On Resisting Awesomeness

I am sometimes a little late to discover things. Sometimes it's because I'm simply busy being obsessed with something else that I find utterly fabulous. But sometimes, I'm sad to say, it's because I resisted the awesomeness for some reason. Well, usually for one of two (somewhat idiotic) reasons actually.

Reason #1: a misplaced idea of being too cool or (as John Green* might say,a desire to create "ironic distance"...either way, it's stupid...a lesson I learned the hard way). You may be familiar with this line of logic:

Everyone in the entire world:

"Ahhhh!! _______ is the most amazing (book, movie, etc etc etc) EVER!"

Me: (secretly and smugly to myself)

"I just can't jump on the bandwagon...it's too lame." 

 

You wanna know what's too lame? Announcing that _______is the most amazing (book, movie, etc etc etc) three years AFTER everyone in the entire world told you so and you were just too busy being cool to listen to them.

How did I learn this lesson, you might be wondering? Harry Potter, that's how. I was too-cool-for-school for years, despite everyone I knew telling me I'd love these books in ways I could scarcely dream of. Being oh-so-cool, I resisted and resisted. And then sometime around the release of book fourI finally gave in and reluctantly started reading. Three sleepless days later, I emerged from my total and utter immersion in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and swore that I would NEVER be a stubborn git in that particular way ever again. And then I bought a wand and waited in line with the 14-year-olds at Barnes and Noble for the midnight release of The Goblet of Fire.

It turns out that when everyone in the entire world agrees that something is awesome, it usually is. You should at least give it a whirl.

Reason # 2 that I sometimes resist awesome things: a less-than-stellar introduction to said thing. Take...ummmm...poetry for example. Do you remember your introduction to poetry in high school? I do. It was a whole lot of Shakespeare and Keats and e.e.cummings that seemed inapplicable to my life and was taught to me by people who didn't love it (or maybe understand it?) themselves. One or two got through (Eliot's The Hollow Men and Crane's A Man Said To The Universe), but not much.  

The tide began to turn for me when I found a tattered paperback of Whitman's Leaves of Grass that was left in the "guideshack" at the first rafting company I ever worked for, specifically my first reading of Me Imperturbe (which still gets me every time). I finally began to see how poetry could be a poignant distillation of ideas and emotions. In general, however, although I truly wanted to appreciate poetry, for the most part, I just didn't get it. So when people asked me if I'd ever heard of this poet or that, my answer was usually something along the lines of "no...I'm not that into poetry." 

Which is sort of like saying that you're not that into food, just because you had a crappy meal or two 20 years ago. Ridiculous.

Then it happened. I was wandering aimlessly around a bookstore and picked up Sharon Olds's Stag's Leap and proceeded to spend the next two hours sobbing on the floor of the poetry section as if it were my own 30 year marriage coming to an end. It was my first time reading a modern poet. And it changed my relationship to poetry entirely.

So I've had a lot of catching up to do. Poets that everyone (it seems) has known about forever and I'm only just discovering. Raymond Carver and David Wagoner, for example. And most recently, Mary Oliver (who is utterly brilliant and I am hopelessly in love with everything she's written). 

So just in case you, like me, weren't properly introduced to the amazing world of modern poetry (which, I will warn you, is totally a gateway drug to the old stuff, much of which I've grown to love), I will leave you with this recent favorite of mine, which you can find scribbled on the first page of my most recent journal:

 

Foolishness? No, It's Not {by Mary Oliver}

Sometimes I spend all day trying to count

the leaves on a single tree. To do this I

have to climb branch by branch and

write down the numbers in a little book.

So I suppose, from their point of view,

it’s reasonable that my friends say: what

foolishness! She’s got her head in the clouds again.

 

But it’s not. Of course I have to give up,

but by then I’m half crazy with the wonder

of it — the abundance of the leaves, the

quietness of the branches, the hopelessness

of my effort. And I am in that delicious

and important place, roaring with laughter,

full of earth-praise.

 

Ugh...it's SO good, right? You are very welcome. Happy New Year...make no longer resisting awesomeness one of your new intentions!

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*Do you know about John Green's awesomeness? Lest you think him only brilliant writer of young adult fiction that can make you snot-cry in public, be sure to check out his other great work, most of which he does with his equally awesome brother, Hank: Vlog Brothers, Crash Course, Project For Awesome, etc...and, just for good measure, don't forget his TED Talk

 

 

 

Francelia's Tortillas- A Recipe

The running of Chaa Creek's wonderful little Macal River Camp is a family affair. Dulcio is the general go-to for just about everything with his son, Ariel, by his side! His wife, Francelia, does all of the cooking and manages to almost single-handedly feed anywhere in the range of 3 to 30 people twice a day! Her food is more than delicious…it is made with such care and expertise and I found myself on more than one occasion quite convinced that those of us down at the camp were eating the very best Chaa Creek had to offer, despite our more modest accommodations.

Ariel, Dulcio, Francelia, Alan

Ariel, Dulcio, Francelia, Alan

Not only is Francelia an incredible cook, but she is warm and welcoming and was endlessly patient as I asked her question after question about the scrumptious food that showed up on my plate twice a day. I couldn't get enough. She would smile and humbly describe what she was making, always shrugging nonchalantly as I exclaimed at the effort she went to to cook everything from scratch with fresh, local ingredients.

Dulcio helps Francelia sometimes, too!

Dulcio helps Francelia sometimes, too!

One morning I poked my head into her kitchen in search of another cup of coffee and found her making tortillas. My interest was piqued as I have an utter weakness  for chewy, fresh, homemade tortillas. By the end of the conversation, Francelia had agreed to pick up a comal (a flat metal pan that sits on the stovetop for cooking tortillas) for me to take home and to teach me to use it that evening after dinner. 

Without further ado…Francelia's tortilla recipe:

Ingredients

1lb flour*

3tsp baking powder

1/3tsp salt

1 1/2 tablespoon lard {shortening can be substituted}

Water*

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(1) Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together with a whisk

(2) Work in the lard/shortening until it has a cornmeal-like consistency

(3) Add water a little at a time, beginning to knead the dough as soon as it will stick together enough to knead; keep adding water a few teaspoons at a time until the consistency is similar to that of pizza dough

(4) Let dough rest for 10-15 minutes

(5) Grease your hands and countertop with additional lard/shortening- the grease rather than flour is key; keep more on hand for reapplication throughout the process

(6) Form dough into balls- Francelia recommended beginning with small tortillas and I generally form a ball that is between a golf-ball and racquetball in size

(7) Heat your flat surface (griddle, frying pan, comal) on a burner over medium heat- you may find that you need to adjust your heat slightly up or down depending on how long it takes your tortillas to cook or if they are burning

(8) Flatten the ball between the palms of your hand to form a disc and then place on the greased countertop and use your greased fingers to stretch the tortilla out in a circle taking care not to rip the dough; try to stretch the dough quite thin

(9) Taking care (this takes practice!), transfer the stretched tortilla to the cooking surface

(10) Flip the tortilla when the dough has bubbled and has begun to brown on the underside

(11) Eat hot and fresh, with eyes closed and in a state of pure bliss

* Francelia recommends Bebe Agua flour, a baker's flour, which seems to only be available in Belize; I've had good luck with just a basic organic unbleached white flour, but note that the amount of water you use depends on your flour!

Metta, another guest at the camp, snapped this shot of Francelia teaching me and Dulcio laughing at my bumbling efforts!

Metta, another guest at the camp, snapped this shot of Francelia teaching me and Dulcio laughing at my bumbling efforts!