Thursday, March 17, 2016

Blind Cave Fish (and Other Miracles of the Midwest)

It has been a shamefully long time since I last wrote, although I have mostly fallen out of habits of shame this winter.  But winter is close to over now where I live, a fact I welcome.

We went to Indiana for vacation because who doesn't like to visit landlocked, overcast states?  It was glorious to be away from home, which I have a habit of tidying too much and worrying about, shuffling paint swatches like puzzle pieces while also staunchly refusing to actually paint anything, because toddler. 

It's always a good idea for my brain to travel, I think.  Changing the scene and getting in the car with Tim and Samantha, driving and talking and occasionally eating shelf-stable pastries sometimes just makes my life work.

Also, we really did have a good time, and I found out something that makes me happy to be alive: there exist in the world fish who have no eyes.  NO EYES.  What?!  They live in deep, dark caves so Tim joked the gods said: "You're not gonna need those where you're going." 

I don't know why finding out about an animal like this makes me so happy, but it does.  It blows my mind and having my mind blown by a scientific, biological fact is so much more welcome than having it blown by too little sleep, which is often the other way it blows these days.  (Not because our daughter keeps me up at night or gets me up in the morning, but because I do things like stay up late watching Shakira belly dance on YouTube.  True story.)

On that note, due to a misfire of the keyboard while on my library website one night, I discovered and then read a book by a chef I didn't even know existed: Cat Cora, whose memoir Cooking As Fast As I Can was ghost written by Karen Karbo (whom I mistook for the writer of Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood, written by Koren Zailckas.  I know, I know - they aren't even close).

This is all to say I liked the book's cover so I read it and guess what? I liked its insides, too.  (Gross.)

One of the things I'm finding out about myself as I age and my eyes sting reading certain pages of certain books, is that I really love a good heart-tug.  I don't mean I like to be manipulated by sappy crap, but when I read about Cora, who was adopted, searching for her biological mother and how that mother had written a letter to the adoption agency every year since Cora's first birthday telling her how much she loved her and hoped they will know each other someday, I was weeping in the corner of our hotel room, crouched over the book with my headlamp while Samantha snoozed in the dark. 

I also liked a passage early in the book about Cora's grandmother, who moved in when Cora's mom temporarily moved out of town to pursue a PhD (weird, huh?). 

Cat Cora/Karen Karbo writes: 

"Our mom was a firm believer in the character-building values of chores, a set bedtime, and a strict schedule....But when Grandmom Alma moved in during my freshman year of high school, she dispensed with all that.  She delighted in taking care of us....She spent her days producing a nonstop stream of classic egg salads and chicken salads, stupendous cheesecakes, and for our birthdays, her silky Italian cream cake..."

That passage is actually one of the few in the book that describe food, and while I'm not at all opposed to descriptions of foods, I do prefer them to be written by people who work with food.  I guess one of the things that kind of moved me about Cooking As Fast As I Can is that it was about life, and one woman's life
in particular, and while I can't express how little I care about Iron Chef or television or celebrity in general, the events of this woman's life--her closeness with her family and her access to Greek and Southern culture through family and friends and cooking--seemed remarkable to me. 

So I'm remarking on them, okay?

I guess what I'm trying to say is, the older I get, the more life moves me.  The more real family feels to me, and literature about it makes me cry.  In a good way, like happy/sad tears.  Like: Life Is So Crazy, Can You Believe That Happened?  

On that note, I give you a Jack Gilbert poem.  This poem was on The Writer's Almanac sometime in February, a month which is always full of fun events and good wine, and is so short but so full of chocolate that I'm going to cling to it as my excuse for not writing to you, okay? 

To make up for my sloth/hibernation/studies of life, here is a master who loved life enough for all of us.  

Failing and Flying 
by Jack Gilbert

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It’s the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.

One last thing.  My sister-in-law J.L. Conrad has a new chapbook of poetry coming out soon called Not If But When (what a title!) and you can find out more here.  I first heard some of her delightful "Poems In Which" when we were all younger and childless, when she and her husband visited Tim and I in Colorado, where we ate tortilla chips for dinner, walked the dog, and debated the artistic merits of Lady Gaga's meat suit.  Those were magical times, and vacations with Tim's family may be some of the few times I might trade motherhood for youth.  His clan's family-ness is admirable and earthily Midwestern to me, and I am so damn grateful to be a part of it year after year.

Until soon(ish), my friends,



  1. I love everything about this post. "The older I get the more life moves me" What more could you ask for? Also I'm not sure how long it takes someone who owns their own paddle to get a real ping pong fix but I don't think 2 hours would do it...

  2. Welcome back! The pictures on this one are insane/amazing. xoxoxxo Trail 3!!


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