I need to make this fairly quick because I have a lot to do this weekend, and I really should be doing that now instead of this, but, oh well. I can use a mental break, and I’ll get right to it after this. Let’s see, how should I do this? How about a list of things I’ve been doing, thinking about, and enjoying? But first, please forgive me if I have not responded to your email. My inbox is a bit swamped, but after I finish all that I need to do today, I will try to begin answering. I hate to turn that into a vow because the computer might be the last thing I want to look at at the end of the day! :-)
~I have a new morning drink. (Yes, I still drink coffee, but not every single day without fail.) I have read a lot about the nutritional super-powers of chia seeds, most notably in the book Born to Run, and I’ve been enjoying them one way or another ever since. But why not do exactly what those phenomenal, joyful, mega-distance runners—the Tarahumara tribe of Mexico—do? Chia Fresca! (Scroll down a ways to see what this is about, if you don’t already know?) Chia is good for the skin, for regulation of blood sugar, and on and on.
~I was really getting consistent with my morning exercise routine. Walking some days on the treadmill (with lots of fast, steep inclines worked into the workout) and running on other days. I realized, though, that my exercise doesn’t seem to be as effective in the early morning as it is later, and I began to wonder about this, so I investigated online and came up with this article. I still do some early-morning exercise when I know there won’t be time later, but now I am getting on the treadmill later in the day most of the time, and the exercise does indeed seem like it is more beneficial then.
~With school and cooking and cleaning and talking to my kids and riding the bus (which eats up quite a bit of time) and church and on and on, I’m making a point to take time out for other things. Like reading something just for enjoyment. Another thing that I’m making a pointed effort to do every day is to remember to look for beauty. To get up and start counting my blessings and thanking the Lord for them. To notice the change of the seasons. To listen to the sounds around me. To notice how light falls into the rooms of this house differently as the year moves along (and to enjoy it). To continue to bring nature into the house.
“The true cook must have. . . a large dose of general worldly experience.
He is the perfect blend, the only perfect blend, of artist and philosopher.
He knows his worth: he holds in his palm the happiness of mankind,
the welfare of generations yet unborn. . .”
as quoted in Mediterranean Food by Elizabeth David
“If you’re interested in cooking,
you’re also just naturally interested in art, in love, in culture.”
~Madame Jehane Benoit
To pay attention to food. It is beautiful. I’m making effort to move beyond utilitarian cooking to prepare something that is seasonal, healthy, delicious, and even attractive. And I want to take time to fully enjoy the gift of good, delicious food. I don’t know why, but at this time of year, I’m drawn to Deborah Madison. Her food is good, but it’s not just that. Having used this book so much when cooking for my family in the high desert, maybe it’s sentimental. I always open this book when it comes time to cook winter squash and other cozy foods, and this is exactly what I did last night. I baked a spaghetti squash and ate it, a la Deborah Madison, with butter and parmesan. Love this!
~As I’ve mentioned before, I am a mover (but also a quiet, contemplative sort) who likely has what many people might call ADD. This could partly explain why school has always been so distasteful to me. I learn well. Material is not difficult for me to comprehend, but I’m slow at studying, and I have to really structure how I’m going to attack my assignments in order not to feel swamped. I can also get tightly wound when I have a lot of intellectual stuff to do on demand, so I need to keep working to keep my mind settled down or my studying is very ineffective.
One thing that is frustrating about being a different (as opposed to inferior, as experts would sometimes make it seem) kind of learner is that school assignments do not necessarily align with this kind of learning, so it’s necessary to come up with strategies to address the material in my own particular way. The sad thing is that young kids don’t know how to do this and might find themselves so confused by what is expected of them and so overwhelmed by their inability to play the school game that they give up. And then they are labeled. And they learn to hate school. And they might not realize, or believe, how very intelligent (maybe even brilliant) they really are.
Recently, just to acquire some pointers that are geared for people like me, I’ve been doing some reading. A book (it’s sort of vulgar, actually) and an article that have been encouraging and helpful. I have come up with my own strategies, and, so far, they have been super-effective (don’t have time to explain!). One thing that is stressed in the literature is not to procrastinate or let yourself get distracted, so, guess what? Time to get going!
