sparks.

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everything has changed me.

I sit around and chase my mind through every corner of every space. I question everything, and I question everything’s deepest meaning. A friend told me I will do that because I’m a Sagittarius — but I really don’t know anymore.

I wonder how much a person can change as they become older. Maybe you have a problem with a certain race or a certain kind of person. You live your life surrounding yourself with people that make sense and believe the same thing. There is no going against the grain unless you must.

But, the part of me that is questioning everything wants to respond with, “But you have to!”

I am a fool, most times. Thinking too much of things, when the reality is quite underwhelming.

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Sparks. I like them. I like feeling ragey about some things. Especially if I feel like those things make me a better person. Of course I wake up the next day with a hangover of anger mixed with embarrassment. I think to myself, “Why didn’t I just keep my mouth shut?”

I get shakey when people try to push me down. I feel angry when I’m misunderstood. I suppose angry isn’t the right word. I do believe anger is in a lot of things though. More so I feel hurt. It hurts a lot, doesn’t it? That is the worst loneliness. Feeling hurt because it is the most personal thing you can feel about yourself. It is the deepest and most hidden wound.

Lately it has been doubt. Doubt that I can run a restaurant. Doubt that I am not nearly talented enough as a cook to ever make something big happen. But something big is already happening! I don’t know how, but it is.

It is scary and it makes me nervous. I’ve known those two things since I was a little kid. Those two feelings that have probably led up to me having internal meltdowns, but have also pushed me into places I will never regret.

The overwhelming voice I hear is that it will be okay — that more will be revealed. I am asking the higher things above me to give me patience and grace because as I become older, I feel like my tolerance for others lowers by the day. But I’m also aware that true community comes with radical acceptance and understanding.

Most of my days are spent asking myself if I’m good enough. Am I being fair enough? Loyal enough? Who am I oppressing and what can I do to ease it?

The last thing I need you to do is tell me to take it easy and calm down, though. That’s the equivalent of dropping Mentos into Diet Coke. Why that reaction? I don’t know. Long ago I learned to feel what you need to feel and that most people just want to be heard. I also have learned that things pass. Maybe not as fast as you want them to, but anger subsides.

I promise you that it does.

I know people hurt you. There is not a darker place to sit, wrapping yourself up in your own arms in hopes that the thoughts will fade.

But, they do. And you are strong. So strong in fact you want to laugh and take dance lessons again. Or maybe you want to drive into the horizon for a few hours just to clear your head.

It feels good to lay down your weapons. To start over again, daily — like Ursula K. Leguin says about bread and love, “it has to be made daily.”

Maybe all I ever have is questions, but that’s the desire of my own heart.

Make it new, and do it all over again.

And watch out for the sparks, because they could be the beginning of something bigger than you ever imagined.

quiet

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I seek refuge in the quiet.
I know that’s not easy to do these days.
I also know that it’s a luxury.

Outside of the window, as I write, is a wind blowing through the bare branches of the Natchez Trace. I remember when I first moved home, I would sleep with this window open. In the early morning I would awake to see deer and other early morning creatures ruffling around the fallen pine straw.

I thought of it as a gift.

Lately, this has been a theme. This morning I woke up and read an article about a Native American who spoke about his ancestors and their relationship to silence and space. How before they would speak, they would be silent as if not to waste any words on another’s behalf. When there was a loss of a presence or when there was conflict, a time of silence was taken. Not because there was a loss of something to say, but as a space to honor the other person, and yourself.

They would do the same while being in the wild — though they didn’t call it wild. They called it nature. Or at least their word for it. It was a harmony of sorts. When it became too cold, they would not get angry, but adapt to nature. They understood that it was a force they couldn’t change, and decided to move forward with the season, rather than revolt and create noise.

I think it is okay to feel overwhelmed with all the noise and distraction. Sometimes I assume I live a different lifestyle where I need a quiet space to reconnect, while others can move with all the noise so much easier. I realize kids have a lot to do with this, so I speak only on my particular plain.

But it is in the quiet that the world gets softer. My world calms and I am able to connect better with you.

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I read Christopher Kimball’s piece in this month’s Cook’s Illustrated about people living off the grid and being alone. I am aware of the differences of being lonely and being alone. He spoke about being content where you are. Whether a still pond deep in a wood, or with a cutting board at your waste, diving into a recipe.

