When a Meal Becomes a Work of Art

This year, I gave my husband the gift of an Italian cuisine cooking class at a local cooking school for his birthday. We spent the evening creating a meal of white bean tapenade smeared on crostini, porcini roasted beef, and bianco risotto cooked in saffron and vermouth. Together we sliced and diced vegetables for the radicchio fritelle, and quartered strawberries for the crowning glory of the meal, a mascarpone torte with prosecco berries. It was every bit as wonderful and full-bodied and delicious as you might imagine.

On the drive home, I asked my husband what he thought of the end results of our labor…

Join me at Grace Table for the rest of this adventure in art and eating Italian.

A Decade of Delight

pink light via kimberlyanncoyle.com

My husband came in the door, and within a few minutes of catching up, I told him I was probably, almost definitely, with some degree of certainty going to quit writing. And also–if we’re talking about life changes–when I drove down the road earlier in the morning, the thought “We need to move” popped into my head most distinctly.

I didn’t blame it on the Holy Spirit exactly, because my husband knows by now this is highly unlikely, but I left it hanging there for a minute, implying it silently. The Holy Spirit usually speaks to me about things like repentance and forgiveness and selfish ambition. This was not that. This was the spirit of Kimberly. The spirit restless with the shape of things, wrestling with the idea of life looking only a little like I dream it in my head, wrangling with turning forty.

He gave me the side eye and said, “No, we don’t.”

Then he told me some hard truths about myself. Truths I already know, but which take on more weight when he puts his finger on them and traces the outline of my particular brand of crazy. We do not need to move, he says. Wake up to your own life, lady. I may have imagined that last statement, but I believe he employed my previous tactic by implying it silently.

He told me if I’m not careful, if I don’t step out and make some sort of change within the framework of the life I’m actually living, I will find myself sitting in this exact same spot next year with nothing to show for it. Just twelve months torn off the calendar, lining the floor like crumpled paper.

This is the hard part of being rooted. I can’t pack my bag and leave this community, church, friendship, career when it grows stagnate. I feel like I’m in a perpetual holding pattern, never taking off or landing. There is something in me that longs for new and novel, for fresh and unknowable and inviting. Ordinary chafes, and yet I don’t know what steps to take to make this ordinary life feel extraordinary.

My husband does. He always has the “If it were me…” list down to three, tick them off your fingers answers. He would never let time pass without wringing every minute of purpose from it. But here’s the difference, besides the obvious he’s a do-er and I’m a thinker, I want more than minutes filled with purpose. I want crumpled up pages stained with tea and wild words and glittering moments and butter-smeared baguette crumbs.

I want pages filled with delight. Delight is where the holding pattern ends. It’s where I want this next decade to land. Delight is where the ordinary becomes extraordinary, and I wake up to my life, the one I’m actually living.

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This post is part of an ongoing weekly-ish series on home, rootedness, and belonging. It may also have something to do with turning forty.

Where do you find delight in your ordinary? How do you create something new for yourself within the structure of the life you’re already living?

Wonderlust

philharmonic via kimberlyanncoyle.com

His hair made me laugh. It took on a life of its own when he conducted. It flopped and flailed about his head like a drama queen, and I wondered if he let it grow long especially for this effect. I’ve never seen a bald orchestra conductor, maybe dramatic hair is part of the job description. When I wasn’t staring at the violinists playing their instruments with their entire bodies, I watched his hands. Ok, I watched his hair, but I also watched the timed movement of his hands.

Sweep, lift, swoop, point. None of it made a bit of sense to me. His hands moved to the private machinations of his internal music maker. I tried to watch the movements and see where they corresponded to the music, but every musician on stage seemed engaged in this private conversation between the conductor, their instrument, and the music.

I wanted to enter into the music the way they do, to feel it thrumming away in my temples, to feel it pulsing down into my bones. Having zero musical ability myself, I have to settle for what the music does to my soul. I feel like I’ve grown wings and I’m flying. This almost feels like enough, but I still want to know the secrets behind the hand motions and the instrument’s whispers.

Do you ever feel this way about life? As if private conversations take place all around you, and you desperately want to understand what the world is saying? I want to know what the rainbow speaks to the clouds, what the conductor speaks to the musician, what the owl says to the moon. I feel as if there’s an entire universe to explore just outside the reach of my understanding, right on the edge of my fingertips.

This great big beautiful world is so full of wonder. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again–wonder heals the wanderer’s heart, whether we’re wandering from our ho-hum everyday or from faith or from the unknown. These days, I’m trading wanderlust for wonderlust, and it makes all the difference.

Top Tips for wandering with purpose while still coming home for dinner

wander via kimberlyanncoyle.com

She sighed when she said it, “We have to put down some roots.” Then a soft, slow exhale. Being a kindred spirit, I read a thousand words in that one low breath. She feels the need to stay put somewhere for her kids, but she’s much too curious about the world to settle into one tiny hamlet of it. I live in this same sigh, caught in the tension between my curiosity and my desire to settle down somewhere “for the kids”. Some of us believe we’re made to wander, and maybe we are, but as I become more settled into this particular place, I realize I must find new ways to satisfy the curiosity without abandoning security. I can wander in new ways and still commit to a place I call home. If, like me, you’re a gypsy at heart, I offer you:

Top Tips for Wandering with Purpose While Still Coming Home for Dinner

Travel

Oh, Wanderlust, you old friend. You must be satiated in some way, and travel is the best way to satisfy the urge to run when we hear the faint call of a whistling train. No need to pull up roots. No need to spend your kids college tuition. A simple daytime adventure in a new-to-you place might suffice. Nourish your curiosity by scooping up the differences you see, hear, taste, touch, and smell along the way. Perhaps a day or a weekend away is enough to feed the wanderer in you.

