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22 June 2007

the abundance of summer

the abundance of summer

Last night, about 11 o'clock, the Chef and I were laying on the grassy hillside across from his restaurant. It was the longest day of the year, so light still lingered in the sky to the west, twilight blue beneath glowering clouds. It had been a day of disappointment, and some small stresses that felt enormous in that moment. I needed him beside me.

All winter, I long for summer. As much as I try to enjoy what each season brings, in the back of my mind, summer light plays in my mind. Liquid and forgiving, strong and insistent, and yet gentle — the light of Seattle summers is like no other. And of course, in spite of my newfound love for celeriac and lacinato kale, after a time, I just long for strawberries. One single strawberry, perfectly ripe.

And now, here they are. In every market I have visited in the last two weeks, green cartons filled with plump strawberries sit in enticing formations, luring me near them. For weeks, I have eaten strawberries. I have been bringing them home and eating them in the afternoon, leaving little green crowns on the saucer sitting next to the computer. I have gobbled them all up.

But somehow, in all this luscious sustenance of early summer — the pliable bite between the lips, the dotted seeds caught between my teeth, the sweet intoxication of red strawberries eaten one after the other — I have forgotten to slow down and really taste each one.

That's what my life feels like right now.

We moved into our lovely home nearly three weeks ago, and boxes still sit on all the floors, some of them opened, most of them not. Only a week after we moved in, I traveled to New York, and Richmond, and met my editors and gave talks. After I returned home, grateful to be in the arms of the Chef again, we only had one day off before he returned to a grueling week of work. And I taught cooking classes and traveled around the city visiting farmers' markets for a piece in a magazine and visited every butcher shop in Seattle for another piece and worked on the next column for the magazine in which I appear every three months. I want to update this site more regularly, but I rarely have a free hour in front of the computer to just wander through the words the way I like to do here. There were emails to answer and articles to write and pieces to edit and marvelous surprises beyond that. And every one of them — all of them, each and every one — was a tremendous joy.

But when you eat without breathing between each bite, you lose your sense of taste.

Oh, and there is this wedding thing.

You see, the Chef and I are getting married, in three weeks, and three days.

Our wedding will be a blissful bout of silliness, a wonderfully relaxed day (with three days of events with family and friends before it). We are having a gluten-free potluck, with food-allergy-sensitive cards for all the guests. Friends are playing music, taking photographs, doing the flowers, and bringing the speakers to play all our favorite songs. I'll be wearing my red cowboy boots, and a beautiful white wedding dress. We'll dance all day. We will eat well. Mostly, we will laugh.

And finally, thank goodness, I will be married to the Chef.

I hate the word fiancé now. It sounds so pretentious, that word. So waiting in limbo.

But that's what I feel like — waiting in limbo.

We have known we will be married for nearly a year. We have lived together, laughed together, and eaten together for over a year. We feel married.

Can't we just be married already?

Don't misunderstand. Our wedding planning has been so fluid and easy that we feel as though we are lucky. We are skipping the vast behemoth that is the American wedding. The wedding industrial complex — that's what I have been calling it lately. When people hear that I am getting married soon, they look at me and take in a sharp breath. "Oh, the bride!" they say to me, as though I should be a neurotic mess, tearing my hair, stomping my feet, and breaking into tears. It's as though I have the right to demand that the world lift me on its shoulders, so my feet don't have to touch the ground for the next three weeks.

"Pshaw," I say. "I'm not like that."

But the fact is, I have been eating too many strawberries, too fast. If all I had to do right now was complete the last-minute details for our wedding? I'd be fine. It's the articles and emails and editing and proofreading the manuscript of my book and unpacking the house and changing the addresses with every company and worrying about getting passports in time for Italy and trying to find that red shirt in a box I know it must be somewhere and....

I lay next to the Chef in the grass, crying because I was damned stressed. "Maybe I should just admit it. I'm overwhelmed."

He rolled over in the grass, and turned his face toward mine. He had been laying beside me, holding my hand, just letting me send my words and worries to the sky. He had been listening. But after I stopped talking, he rolled toward me and looked me in the eyes. "I love you. I always will. And I love you more, now that you've just been vulnerable with me like this." He leaned his face into mine, and I saw the last light of the sky in his eyes.

I remembered, again. That sky, it's always there. Clouds may cover it, squalls may arise, and storms can seem to last for an awfully long time. But behind it, through it, always there — that vast, blue sky.

That's what my love for the Chef feels like.

He leaned in and kissed me, just a simple small kiss on the lips.

That's all I needed.

Sometimes, the taste of a single strawberry feels as big as that vast blue sky.


At 5:22 AM, Blogger Kelly said...

I hope you're able to find enough moments of quiet to keep you grounded underneath that big sky, in the weeks ahead. It sounds as if your life has taken off in a flurry of busyness--all good, but yes, overwhelming. We have to be so careful to not get lost in the doing.

At 5:27 AM, Blogger Barb Smith said...

Love and strawberries...being vulnerable with the love of your life and knowing that you CAN be without fear...sharing a night sky.

Heaven on earth.

At 5:38 AM, Blogger KandT said...

Oh Shauna -- I do know the feeling because I have been there more times than I can count... and I know I will be there many more times. You hit the nail on the head, though. You have someone to share the load now - someone to help ease the pain and the frustration. I am lucky enough to have that, too -- and it will make all the difference. You will just have to remember to share it with your love when it is hardest to do - like today.