I am okay with being alone. Very seldom do I actually feel lonely. I know loneliness is our greatest poverty here. Even with all the noise and distractions, this world, especially now, can be a very lonely place.

Over the years I’ve collected and dropped things. I’ve created a tiny life and I also gave it all away. I’ve seen heaven and I’ve felt a depth of hell with the pain of losing a person. Sometimes, the quiet has been my undoing. It is, like we always say, about balance.

So in this season, I am working hard to carve out a space for myself. I feel my world moving quickly, and I want to live in the quiet, as well as the noise. But also, I want to recognize my neighbor or the person working beside me. They deserve me as my best.

While they may question my intentional need for simplicity, and my unusual quiet and gentleness — I do it for me and I do it for them.

Because this space is sacred, as are my bones that resonate in this gift of a world.

And you?

you might as well be the face of God.

navigating the universe.

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It is completely obvious that I’ve been in a different state of mind as of late.

I at least know my co-workers see it. My pacing back and forth in the kitchen. Staring off at the rack of spices, hopefully fooling them into thinking I’m working something out for a recipe.

In reality, I am moving through some tricky waters.

I feel excited and scared and scattered because I am entering new territory, even with all of my experience as an almost 30 year-old human being, I am starting to notice that maybe I’m just scratching the surface of a new horizon.
These things make me feel flustered. Is that right to say?

It’s hard to focus on the thing in front of me and I feel like I can’t perform as usual. When people try to ask me questions about my process in working through it, I have to just sort of shake my head. What a luxury it is to have options and ideas.

How terrifying is it to realize you are going to submerge yourself into a project that will direct the trajectory of the rest of your life? Sure, we can change whenever we want to. We can move. We can learn how to make a canoe out of a single piece of wood. Most likely, we will settle with what we know how to do best and let that guide the rest of our lives.

My generation is bad at this. I’m bad at this. We just have too many options and too many things we’d rather be doing.

My generation is also in this position where we’re creating a lot of our own jobs. Maybe it is a ‘rejecting what our parents did’ sort of thing, but also an economy thing. I drank the kool-aid. I am that statistic and I am navigating these new, open waters.

Granted, some days feel like I’m treading those open waters. I am taking on more water on certain days, while others I am sailing free and fast and straight.

Then maybe the sails die down. The water stills and I am left to think of what to do next. I am no stranger to this season. We are all aware that life is fast and slow, and right now it feels kind of fast. I love it and I am terrified of it but deep down in my belly I know this is where I’m supposed to be navigating.

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I realize I am being vague with you all as well.

But for those of you who, by the grace of something bigger, have kept up with me know that I have been through a lot the past year and a half.

I’ve had to slow down. I’ve had to pick up and leave. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to cook anymore.

I’m here to tell you that I feel very alive and light. Though I am at times weighted a bit with these thoughts of mine, I am moving forward with the hope that my ceiling won’t collapse again or that I will not break another bone anytime soon.

I can’t make any promises of knowing where I’ll end up, but I’m looking forward to bringing y’all into this season of life and I feel so lucky to have this.

We are as infinite as we want to be.
I learn more and more each day this truth, that we are capable of wonderful tiny things that make up an entire universe.

And that everything,

everything,

is important.

trajectory

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Every so often, I’ll find myself looking through old pictures.

Maybe, when I was chubbier or thinner. When my beard wasn’t as full and maybe when I had more hair on my head.

I mostly see people.

I feel again the come and go of relationships. The people I’ve let go, and others I’ve found again.

Maybe they let go of me.

And maybe they found me.

I’m not really sure.
As the year ends, I grow more introspective. I think a lot of us do. I struggle connecting the dots, and there is little that I know to be true. The doubts that grow inside my heart say, “Well, who’s to say they aren’t going to drop you after a few years?”

That is the fear in my stomach.

Who’s to say I won’t leave again and create another tiny life. Home. Job. Family.

I have loved growing older into myself. I love the places I’ve been able to live and the people who have pulled me into their own messy and wonderful worlds.
I can’t help but to see life as moments of knowing a person and place. In my head, that is how I organize my world. That is how I organize my years.