Read

I have lived a thousand lives in only forty years. My life spans centuries and continents. It defies gender and ethnicity and religion. Through the pages of a book, I can slip into someone else’s skin and see the world through their eyes. Sometimes I forget I’ve only experienced something through a book and not in the flesh. My husband thinks this is weird. Of course, he reads books on business models and accounting practices. I think it’s awesome. Each story becomes a piece of me, changing me in ways I never would have experienced had I not cracked the spine on someone else’s story.

Listen

This is new to me. Not so much the listening, but the sitting with someone else’s words, the entering into their real-life experience. So often I’m distracted by what I will say next. My mind races to the appropriate response or my own take on your words, that I forget to take the words in. I forget to wander around in your story for a while. I forget that the world looks different from where you sit because it is different. Too often, I assume that our life experiences are too similar for me to learn something new from you. I miss out on another opportunity to wander further than my feet can take me when I forget that life in your skin is all at once exactly the same and also nothing like the life in mine.

Scoop

Cup your hands together and reach them towards the sky. Gather the wonder you see there. Now cup them and reach to the earth below. Scoop the soil and the seed. Gather the beauty you find there. Scoop the one blue feather you find resting on the back porch, because hope is a thing with feathers. Cup your hands to your ears, scoop up the laughter floating down from the upstairs bedroom. Cup them again and catch every one of his or her or your tears. Scoop the wind and let it blow answers right through you. Gather it all up and tuck it into the pocket of your heart, and when you find yourself doing the same old thing day after day, unpack the wonder you tucked away. Wonder heals the wanderer’s heart.

Embrace

This life. The one you live every day in this place with the roots tugging you to the earth when all you want to do is fly. Embrace it. Become alive to this life, the one you chose, the one that chose you. Live every day with all of your senses, wander through the familiar with eyes wide open to the things you usually miss. I promise you will find something new to love here. You will notice the subtle changes marching their way across your timeline, and you will grow to love them in ways you never grew to love the ones that arrive with a flash bang. Embracing your life means allowing your curiosity to run wild into every small, dusty corner of it. There’s a universe to explore, and it’s spinning in circles inside of you. Wander away.

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Are you a wanderer at heart? What would you add to this list?

This post is part of an ongoing weekly-ish series on home and belonging. Want to stay up to date on the latest posts? Sign up below to have them delivered straight to your inbox.

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All that glitters

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We’re lingering in the post-holiday haze of sparkly lights and time spent with real people in the real world. I spent so little time online over Christmas, I almost forgot what it is I’m supposed to do. Tweet this, pin that, read, comment, write. I used my time well, gathering stories here and there, as well as snippets of conversation overheard from my post as chief guardian of the kitchen sink.

The girls and my husband reveled in the bustle–extroverts in their glory–with people, noise, and music floating from room to room on the scent of one gigantic turkey. My son, the most like me in many ways, hid in his room and escaped to the basketball hoop for fresh air, giving him just enough space to show a little peace and goodwill to all men, or admiring cousins as it were. The holidays are hard on the introvert.

My mind is slowly turning towards the new year. As I linger in the old, I find I’m not quite ready to turn the page yet. I have unfinished business with 2013, as if it didn’t consult my wish list when it doled out the presents. I received other gifts, some better than I imagined, but the ones that danced in my dreams at nights, didn’t become a reality.

I am no closer to feeling rooted to a place than I was a year ago. This year didn’t gift me with the sudden desire to stay put and settle down, instead I find myself mourning the loss of my former life abroad. I want to want the American dream, but instead my heart returns repeatedly to Paris, to London, and to Horgen with its soft forest floors of pine needles and horse-trodden paths. I feel like a woman who returns repeatedly to the wrong lover and a tempestuous relationship, one that can’t possibly last because it is built on the stardust of one’s imagination. The wide-open world has been my lover for many years.

I hoped to reach the end of this year and tell you there will be a book with my name in tiny black typeface across the bottom. Instead, I put on my “I’m so happy for you” mask (the one I use to cover up my real face, the insanely jealous one), and congratulated a huge cross-section of people across the web and in my real life who signed with an agent or publisher, or found the job of their dreams after looking for exactly one week. Yes, there has been much sweating from my eyes this year, and that “sweat” has soaked more pillows than I care to admit. I want to be real with you, friends. It is painful to watch other people’s dreams come alive while one’s own withers on the vine.

I decided today, the eve of the eve of the New Year, that these disappointments shall become the compost of my life. I remarked to my brother yesterday, that I have grown a will of steel, largely from aiming for the impossible and seeing a few of my many hopes realized. I see now that this steel-will is built on the back of loss and mourning and unrealized dreams, rather than built on everything that glitters. Beneath the weight of this compost, I realize the thing that glitters most, is me.

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Join me in the comments, and tell me about your year. What shaped you the most?