Friday, July 2, 2021

Rituals


There are various reasons, and not because of Rick's absence, that I often find my life futile. Lately, an essay I wrote was rejected for publication by a journal in which I have previously published. It is not as easy when you are in your 70s to come back after such a blow, and it made me wonder what I am living for.

I am not a person who is content to pass my life watching TV or reading newspapers, going out to restaurants or the movies, indulging in the kinds of things that newspapers and other other media (including the AARP newsletter) advise if one wants to lead a "meaningful" life. I create my own meaning. It includes a good portion of reading every day -- lately, and very intensely, Goethe -- and plans for new essays as well as trying to find an agent to represent me for a collection of short stories. Basically I hope to be recognized for my efforts in matters that mean a lot to me.

The past few mornings I have woken up plagued by this ache, which of course has much to do with the prospect of years ahead without Rick or indeed without a sympathetic person with whom to share both everyday life and the life of the mind. All around me I hear the chatter of people who get their ideas from newspapers, principally, the New York Times, indeed simply repeat what they read there. Talk to three people who read the NYT, and they all use the same words. What is new? We live in an age when people simply don't think, don't have thoughts of their own, who don't read books, and whose opinions are taken from newspapers or TV and who simply fall in line with what they read or hear. And I am talking about my own generation, men and women who went to the universities in the 1960s and 1970s, when you still were required to read and learned to be curious. Aside from two friends here in New York, it is rare that I have a true discussion of any matter artistic or cultural. Rick was a person who read a lot, and his reflections on life were thought out.

This morning, in connection with this feeling of futility, it struck me that what keeps me going is my daily preparation of food. It has become not quite automatic or mechanical -- there are only a few complicated dishes that I pull off if I have company (after a decade I have accumulated a good number of recipes) -- but in preparing for the day's meals my mind is occupied and I finish what I start.

In between my morning reading of Goethe today I got broccoli soup together, made mostly from broccoli stems: I waste very little among the vegetables I purchase. It was wonderfully tasteful. Such a simple ritual. By the time I was done, I had achieved something. Above is a photo of a recent lunchtime confection.

My desire for achievement is important. I want to be successful in my writing, which Rick was very supportive of. I know what Rick's reaction would be if I gave up, if I failed in my efforts to lead a meaningful life: disappointment. So, I keep going, and it is the rituals that help me.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Wild rice harvesting

I love historical images. Herewith one of "19th Century tribal women harvesting wild rice in the traditional manner." It was published in The American Aboriginal Portfolio, by Mrs. Mary H. Eastman and illustrated by S. Eastman (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Co.) in 1853. I would never have guessed before I met Rick that I would ever prepare a dish with wild rice. But I have.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Lockdown cooking

Turkey Pho recipe

By now I have gone to restaurants several times, mostly outdoors, one time indoors. It is getting cold now; in fact, as I type this, something like snowflakes is actually falling outside. I have learned that I can actually prepare meals on a daily basis. It takes a lot of time, mostly with meal prep. The results have been up and down, often mediocre. The best meals, no doubt about it, have been enjoyed at the dining table of my neighbor Elaine. Herewith some pictures of a recent dinner, a few days after Thanksgiving. Thus, a Turkey Pho. (Click to enlarge photos.)

 








Friends go a long way to making up for the absence of Rick. Last Friday, I had a medical procedure that took place in an operating room of a hospital -- three nurses, an anaesthesiologist, an assistant M.D., and the primary surgeon. The anaesthesia was long-lasting; I didn't feel normal until Sunday. Then, on Monday afternoon, while helping my super to remove a captain's bed from my apartment, it toppled and banged me in the face. I was in shock, but made my way within a few minutes to a CityMD, convenienly located two blocks from my apartment. Two stitches in my left eyebrow, followed in the evening by a CAT scan. The scan showed nothing that required me to be sent to the Emergency Room.

As I sat in the patient's room at CityMD, I could visualize Rick sitting in a chair near me. I actually started talking to him.

I started writing this post right after Thanksgiving. Time has passed, and we are now in January of 2021. On New Year's Eve, Elaine invited me for dinner. It was not one of Elaine's customary dinner parties. There were only Elaine, her son Kieran, her friend John and myself: everyone else she invited was quarantining. As usual, Elaine turned out a spectacular meal: General Tsao's Chicken. In fact, I have begun documenting the occasions, as I want to do a commemorative book, from this past Thanksgiving to that of 2021, and present it to her.








Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Patience


I find that the challenges of the pandemic are permitting me to know my husband more and more. He is not here to experience what is happening, but my own anxieties and strengths allow me again to feel his presence in my life. For instance, this morning I went out early to have an MRI of my brain. The prospect of a bad result -- a stroke? -- is scary enough in itself, but that I competently go through the motions of getting myself to the radiology office -- basically taking care of myself -- reflects the care that he always had for me in these situations. If I were to neglect to care for myself would be to let him down.

Already back in April I made a note in my journal about exercising patience. My impatience is reflected mostly in not being in the moment, so to speak, but instead to be worrying about what will happen next. Since, like many people during the lockdown, I did not have pressing appointments to get to, yet I would find myself, while doing my morning stretches, in a hurry to be finished. That is, I had trouble submitting totally to the routine: I wanted it to be done, wanted it over, as if there were something else that needed to be done.  It is only one small example, but becoming aware of that in myself during this simple morning routine of approximately thirty minutes extended my awareness of this tendency.

If I were a shrink, I would say that I am an anxious person, and that my anxiety often distracts me from the present moment and has me considering both future obligations as well as worrying about things that may or may not happen.

Rick occasionally said to me that I did not think about what I was doing. He meant it in the sense, for instance, of putting down my keys without thinking about where I was putting them and, then, later having to turn the apartment upside down to find them. I am sure I am not the only person who is unthinking in this respect. Rick, however, was not like that. He always seemed to consider, to think, to reflect on what he was doing. It made him a very thoughtful person. You could see that by looking at him: he was grounded. If something was to be done in the future, he would take time to consider how to go about it.

So, not only in moments when I feel depressed during these days, but also in those when I feel I am on the right track in my life, I am aware of him. When depressed, I only have to think that I would be letting him down were I to fail to take care of myself. And when I am in a good mood, I know how happy he would be.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

"What Would Rick Do?"

The title of this post refers to the letters (WWRD?) written on a note that I taped to the mirror after Rick's death. Whenever in doubt, consult Rick. After all, in life he always knew the answer -- as he would always tell you!

Without having actually to think about what he would do during this period of self-isolation, I find that I am doing what we would have done if he were still alive. We would be at home reading, studying, writing. We would occasionally share some of what we were thinking about. Just the other day,  reading the Times Literary Supplement, I cut out the ad that is pictured below. It concerns a book on the physicist Helmholtz in whom Rick, also a physicist, was interested. I bet he would have got on Amazon and ordered a copy post haste.

Helmholtz also wrote on Goethe and Goethe's color theory. Rick got to know Goethe after he met me and wanted us to do an article together on Goethe's color theory. After Rick's death I had a book plate made for the books of his that I was donating to the Philosophy Program at the Graduate Center of CUNY. I included on the bookplate the graphic of Helmholtz's color diagram that is at the top of this post.

Cooking is messy

After eight years, I can produce some dishes that look quite lovely and even sometimes taste good. (Click to enlarge.) But cooking is still a work in progress. On the onerous side of cooking is the matter of cleaning up, which cannot be put off until the casserole is in the oven or the plates are ready to put on the table. Due to the small preparation area, one lacking a dishwasher, I wash dishes and put things away constantly as I cook. Even so, by the time the food is in the oven or is ready to be served, the kitchen can look disastrous, as is shown in the photos here. Pots and pans have been moved out of the way and onto the floor, while the "compost" bag is bulging. I don't actually compost, but I separate the "organic" materials (which I throw out daily) from the other garbage in order not to smell up the kitchen.




Monday, March 16, 2020

Love in the time of virus

It goes without saying that I miss Rick these days. Not because I am afraid I can't handle things on my own, but because he really did shine in such situations. He would have been in his element, putting his expertise to work in a really challenging situation. As a scientist, he would be able to evaluate all the information coming at us and sorted out the junk.

But living with the pandemic is also like a mirror into the difficult issues he and I would have navigated together through old age. It's a reminder that we had no opportunity to weather them together. We were always confident, especially with his cooking skills, that we would survive whatever woes the economy brought.