Like a hermit crab moving into another shell.
Or seeing the cicada skins attached to them pine trees, growing out of their spaces and moving. Always moving.

You outgrow your own skin in the proper season. And as it goes, sometimes people outgrow you, and you them. But you hold on to them like heirlooms. Because they are important. Everything…is important.

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I imagine this life as a space man, getting nudged and sent off on another trajectory. Small bumps. New direction. Falling through space, moving with the smallest bits of energy.

I’m currently sitting on my couch, listening to the sounds of my oven popping and moaning as it bakes a cake for a friend. All they wanted was yellow cake with chocolate frosting. But dammit if I’m not going to try to make it look the best I can.

Because everything is important.

Look outside and you will see it all around. The leaves that have already given their life for the year and the way things quiet down. I like to call it a simmer.

That’s what this stuff feels like.

A few bubbles to the top every so often letting you know the heat is steady and low.

To me, all of this stuff is small movements. Never an energy wasted. Perhaps your skin is getting ready to shed again, or maybe yours is fresh. Maybe you’re in the middle. All according to their own season.

And all the more reason to notice and breathe and look upon those heirlooms with big love and feel deeply your place in our ceaselessly changing world.

marshmallows and steel

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The world is not a cold and dark place.

This, I thought, after I looked out the tiny window of the airplane and saw fire and amber and something that looked like eternity. It is truly amazing to see the sun’s light setting on them marshmallow clouds.

Yes. At the time I was cramming a bag of peanuts into my mouth, enjoying how very salty they were and wishing I had a cold beer. But I had plenty of beers the prior week and figured taking a break from the greatness that is Portland’s beer scene would be a good idea.

I spent the past week wobbling around (on one good foot) Portland, Oregon.
“I’m going [dramatic pause] to feed myself”, is what I told everyone.

Yes, food. Beer. Coffee.

The people. I’ve needed to connect with people there. Something about going after the holidays seemed too far and I was feeling too antsy. I wanted to connect before the holiday exhaustion set in. And I’m so glad I did.

I will not dive into the play by play, but I spent most of my days eating at my favorite haunts and spending time with people I’ve missed the most. I loved seeing my niece and nephew, and how big they are getting. Little P-Lu, especially. Chubby arms. Walking around on top of legos like they were nothing.

“She’s made of marshmallows and steel”, we joke. And it’s true. She is.

And W, still so bright and intrigued and silly.

I drove around the city a good bit and thought it’d be a good idea to give myself a lot of grace.

At least that’s what I heard being said in my belly. It brought me to tears, at one point, sitting in St. John’s Cathedral Park, breathing in the cold wet damp, and watching the lowest clouds stream through the trees like locks of hair being pulled through the teeth of a comb.

What a beautiful place this is. I remember the streets I walked down to get to work and thought, “Man, these were such sweet, sweet times.” I let myself feel afraid and acknowledged what made me feel anxious. My doubts about being a good husband. In my head, feeling like I had abandoned my people and left a career that was actually taking me somewhere.

No longer is it important for me to prove anything to anyone there. What happened, happened. I found myself experiencing some sadness from sitting in a place that once held heavy and heartbreaking conversations, and remembering always the sun-gold tomatoes that grew their vines around our old bikes.

What sweet and amazing and devastating things happened here. And I am alive. I am moving and movement is life, as they say.

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When my plane landed in New Orleans last night, I found out the Saints had lost.
I also found out about the riots and rulings in Ferguson.

My heart sank. It was all I could think about my entire drive home. How complex and angry and sad this made me and so many other people feel. How people I love and respect would disagree with one another. That’s sort of hard. We’re not very good at disagreeing, or seeing each other in a state of grace.

I realize I say grace a lot. And while that comes with a spirituality you may or may not want to be a part of, it can be universally understood. It is something I’m learning to understand.

When my plane was finally above all the dark and mucky stuff, I was able to see the sun setting far away. We were flying away from it, so I had to twist my head to see the horizon.

And there it was.

All sorts of warmth, even in the frigid blue. I thought that maybe I would be okay with this kind of heaven.

I leaned my head in the awkward space and closed my eyes. Traveling forward. Chasing a sky turning darker, and darker. All I could think about was chubby marshmallow arms and bright smiles. New normals. Fears and anxieties slowly laying to rest in the same ground from which they came.

