteric and not enough “feet on the ground” to suit me, but, no, it addresses the heart and the head and also challenges you to put your feet to the ground and get going. Now.
Some of what Cameron writes overlapped with what I remember about The Creative Habit:
“Creativity requires activity, and this is not good news to most of us. It makes us responsible, and we tend to hate that. You mean I have to do something to feel better?
“Yes. And most of us hate to do something when we can obsess about something else instead. One of our favorite things to do—instead of our art—is to contemplate the odds.”
“Most of the time, the next right thing is something small: washing out your paintbrushes, stopping by the art-supply store and getting your clay, checking the local paper for a list of acting classes. . .”
In other words, do the next thing, which is often small and manageable if we will just focus on that thing. We should all be living creative lives. Creativity is a gift implicit in being made in the image of God. It takes an artist’s flair to make a creative life out of what is ordinary to all of us, but I think we’ve all been given a unique eye for making the most mundane parts of life a thing of beauty. Rather than slogging along in the drudge of things, we should look to find and create beauty in all we do. If Brother Lawrence could do it joyfully with his monastery kitchen work, why can’t I?
But life is not lived only in the kitchen, is it? We have ample (endless!) opportunities for developing our (too often latent) creative gifts and inclinations. And creativity is not just about paint brushes or movie making or novel-writing. It’s a way to live.
Anyway (see how I wander so easily off my intended path?!). The Artist’s Way seems realistic, insightful, and helpful. No wonder Anna liked it.
I follow home anyone who comes by my blog and makes a comment. I saunter through your blogs and enjoy reading your thoughts and stories. And I have to say that again and again I am impressed. Impressed by your creativity and intelligence and your beautiful lives, and I’m always struck by the same thing: “Why are such smart, creative, talented people reading my blog?!”
One of the bloggers I trailed home showed up when I had a massive, temporary, flurry of visitors that came over because of a link put up on another blog. I enjoyed reading Monica's words and having a look at her Hawaiian life and watching her young boys practice their parkour and movie making skills. Fun! Monica is fit and knows her workout stuff. Having been an athlete myself and still careful to maintain a decent level of fitness, I’m pretty attuned to what is a good workout and what is not, what works a certain muscle or muscle group well and what doesn’t, what is effective and what isn’t (at least for me). I’m no expert, but I’m intuitive about these things. Yet in the past two years, I’ve developed a fitness Achilles heel. My core. I’ve always been naturally strong, but since I left my country home and all of the hard daily work I did there, my core has weakened. I’ve tried adding a series of ab and core exercises, but I can’t stick with them because they tend to make my back hurt, and none of them seem to really do more than skim the surface. Since I don’t want to do a full-on workout because, as always, I like to keep things simple, I won’t go to a gym and I’m not willing to undertake a serious regimen.
Enter Monica. I love what she has developed for an "ab workout." I just love it! It couldn’t be easier or more straightforward, and having done her exercise here and there throughout the past two days, I really do think this is going to make a difference! I’ll keep doing this for sure, and I’ll let you know how it goes long-term.
And one more thing. A beauty tip. (Haha--that’s about the last thing I ever thought I’d be doing here.) But this is not so much a beauty tip as it is a natural way to care for your skin. I mentioned the use of coconut water to soothe red, scratchy eyes, and now I’m letting you know that it seems to be a great facial toner, too. When I was looking for all-natural eye-drops, I ran across some information about using coconut water as a skin toner. Well, this is certainly cheaper than the “all-natural” toner I’m using now, and it’s even more all-natural, so why not give it a try? And, after a few days use, I think that it not only works but that it has improved the condition of my skin, and I tend to have soft, clear skin already. This is not a long-term testimonial, so I reserve the right to retract my endorsement, but coconut water seems to be a great all-purpose beauty product—for inner and outer use!
Soon I will be a walking advertisement for the coconut. I use coconut oil for skin lotion, coconut water as eye-drops and facial toner, coconut water in my fruit smoothies, and coconut milk in many of my recipes.
Enjoy your Saturday. I hope it’s as sunny (and mild) as mine.