Friday, November 13, 2009

On Perfectly Buttered Toast and other things

book, window, and wine glass of water, 2009

I've been away. I've taken a solo trip to the country to regroup, refuel, recharge, and all other such res. An early birthday gift to myself (along with A Platter of Figs and other recipes by David Tanis). No telephone, no computer, no one, but me.

written earlier...

It's about 9 o'clock in the morning. I'm looking out the large paned window which takes up most of the east wall of my petite one-room cottage. The sky is white and the sun is shining. I see a small dark bird with a white belly perched upon the old white fence that protects the sheep while they graze. Although it is November, the grass is bright green and wet with dew. The West Marin landscape drinks in the rain after a long dry summer and makes autumn look like spring.

I'm nestled in with a generous slice of sweet sticky Morning Bun Coffee Cake from Bovine Bakery. When I entered the bakery, just about 15 minutes ago, I was convinced my drive into town had been a waste of time. I saw just about everything but my favorite coffee cake inside the glass case. My heart sunk. I wasn't feeling hopeful at all when I hesitantly asked ...any chance you have Morning Bun Coffee Cake back there? The owner replied with It's just come out of the oven. We're about to slice it. Music to my ears.

This slice is so large it requires a sturdy fork and knife. As I savor my first bite, sip my tea, and read David's seemingly effortless guidelines for preparing Lobster Risotto I have to pause for a moment, a long moment, and take in the utter beauty of it all. Nothing going on here is expensive or at all difficult to arrange, yet it's exquisite. It's worth planning this sort of solo time, what I've been calling my retreat. It is this uninterrupted time alone that offers me the time and space to reflect on my life and appreciate others. Which brings me back to yesterday, my first morning alone.

It was a quiet day. I watched a little black sheep nibble on grasses beneath the apple trees. KWMR hummed in the background. As I wrapped yarn around my needles to and fro, knit, purl, knit, purl, I heard Reading to John announced. Reading to John is a radio show. Neshama Franklin read to her husband John for many years before he died and now she reads to her radio audience. Such a beautiful idea, yet also so sad. An experience once shared with a loved one is now read into a microphone from The Creamery Building in downtown Point Reyes Station. Where it goes nobody knows.

I love the indulgence of having a book read to me or having someone serve me a simple meal. Why do these things feel so indulgent? Perhaps it is because I'm an adult and such offerings are typically reserved for children. John was lucky. I'm lucky.

No one can prepare perfectly buttered slices of toast like my mother. I have bitten into many fine slices of buttered toast, but Mom's, it has some indescribable quality that cannot be duplicated. I believe this is the type of feeling we all long to conjure up again, those good ol' days when we were fragile and small, served nice slices of toast, and loved unconditionally.

Chris has prepared elaborate meals for me and surprised me with interesting new ingredients, but it's those little things (those things along the lines of buttered toast) that really make me happy. There's nothing that makes me love a man more than his placing a cutting board decorated with apple and cheese slices in front of me while I'm reading a nice book on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Oh, yes. That's what I'm talking about.

Reading a book to me works well too. I recall lounging in a little cottage on Block Island, watching the sun set, as Chris read from Michael Ondaatje's Divisadero. I also have some beautiful memories of listening to Chris read John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley to me while we camped in Yosemite. There were moments in the sun, sprawled out on mats beside our tent, late nights inside our tent when Chris read with a headlamp, and one day that is so clear in my memory, Chris reading as we both relaxed and dangled our feet from a bridge near Glen Aulin Falls. The light was so beautiful that day.

Why were these moments so special? Is it because I'm in love, because Chris is such a great guy, or is it because these moments take me back to the comfortable feeling of being a child--fine toast, bedtime stories...

It was a warm summer night. Our exhausted voices pleaded One more story, Mom! Just one more! One more! Please... Mom looked down at us, dressed in our cotton nighties and tucked beneath our cool sheets as she, tired from a day filled with two rambunctious little girls, gave in and said Okay...

Once upon a time there was a butterfly.
The butterfly flew away.
The end.

morning bun coffee cake, 2009


  1. i think having a book read to me is quite beautiful. it reminds me of 'out of africa' and the like.

  2. dear denise, unfortnely I do not read (and speak) well in english. but by your words, I still could feel a gentle poetry. so cosy. and I loved reading them.