Onward.

Into another horizon with the warmth of the sun licking my heels.

There is good, here.

And also in our hearts, especially where it hurts and feels the most dark.

Deep, deep down,
there is fire and amber and steel,
building a new heaven,
and a new horizon,
going on into eternity.

 

small moves.

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It’s all kind of fragile.

I keep thinking that, as I work and come home and think about the balance created by the stars and star stuff we are made of.

I don’t know what’s holding it (and us) all together. Food systems and water and pollution. It seems like the load is too much.

I mean, yes, it is too much.

There was a time in my life when I thought I could change the world. Everything is so radical and exciting when you feel fire running through your veins. You think if all you had to do was convince enough people, everything would change.

I suppose my passions have shifted a bit over the years. I am still convicted about the lack of justice and equality, and mourn heavily with our friends who live in poverty. That will never change in my heart.
As a cook, I’ve become friends with people who have been homeless, addicts, in jail and are still currently dealing with some if not all of the above.

The kitchen has always been a place for these people. It’s no wonder that I’ve ended up there, to be honest. Yeah, the sudden rise of “how cool would it be to be a chef” has a lot of folks flocking to the nitty gritty, but I will say, things are different here.

I’m struggling a bit.
I grew to love and cook food on a deeper level in Portland. It’s a foodie city. Its economy works (decently well) around restaurants and farms and purveyors. Its markets are set up to inspire people to learn and cook with such wonderful, fresh ingredients.

This is not about me calling out a place. This is only me, moving back to a place with massive potential, and a lack of systems. These things take time, I do realize.

I also want to recognize the folks that are already here doing the hard work. And for the people who have come and gone. For the workers in the fields, under the hot sun not making much of wage either. I write this, in the same spirit as to why you do what you do. I realize I am sort of new again to this whole thing. So I am always humbled, and realize there is a lot I need to learn.

On a daily basis these days, I contemplate what it would be like to own my own spot.
Somedays I get to talk to people about it. I find it encouraging.
Other days people are less so. Saying that this place isn’t ready yet. That it will fail.

I’m getting sort of..antsy.

In the sense that I can’t afford life here, as cheap as it may be at times, on a cook’s wage. I see other friends of mine in the same position. It’s really pitiful, this whole minimum wage thing. And honestly, I’m not learning a ton, and realize that unless I am being challenged, the wage doesn’t compensate for knowledge.
I go back and forth in my head, that if I’m going to change my occupation, this will be the place, because I surely can’t support myself here for too long. It would break my heart to have to move out of the kitchen. It has been part of home the past five years.

In my head, I am constantly hearing myself say, “Well, if there’s nothing left to burn, you have to catch yourself on fire..” And while that is the intro to one of my favorite songs, it resonates deeply.

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I am not in this industry to make it rich.
I do want to help change it, though.

I want it to be cool.
I want workers to be respected. I want them to feel pride in what they do.
I want people to open their minds and hearts to different food cultures, and dining experiences.
I want people to support more local establishments.
I want local restaurants to challenge, but also support each other.

Otherwise, it becomes stale and stagnant.

If you’re not going to make it better, then I will.

Somehow, I will.

I am the biggest proponent of time. I’ve only been back living in the south for almost four months. This is tiny. But I am seeing potential, even among the naysayers and those who tell me this place isn’t ready. Or that I will fail. And that it is hard and expensive.

I know, I know, I know.

A place, just like a person, must keep challenging itself if it wants to grow.

I want to grow.
I want to grow here, truly. I don’t want to leave again because I can’t find what I need. The systems are not yet here, in many ways. But they are certainly on their way. You can hear it, sometimes. I see it, in little ways. People wanting more.

The South ain’t in no hurry to change, and I am not here for those reasons.
But it will start small, as it always does. With a few friends around a table with some ideas.

And who knows what it will turn into.

I just know I am ready. I’m ready for people here to live better, stronger lives. I want this for myself. I want this for my neighbor.

I feel the heat rising from my feet, and it’s a nice thing to feel. I know this sensation. Of being a little antsy, waiting for the right time to move. I love it. I love how it scares me but how it feels when you start to move.

Small moves, dude.

small moves.