Oh - and don't feel pressure from us, you dear readers. We long for your next word, but we can wait. :)

Take care of you first.


At 7:54 AM, Blogger Jodi said...

Hi Shauna,
Take a deep breath - Peace is coming. You, my dear, are loved by so many people (most who will never meet you). Take another deep breath and then take one more. Sit down and have a cup of coffee or two at the picnic table. The boxes will get unpacked when you need what is in there. This blog, as much as I love to read it, will get written when you have time. (I noticed that you have a few more going at the same time.) You are indeed a busy woman. Just because you don't work in an office does not mean that you aren't busier than most of us. Take one more deep breath, think about the most pressing thing that needs to be done. Do that one thing and breath yet again. Get out of the house as much as you can and enjoy that sky day or night. Thank you for blessing us with your words. I will pray for calm and peace for you in the next few weeks.

At 11:28 AM, Blogger nicole said...

This is so lovely, and touching. I totally understand where you're coming from -- the rush and stress of life can be so overwhelming at times, and it's hard to take a deep breath and enjoy the moment, even when we desperately want to do so. Try to visualize your honeymoon - in Italy! - coming up; hopefully it will help you get through the trying times. Basil, fresh mozzarella, wine, the way the light filters through the trees in Tuscany ... soon! Hang in there. And have a beautiful wedding :)

At 1:16 PM, Blogger Kristin said...

You're so totally awesome. Just take a deep breath and relax (which I know you have already done by now.)

Seriously. You're awesome. Ass cherry.

At 6:29 PM, Blogger bibliotecaria said...

Just remember two things:
1) You are going to enjoy your wedding (especially since it won't cost that much -- I heard on the radio that the normal American wedding right now costs over $18,000, which is stunningly shocking to me).

2) Sometimes, no matter how much you might like to do something, you need to say no. Just remember, not everything is supposed to get a YES. Just the right things.

At 6:53 PM, Blogger evil cake lady said...

shauna, i'm serious, you gotta stop making me cry in public.

wedding industrial complex. i like that!

At 7:05 PM, Blogger Madeline Rains said...

How exciting to have fallen upon this blog, by way of a homeschooler's blog, and to find a gluten-free expert who is also a good writer - two big interests of mine.

Vulnerability is what it's all about. What a perfect, sensual image - that you weren't taking the time to taste the one strawberry.

And I haven't even explored your recipes yet!

Give yourself lots of time and even we newbies will be coming back for more here when you're ready.

At 7:32 PM, Blogger Dori Sonntag said...

Wow - you have captured what I have been feeling most of my life. I have always been planning and waiting for the future that I forget to enjoy life along the way. Thankfully, I am blessed with little reminders every so often like this. Thank you!

At 8:07 PM, Blogger dznomore said...

Everyday I check here and if it's the same beautiful food picture, I enjoy it again and move on. I think, well, she's unpacking, traveling, cooking,making time for a full life! Sometimes, I'm inspired to shut down my own computer sooner. It signals to me that you live a well rounded life that is inspiring...we'll all wait, go do what needs to be done including caring for yourself.

At 5:01 PM, Blogger Deann B. said...

Why do your posts never fail to bring tears to my eyes? Those tears of "aw shucks, that was a beautiful conclusion to a beautiful post. {sigh}" I love that your words mirror so many of my own thoughts and ideals. I just wonder sometimes how you do it. :) Lots of love to you and your Chef.

At 9:17 PM, Blogger Shauna said...


I love that last line. We are not the doing. Thank you.


Yes. I completely agree.


Thank you. What would have been a long, slow spin before was only a couple of hours of feeling overwhelmed. He helped so much. So did writing here.


Thank you. Breathing here. And I've found the ground again. Your comment helped.


Oh, Italy. Thank you for reminding me. What heaven that will be. And the wedding itself will be glorious. It's just making our way through the tiny, vast details before we reach it...


You certainly made me laugh. Ass cherry. It seems I've started a slogan...


Oh my god. 18,000! I'd faint before I could do that.

And yes. Not everything is a yes. But I think of it as saying yes to myself, to the moment, instead of saying no.

One of my Buddhist teachers once said something I will never forget. In every situation, we have to assess who in the room needs the most compassion. And sometimes, we have to treat ourselves as another person in the room. Sometimes, it is us.

Evil Cake Lady,

I can't help it!


Thank you, my dear. I'm so glad you found yourself here.

Working Mama,

You're welcome. You know, I think I'm pretty good at living in the moment, and then something like this arises to remind me: "You still have work to do on that one!"
We all do.


Thank you for the reminder. Blogging is alluring, and sometimes a trap. Living is what it's about. without these moments, and all the ones I will never write about, what would I have to write after the silences?


Now I'm saying Aw Shucks.

I think when we write ourselves, we are writing each other as well. I'm just trying to understand myself here, but if it helps you, then I'm thrilled.

At 2:23 PM, Blogger Nora B. said...

Shauna, thanks for sharing. That was very well written. And I hope that you'll have a very enjoyable wedding.

At 1:01 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

Hello~I've stumbled across your blog and shed tears into the screen! WOW, what a post! And congrats to you both! My husband and I have been married 15 months now, I totally remember the overwhelming moments! LOL! But that last kiss that you centering that must have been! You guys sound amazing together!! Congratulations and Best Wishes for a wonderful marriage! :)


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