Monthly Archives: October 2010

Future Ruins

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“Every room gives us layers of information about our past and present and who we are, our shrines and quirks and hopes and sorrows, our attempts to prove that we exist and are more or less okay…….these rooms are future ruins.” Anne Lamott

There is something about ruins that I’m attracted to. While driving through the countryside of France we stumbled upon very old buildings in varying stages of decay. Some were in the process of being restored, some were left to slowly fall apart. If there was room to stop and catch a photo, we did. If there was a road we could take to get a closer look we took it.

It’s so different here in America. First of all our buildings are just not that old, our country isn’t even that old. Secondly, we have all these safety codes and fear of lawsuits so the minute something starts to decay we tear it down. I think we are missing something important when we do that. Like the way we rush people off to the hospital to die where only a spouse or adult child can see what death really looks like. We keep up the Hollywood facade that there is only life here, only new buildings and future adventures.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to see new construction going up. I look forward to watching the remodel completed and the exterior repainted. But I was fascinated by every structure that had ancient stones still clinging together and curious about the stories held inside. The phrase ‘If these walls could talk’ takes on a whole new meaning for me now. Our family is the only family that has lived in our current house, our previous house has it’s third family living in it now.

A few others from our past may have as many as 10 different family stories hidden in it’s walls. But these places, they could have had generation after generation living in them. I want to know the stories. Even if I got to know someone in one of these remote villages, I’m certain there is too much to know. I’m certain there is no one alive who can even begin to tell the story of most of these places.

I think about my own family and how so many of my Grandparents and Aunts and Uncles have died taking their secrets with them. Only part of the story is retold. I wonder about the rest of it.

These days I scurry about furnishing, arranging (and rearranging), cleaning and decorating this house but someday all this stuff will be sifted through and only a small remnant will be kept by a few who knew us and knows the story behind the objects. I have very few things that used to belong to my Grandparents and many of them hold stories I have already forgotten or never knew.

These rooms, filled with all this stuff and all those memories are just future ruins. So many of the things I stress about don’t seem to matter at this moment. The only things that will survive the next couple of generations will be their stories (if they are told or written down) and the ripple affect of the choices we make in relationships.

Our children will relate to their spouses (if they have them) and their children (if they have them) in reaction and response to how we have related to them. Yesterday I wrote about a story my Grandmother told me from her childhood. Putting aside how accurate her memory of those events may or may not have been, I’m aware of how her choices (to get married at 14, toughen up and refuse to cry in front of her husband when he hurt her to spite her father) and how they have affected me through my mother and all my Aunts and Uncles (and their children). The stories are so intertwined, such a tangled beautiful mess.

It’s really strange but thinking of all of this in the context of what will be left standing in two or three hundred years from now, really helps me relax a little. I just do not have the kind of power it takes to make that all work out well. I can’t even make this years Thanksgiving weekend turn out well, what makes me think I can affect the lives of future generations in profound ways?!

These two words ‘Future Ruins’ both haunt me and free me. I want to remember them and live out the story while I exist.

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Baked Eggs in Cream (Oeufs en Cocotte)

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1-2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

8 eggs

1-1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Salt & freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup heavy cream (aprox)

1/4 Comte` or Gruyere cheese, shredded (aprox)

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (aprox)

1. Preheat oven to 375 F degrees. Bring a teakettle filled with water to a boil.

2. Place four 3/4 cup (6 fl oz) ramekins or custard cups in a large, deep baking pan. Place a generous dab of butter in the bottom of each ramekin, and then break 2 eggs into each ramekin. Sprinkle the eggs evenly with the chives, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle evenly with the cream. Top each ramekin with a sprinkle of both cheeses.

(I didn’t have the right size ramekins so I put three eggs in a larger dish and one egg in a smaller one.)

3. Pour boiling water into the baking pan to reach about halfway up the sides of ramekins and cover the pan with a large baking sheet or aluminum foil. Bake the eggs until the whites are firm and the yolks are still soft and runny, about 10 minutes. To test for doneness, softly touch an egg with your fingertip, or shake a ramekin gently. If the egg wobbles slightly, it is ready. If you prefer firmer eggs, bake them for 1-2 minutes longer.

4. Carefully remove the baking pan from the oven, then quickly and carefully remove the ramekins from the water bath, serve at once. Makes 4 servings. (I served with tomato slices and warmed baguette)

Note: I may have put more cream than I should have, which made it hard to tell when the eggs were done (next time I will touch the yoke to test instead of jiggling the dish). I overcooked them but the flavor was still amazing. Next time I will use the right size dish and cook the amount of time called for or only a min or two more.

From Williams-Sonoma Paris: Authentic Recipes Celebrating the Foods of the World.

 

Quotes from East of Eden

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East of Eden (Centennial Edition) East of Eden by John Steinbeck

My review


rating: 5 of 5 stars
Beautifully descriptive portrayal of Northern CA, insightful look at relationships, especially fathers and sons.

Some of my favorite quotes:

“I’ve studied and maybe learned how things are, but I’m not even close to why they are. And you must not expect to find that people understand what they do. So many things are done instinctively,..”

“At such a time it seems natural and good to me to ask myself these questions. What do I believe in? What must I fight for and what must I fight against?”

“Maybe we all have in us a secret pond where evil and ugly things germinate and grow strong. But this culture is fenced in, and the swimming brood climbs up only to fall back. Might it not be that in the dark pools of some men the evil grows strong enough to wriggle over the fence and swim free? Would not such a man be our monster, and are we not related to him in our hidden water?” (This reminds me of Gollum in Lord of the Rings)

“The church and the whorehouse arrived in the Far West simultaneously. And each would have been horrified to think it was a different facet of the same thing. But surely they were both intended to accomplish the same thing: the singing, the devotion, the poetry of the churches took a man out of his bleakness for a time, and so did the brothels.”

“…It is a beauty – a dreadful kind of beauty…”

“…I wonder whether you ever fell that something invisible is all around you….”

“(___) was not beautiful. Perhaps she wasn’t even pretty, but she had the glow that makes men follow a woman in the hope of reflecting a little of it…..(___) did not simply throw up her hands and give up. It was much worse than that. She went right on doing and being what she was – without the glow. The people who loved her ached for her, seeing her try, and they got trying for her. (___)’s friends were good and loyal but they were human, and humans love to feel good and they hate to feel bad….It is easy to find a logical and virtuous reason for not doing what you don’t want to do…..And the women who had thought they wanted dresses never realized that what they had wanted was happiness….”

“Perhaps the best conversationalist in the world is the man who helps others to talk.”

“And once a boy has suffered rejection, he will find rejection even where it does not exist – or, worst, will draw it forth from poepole simply by expecting it.”

View all my reviews.

Post Paris Party Deux

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I didn’t want my trip to France to be over so one way I’m keeping it alive is to share the memories with my friends. Last week I had three girlfriends over to taste some of the samples of things I brought back and some things I bought here that I hoped would be similar enough to what I enjoyed there. Today I did something similar for another two girlfriends.

I decorated the table with things that I either received from my husband on his previous trips to France (tablecloth) or I have collected along the way. The sunflowers in the center were in memory of my first painting at the art retreat.

You can see how it all came together if you click ‘more’

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