Good evening, friends and neighbors.
Fall is coming to Portland, Oregon as it always does- in drips and drops, just like everything else.
The air has faded back and forth from chilly to warm as the day went on. A light misting came down from a sunny sky earlier, almost granting the city permission to cool off and wind down for the afternoon.
I’ve got a small table in on the second-floor balcony of a tea shop in the Nob Hill neighborhood. As much as I love tea, the bombardment of 50 different kinds mixed with the perfume and chatter of about a dozen young women inside was a bit much. Outside, I get the cool smell of wet air, wood smoke, ozone and petrichor- complimented by the dull sound of slow traffic on the street below.
I’ve spent most of the day already walking the streets, trying to find the best place to do something a little different. I wanted somewhere cool, relaxed, and quiet. This place isn’t quite right, but it’s close enough.
When you have a lot of options and big plans, that can be enough to make you not follow any of them- “The paralysis of choice,” as they call it. Every possibility seems like it should be a good ‘Step 1’, and fifty others make that seem like a dumb decision that will lead to losing all of them. A plan is called for- and you’re no longer sure you have the expertise to make it. Minute are magnified, and you wonder if you aren’t fooling yourself.
You run around in circles in your own head, and you wind up needing a rest- on the second-floor balcony of a tea shop, with books that speak to you in a message you’re not ready for and a drink you didn’t even want but was still a little disappointing.
The cool air gives me a hint of what I need next.
Back in the kitchen. This is where I go to be where things are simple and make sense.
Emily got really excited at the farmers market, looking at some of the first fall produce come in. Deep, earthy smells and radioactive-bright colors came at us from all directions. One of her favorite things about fall is a Roast Vegetable and Bleu Cheese pie she and her mom used to make- featuring lots of peppers and garlic and the root veggies that turn into candy and mush in the oven. All of it gets set off and complicated by the funk of the melted bleu.
As we were discussing it, we passed a local cheese maker, offering hunks of their homemade bleu with veins of brown and green.
“Hey hun, it’s been a while since you made a pie….”
When things get strange, or I feel lost inside my own head, the kitchen is always the space that helps me get ordered again. I can move mechanically through a favorite recipe- the knowledge in my hands more than my brain. My mise-en-place is perfect, and the pie dough is the exactly right temperature to work with- not so cold that it shatters, or so warm it sticks to everything. It all makes sense- what happens now, what comes next, what the result will be.
It’s what I know I’m good at. It’s the basics- simple as breathing.
This is where it all needs to start.
Up on the porch, an hour later, learning to accept a simple day as it ends. I spent it slowly- I exercised, I cleaned, I baked pie. I did laundry and watched a favorite show on Netflix while I kneaded crusts and folded laundry.
Now I can write. I feel quiet and relaxed. Maybe not accomplished- and definitely only a little further along in my plans- but I’ve got time.
I’ve gotta get the basics down first.
Cool twilight air off the mountain. Fizzy can of seltzer. A cooling Roasted Veggie Pie on the counter inside.
This is where it all started- and where it always needs to.