Monday, October 31, 2005

The Things They Did (and Ate) with Photos

(My apologies to Tim O'Brien and his wonderful story "The Things They Carried" for the shamless rip-off of the title of this entry...)

What I wrote:
The first evening and day, I worked on the Valeska material—wrote a new opening scene, did lots of editing of existing material, tried to do some global chapter organization and mapping. No great epiphanies, but solid work.

Second day, I wasn’t in the mood to spend more time with The Gert—she’s pretty intense and kind of exhausting to be with all the time (which does not bode well for my ever being able to finish the book nor for my expectation that a reader would want to spend a chunk of their time with her story…). I beat myself up about this for a little while, then looked out the window at the exquisitely blue sky and yellow leaves and decided to forgive myself for being weak and lazy and instead turned to ideas for some articles that I want to write for a local rag that are about food and yarn. I had a lovely time sketching out these ideas and realized that I'm much better at it than fiction...

Ami worked on a story I can't wait to read, set in Rome. And Sarah worked on both a short story and started three new poems; one in particular is about a dog, and smoke and sleep that I'm hoping she'll share.

Sarah, looking appropriately poetical.

What I read:
I re-read most of Rosina Lippi’s Homestead and just loved it to death again for its subtlety, its grace and forgiveness, its inner turmoil and outer peace. I didn’t bring any books with me that I hadn’t read yet because I know how easily I can get sucked into a new story and not be able to pull myself away from it. But I did read some new stuff thanks to the books that Ami brought with her. I read some poems from Carl Dennis’ Ranking the Wishes. Really wonderful poems and the perfect finite way to remind my brain about the concentrated power of language. Also I read a few stories from the short story anthology You’ve Got to Read This, a lovely book in which 35 contemporary writers introduce stories that they love. My favorite was Alice Munroe’s story “Labor Day Dinner” (which can be found in her collection The Moons of Jupiter.) The introducer was David Leavitt (whose novel The Lost Language of Cranes and short story collection Family Dancing I have read and enjoyed) and he drew my attention to Munroe’s effortless shifts in point of view. I love Munroe’s stories anyway, the characters are complex, everyday life is made significant without resorting to the contrast of catastrophe, and the endings of the stories are graceful. But it was great to be encouraged to look at the craft of her writing too. I also read a Lars Gustafsson story (introduced by Charles Baxter) “Greatness Strikes Where it Pleases” that I loved and I’m going to have to track down the collection it came from called Stories of Happy People.

What I ate:
This is the point at which people are going to hate me—that is, if you have a jealous streak you might start feeling a little green right now. And if you don’t feel envious, well, you are a bigger person than I am.

I’ll go chronologically. The first evening we opened a bottle of Azagador red wine ($9 at Morgan & York, my favorite affordable bottle from their wine sale last year) and laid out the following to eat in front of the fire in the wood stove:

Sliced sourdough bread, shards of amazing parmesan (Morgan & York again), a round of aged ash-coated goat cheese which we combined with orange-fig preserves, and green olives marinated in citrus and fennel.

Saturday breakfast was leek quiche (leeks from the garden, eggs from the chickens on the farm), orange date muffins, baked apples with maple syrup and pecans and fresh oj.

A benevolent chicken.

Saturday lunch was some lovely salami studded with fennel seeds, bread, cornichons, more olives, and some fresh fruit (kiwi, strawberries, blackberries and pineapple).

For Saturday dinner, we roasted a boneless leg of lamb (obtained at Trader Joe’s frozen and marinated and pretty damn good especially for the price), roast red-skin potatoes, salad made with the last of my homegrown lettuce and the last of Sarah’s home grown tomatoes, a bottle of appropriately titled Ars Poetica red wine and then, after a significant pause and some time outside rocking on the bench swing and taking in the night air, a desert composed of outrageously rich Mexican Chocolate brownies with hot fudge sauce and ice cream.

Oh my. I'd like to dive in and roll around in this...

Sunday breakfast was fresh cooked eggs from the aforementioned chickens (over easy) and a still-warm brioche loaf (mmm—more eggs and butter), with a fresh fruit salad and more oj.

Just look at that yolk! No color enhancement has been done to this photo.

Sunday lunch was another salami/cheese/olive/cornichon/tomato grazing combo.

A plate of pleasure.

And then we had to return to the real world, albeit with very full and happy tummies, and quite a few leftovers.

What I knitted:
Nothing. I resisted the urge to bring any knitting along so that when I wasn’t writing or cooking or reading, I was still. I need to practice being still though my fingers got a little itchy at times, especially when I was watching Sarah knit a-sweater-that-I-covet with beautiful leaf-green silk alpaca blend.

Sarah, looking poetical even when she isn't writing poetry.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps no one has commented because we are overcome with jealousy? All that food...that writing...that time with friends. And...I would love the recipe for those Mexican chocolate brownies!

freddyknits said...

Oooohhhh I want to hear more about your retreat. Did you bond with the sheep? I mean that innocently of course.