Praise Song: Spanish Tortilla

040715Praise how they sit on every counter at every bar and every restaurant — city, country, tiniest village where one single man stands at a machine steaming milk. Tucked into crusty bread, heated or not, this simple combo of egg, potato, and onion can fuel you through a morning, or an evening, or hundreds of miles on the Camino. In Rabe de la Calzada, the town where they prepared for the feast of Santa Maria de los Milagros by carrying a giant paella pan across the square, I ate tortilla at an oil-cloth covered table with other pilgrims. I had seen the hospitalera cooking the tortilla from a side door to the kitchen. Praise her easy shrug when I asked if I could watch. Praise her powerful wrist as she turned the tortilla from skillet to plate then slid it from plate back into skillet. Praise how she tried to give me the recipe despite my faltering Spanish, then served it to us brightened with strips of red pepper. Praise how I remember her each time I make a tortilla, which I do most weeks. Tonight, after teaching, almost 10pm, Chris and I sat down together to this one, last of the CSA leeks tucked in. Praise the brown edges of the potatoes, the perfect slice on the plate.

April 7, 2015

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Praise Song: First Steps

040615Praise how we keep showing up, all of us, the unschooled and the hopeful in our stiff new dance shoes. Praise those first triple steps, the articulation of the feet, the reminder to glide and not bounce. Keep some energy in your arms. Keep the crown of your head toward the sky. Relax. What looks so easy when others do it becomes a confusion of moves — cross over, off the track, a chest spotlighting a partner. Before we began lessons, we thought we were good dancers. A few weeks in, we discovered it untrue. And then we began again. Leverage, compression, a slight give in the knees. Praise the fresh start, the five, six, seven, eight. Praise how hard it is to keep doing something we don’t do well, and how we show up anyway.

April 6, 2015

Praise Song: Children at Easter

Praise the boy in the pew in front of us, his blue glasses held to his head with a strap, his bow tie and blonde bowl cut, praise how he rolled and wiggled through to communion, when his parents finally carried him away. Praise the girl in the white polka dotted dress, with her turned-in toes and messy hair that gave Chris a lump in his throat for a past so far away. Praise the children who took over our house for the afternoon, who made obstacle courses out of hand weights, bouncy balls, and an inflatable balance disk, then ran in circles around the couch. Praise their laughter from the den. Praise their joy at an egg hunt, at guitar strumming and piano banging and tapping the side of a mesh strainer to rain sugar onto a cake. Easter asks for the spirit of children, for baskets of plastic grass and cascarones cracked on the head. Praise a holiday that revels in glory, in youth. Praise our house afterwards, the confetti on the porch, straw on the carpet, the dozens of seeds pulled from out-of-date packages that were tucked into the soil by small hands. Who can say? They just might grow.

April 5, 2015

Praise Song: Father Gregory Boyle

040415The first time I listened to him, I was planting tomatoes in the garden. This time I was taking my sore body on a loop around the lake, Saturday morning. Priest, teller, spirit, he reminds me again how deeply I believe in second chances. So praise his stories. Praise his laughter. Praise the tidbit about Diane Keaton being served by a home girl who seemed to know her face, then said, gleeful, “I know — we were locked up together!” Praise his faith in right action, in delight. What are we put here to do? he asks us. Love. Discover awe. See ourselves in kinship. Praise this one man and his voice that walks with me down this worn path: “The day will never come when I am as holy as the people I serve.”

Listen to him here.

April 4, 2015

Praise Song: Books of Poems

040315Praise how they come into the world, despite their unlikeliness, and how they just keep coming. Praise lines, verses, stanzas spilling down the page, praise white space en mass in this paperless age. To judge the Balcones Prize, I  must read 37 books, and in this box they wait for me. Inside, a thousand poems with their pronouncements, their suggestions, their nuance, their clarity. They wait for me from cold apartments in Soviet Russia and the once-burned landscape of Hiroshima, from the deep seas of a father’s past and hands joining across a kitchen table. Praise the belief that we still have something to say. Praise the publishers who help us to say it. Praise the notebooks and napkins and open Word documents out of which they came. Praise the order, the voice, the desire to find just the right word. Praise, again, the lines, verses, stanzas, white space. Praise the music. Praise the need to speak it.

April 3, 2015

Praise Song: Beans and Greens

040215Praise the name of the restaurant I will never open, where cannellini meet garlic and sage, garbanzos meet spinach, borlotti meet stout kale and hang together with roasted tomatoes and bacon. Praise the way beans wait in glass jars in the cabinet, patient and imminent, prepared for the someday that just might come tonight. I soaked black-eyed peas all day, then gave them three minutes in the pressure cooker. In the pan they joined the deep deep green of spinach and chard. A little salt, a lot of garlic, and a flurry of lemon zested over the pan. Praise the freshness of spring. Praise earthiness, simplicity, the drizzle of olive oil over the top. Praise that first bite, when I said, “I could eat nothing else all my life.”

April 2, 2015

Praise Song: First CSA Basket

040115Praise the Swiss chard, as long as my arm, its stalks bright and rainbowed in red, yellow, green, its leaves fanning boldly from the baskets. Praise the people who came by to gush at them, to ask their name, as they sat on my office table displacing books and papers and one more manila file. Praise these simple images of abundance. Praise deep green and light green and feathery cress that peppers the tongue. Praise farmers and soil and hands that cut leaves from the ground so that we may eat, so that we may revel in the promise of a new season, so that we may imagine the many things we will cook.

April 1, 2015