  3. What a lovely post, Denise! It's so important to take a little time away and just regroup --and what better place than West Marin! The last time I got away like that was in Cape Cod. I did much the same: eating, reading, important. Welcome back :) (great purple scarf, by the way)

  4. Deep breath I just wrote you a message and the computer ate it.....
    so...What a nice way to start my week, you have soothed my alread ruffled monday much so I am able to type this for the second time.
    Toast and butter, I understand,
    Isn't it lovely how the tanis book manages to be inspiring but calm at the same time (I find most of todays highly polished, beautiful photo, beautiful life cookbooks make me feel frenetic and often leave me so full and overwelmed I am empty at the end)
    I need a weekend away,I need toast.
    have a good week rachx

  5. Oh, what a beautiful post..! I love to have Bill read books to me at night - and the words aren't even the point. It's that soothing comfort that lulls you into sleep... Those magical, ever-so-fleeting moments that take us back to childhood, to a less complicated time... And I think that's part of being in love with They're not exclusive of one another, I don't think. The person we love makes us feel safe and loved, unconditionally and we find that place where we were (or thought we were) when we were children and didn't know as much about the world....

    I don't know... All I know is that I love the peaceful, soothing place where this post took me, so thank you.


  6. Having a book read to you: it's the ultimate luxury. It's like watching your own imaginary movie while in the arms of a loved one.
    I like the idea of a retreat. Very special!

  7. sweetheart~
    you are a glorious poet !
    a writer, who took me by the hand, with your lovely words.
    deep sigh, for beauty.

  8. I loved reading this. And I know about that perfectly buttered toast that only mom's can make. It's something I miss. Thank you for your beautiful words.

  9. Wearing a warm sweater, but walking out into a crisp fall day, the cool air on my cheek. I love that feeling. That's what your post reminded me of. How nice. :)

  10. Char, Yes, it is so beautiful. You know...I don't think I've ever seen Out of Africa. I just rented it. I'll probably watch it tonight. Thank you for planting that seed.

    Tiziana, You are oh-so-sweet for doing your best to understand my English. Thank you!

    Megan, Thank you for your note. I've never been to Cape Cod, but I'd really like to visit. Perhaps I'll make it the base of my next retreat.

    Rachel, I so hate it when the computer eats my thoughts--grrrr. I hope you are feeling soothed today. If not, maybe a little David Tanis, a little Elizabeth David, or perhaps a slice of buttery toast or two. Thank you for taking the time to write and re-write for me!

    Maria, Bill reads to you at night? I should have known. I love it! Yes, I agree, if it's a good relationship it can take us back to that warm, safe, and loved space. You are wise.

    Amelia, You said it...exactly.

    Christina, You are very kind. Thank you!

    Jessica, Thank you for your kind words. Have I ever mentioned that your "comments" photograph is beautiful? It is.

    Tracy, I love the feeling you described, so if I reminded you of such things I am quite pleased. Thank you for explaining so beautifully.

  11. This is such a sweet and meditative post ... and I'm so glad you got your favorite cake!

  12. Hi Nicole, Such a complement coming from the Queen of Sweet and Meditative Posts! Thank you.

  13. Isn't it wonderful,the abundant beauty in our neighborhood? You just taught me something I didn't know about someone I know. I volunteer at the Fairfax library, where Neshama works. Think I'm going to have to start streaming some KWMR.

  14. Shae, Well, your neighborhood. Since I moved from Point Reyes to Russian Hill my days of watching sheep graze are over (for now...) How interesting that you work with Neshama. I only know her voice. You should definitely stream KWMR every once in a while. I also suggest reading the Sherrif's Calls in the Point Reyes Light and visiting The Western for a Lagunitas IPA every now and again :)

  15. True enough, but given the scope of the blogosphere -- and because you even *know* about the sheriff's calls in the Point Reyes Light -- I can't help thinking of us as sharing the same 'hood. About ten years ago, I tried to get into the sheriff's calls by nearly breaking my ankle when I was housesitting in Inverness. They sent out the entire volunteer fire department -- about eight guys. I don't know why I was denied my five minutes of West Marin fame. Might've gone like this . . . INVERNESS: At 6:08 a.m. a woman fell out of a laundry shed and sprained her ankle. She said she was distracted by wanting a man she couldn't have. :-)

  16. Shae, I see you are well informed. Your Sherrif's Call would have fit into the Point Reyes Light SO WELL! I was cracking up while reading it!