~I’ll end with the following (saving the best for last). My son sent me this excerpt from a book containing some journal writings of Russian film-maker, Andrei Tarkovsky. This is about the purpose of art, and I think it is wonderful and very worth reading. As Aaron said when he sent me this, "Tarkovsky is brilliant.":
"Given the competition with commercial cinema, a director has a
particular responsibility towards his audiences. I mean by this that
because of cinema's unique power to affect an auditorium — in the
identification of the screen with life—the most meaningless, unreal
commercial film can have just the same kind of magical effect on the
uncritical and uneducated cinema-goer as that derived by his
discerning counterpart from a real film. The tragic and crucial
difference is that if art can stimulate emotions and ideas,
mass-appeal cinema, because of its easy, irresistible effect,
extinguishes all traces of thought and feeling irrevocably. People
cease to feel any need for the beautiful or the spiritual, and consume
films like bottles of Coca-Cola.
The contact between film director and audience is unique to cinema in
that it conveys experience imprinted on film in
uncompromisingly affective, and therefore compelling, forms. The
viewer feels a need for such vicarious experience in order to make up
in part for what he himself has lost or missed; he pursues it in a
kind of 'search for lost time'. And how human this newly gained
experience will be depends only on the author. A grave responsibility!
I therefore find it very hard to understand it when artists talk about
absolute creative freedom. I don't understand what is meant by that
sort of freedom, for it seems to me that if you have chosen artistic
work you find yourself bound by chains of necessity, fettered by the
tasks you set yourself and by your own artistic vocation. Everything
is conditioned by necessity of one kind or another; and if it were
actually possible to find a person in conditions of total freedom, he
would be like some deep water fish that had been dragged up to the
surface. It's curious to reflect that the inspired Rublyov worked
within the strictures of the canon! And the longer I live in the West
the more curious and equivocal freedom seems to me. Very few people
are truly free, and our concern is to help more to become so.
In order to be free you simply have to be so, without asking
permission of anybody. You have to have your own hypothesis about what
you are called to do, and follow it, not giving in to circumstances or
complying with them. But that sort of freedom demands powerful inner
resources, a high degree of self-awareness, a consciousness of your
responsibility to yourself and therefore to other people.
Alas, the tragedy is that we do not know how to be free—we demand
freedom for ourselves at the expense of others and don't want to waive
anything of our own for the sake of someone else: that would be an
encroachment upon our own rights and liberties. All of us are infected
today with an extraordinary egoism. And that is not freedom; freedom
means learning to demand first and foremost of oneself, not of life or
of others, and knowing how to give: sacrifice in the name of love.
I don't want the reader to misunderstand me: what I am talking about
is freedom in an ultimate, moral sense. I don't mean to polemicise, or
to cast doubt on the unquestionable values and achievements which
distinguish the European democracies. But the conditions of these
democracies underline the problem of man's spiritual vacuum and
loneliness. It seems to me that in the struggle for political
liberties—important as these are—modern man has lost sight of that
freedom which has been enjoyed in every previous epoch: that of being
able to sacrifice oneself for the sake of
Looking back now at the films I have made so far, it strikes me that I
have always wanted to tell of people possessed of inner freedom
despite being surrounded by others who are inwardly dependent and
unfree; whose apparent weakness is born of moral conviction and a
moral standpoint and in fact is a sign of strength.
The Stalker seems to be weak, but essentially it is he who is
invincible because of his faith and his will to serve others.
Ultimately artists work at their professions not for the sake of
telling someone about something, but as an assertion of their will to
serve people. I am staggered by artists who assume that they freely
create themselves, that it is actually possible to do so; for it is
the lot of the artist to accept that he is created by his time and the
people amongst whom he lives. As Pasternak put it:
Keep awake, keep awake, artist,
Do not give in to sleep . . .
You are eternity's hostage
And prisoner of time.
And I'm convinced that if an artist succeeds in doing something, he
does so only because that is what people need—even if they are not
aware of it at the time. And so it's always the audience who win, whogain something, while the artist loses, and has to pay out."