From My Notebook // The Blood Moon [Or, Mooning About….]

9/28/2015

 

. . . We are all one people under the moon.

Walked outside last night with Sonya to see the Blood Supermoon, a special kind of total lunar eclipse. What a strange and magical experience.

Strange in the base, primal instinct of fear that we both felt—mom said she felt it, too— as the moon slivered away into darkness;

strange, too, the thought that, had we looked to the sky last night between 10:15 and 11:23, we might have noticed nothing, or thought the moon was merely hiding behind a cloud, and gone about our business, missing a rare and magnificent celestial event entirely.

Strange and magical to look up at the sky with a sense of awe tinged with fear and to realize the terror the ancient peoples must have felt as their guiding light was, at the apex of its magnificence, slowly eaten away and extinguished by the darkness.

Incredible to think how far science has come, that this event was accurately predicted (and advertised as an event on Facebook) down to the minute the moon left us and the minute it reappeared.

Magical, too, that with the comfort of an internet full of knowledge and the security of constant connectivity— smartphones in hand— we could nonetheless feel something of our ancient forebears’ awe toward capital-N-Nature.

Incredible, too, the sacred sense of unity that the moon created last night— to see the little knots and clusters of people at the end of each block on Riverside Drive, some talking excitedly, asking confused questions —tiny sparking voices in against the muted enormity above us— sharing binoculars, or just sitting, alone or in groups, in quiet contemplation. The dogs felt it, too. You could tell.

Last night I felt, for the first time since moving back to Manhattan, a real sense of fellowship, of belonging to one human community. And after reading HONY’s posts on the stories of the displaced Syrian refugees, stories of unbelievable human hate and violence as well as moments of heartbreaking and uplifting generosity, I really needed that feeling. An important one to carry forward through life, even when the moon shines most brightly.

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*On the theme of the moon, this piece reminds me of a wonderful tall-tale by Italo Calvino entitled “The Distance of the Moon”. Click here for an enchanting bedtime story…

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Food // Coconut Protein Bread

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Disclaimer: this recipe isn’t mine. It has been slightly tweaked from its original form on The Radiant Life blog (find it here). This grain-free, gluten-free, paleo-approved bread is, however, delicious and relatively inexpensive to make, and the little round, golden loaf cheered me up this morning when I had nothing in my apartment to eat for breakfast. I know food doesn’t technically have facial expressions, but I could have sworn it was smiling up at me. Then I cut it into pieces and ate it… hmm.

Anyway…

Coconut flour isn’t the cheapest flour on the market, but its nutritional value is high: just a quarter cup provides 10 grams of dietary fiber and 4 grams of protein, as compared to 1 gram of fiber and 3 grams of protein in a quarter cup of ‘enriched’ white flour. And coconut flour is much lower in carbohydrates than its pale compatriot: coconut flour’s 16 grams compares favorably with white flour’s 24 grams (even more so when you consider that the net carb content of coconut flour, found by subtracting the dietary fiber from the carb count, is 6 as opposed to 23). If that’s not enough to seduce you despite the higher cost, consider this: fiber and protein are much more filling than refined carbohydrates, meaning you’ll need to eat much less of a comparable recipe to satisfy your body. Trust me: a win for both your health and your wallet is at hand.

My version of this recipe is small, because I’m feeding only myself, but you can easily double or even quadruple it for a larger loaf (just increase the baking time by five minutes or so for each added iteration)

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This recipe makes one small loaf, enough to cover 2-3 meals for me.

 

 

Ingredients:

3 eggs (please buy free-range, no hormones, antibiotics, etc)

1 tbsp raw honey

1/4 cup grapeseed oil, plus a little extra for greasing the pan

.5 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

6 tbsp organic coconut flour

Equipment: Brownie pan, loaf pan, or oven-safe bowl/ramekin, Mixing spoon, Whisk

Procedure:

Preheat the oven to 350.

Crack the eggs into a medium bowl. Using the spoon, stir in the honey, smoothing it around a bit with the back of the spoon until it fully integrates into the egg mixture. Pour in the grapeseed oil, sprinkle in the salt, and mix until well incorporated. (Don’t wash that spoon yet! You’ll need it in a second).

In a little bowl, combine the coconut flour and baking powder. You can use the whisk or a fork (I won’t tell). Pour about a third of the powdery mixture into the bowl with the wet ingredients and whisk well (this time I really do mean “whisk”). Repeat with the two remaining thirds until all the dry ingredients are incorporated and not one single lump remains. Persevere; you will have beautiful, Michelle Obama-like arms when you’re done.

Grease your pan/bowl. I forgot to do this the first time– that’s why I’m writing this step clearly in the middle. It’s annoying to have to transfer your batter back into the mixing bowl, wash out your baking dish, and start again.

Stick the nasty, eggy whisk in the sink and use the large spoon to scrape your batter into the newly-greased dish. Stick it in the oven (middle rack worked for me), and let it bake for about 35 min. When a fork inserted into the middle comes out clean, it’s done! Turn it onto a drying rack, plate, or cutting board. Slice, butter, and enjoy.

 

IMG_1282 (1)* In terms of flavor and texture, this bread is somewhere between a sweet bread like banana or zucchini and a spelt sandwich loaf. The coconut flour gives it a most, dense, spongy texture that tastes delicious, but because it lacks gluten to stick it together, I’m not sure if I would trust it in a toaster. Proceed at own risk. I ate this for breakfast with grass-fed butter (I’m not being snobby– the nutrition content of grass-fed really is different), then again for lunch with baby spinach and sliced yogurt cheese. My loaf was round, which made it a little tricky to slice, but all of y’all out there with loaf pans should be fine.

Nutrition Facts:

Per 1/8th of a small loaf

Calories: 119

Fat: 9.2 g

Saturated Fat: 1.3 g

Carbohydrate: 5.5 g

Protein: 3.8 g

Fiber: 3 g

Sugars: 2.6 g

 

 

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A Thought // Cats, Dogs, and S.A.D.

“A lot of us humans are like dogs: we really don’t know what size we are, how we’re shaped, what we look like. The most extreme example of this ignorance must be the people who design the seats on airplanes. At the other extreme, the people who have the most accurate, vivid sense of their own appearance may be dancers. What dancers look like is, after all, what they do.”

–Ursula Le GuinIMG_5954

 

(This quote purloined from the absolutely incredible “Brain Pickings Weekly” mailing, the closest I have come to knowing a Utopian blog.)

Ironic, then, that as I strode out of my door and into the world yesterday, I realized that “What DO I look like?” is a question I have been trying to answer for many years. As with most small epiphanies, this didn’t come to me out of the blue (or, more accurately, the January Manhattan Grey),  but rather in the form of a man crossing the street in front of me, impeccably turned out in a suit and a tall black hat. My neighborhood has a high concentration of Hasidic Jews. We live between two synagogues. I have never spoken to one, though I often smile as they pass, wondering at their somber expressions. Do they grieve for me, the lowly agnostic sinner? Are their thoughts of God? Or, behind the carefully studious expressions, are they thinking of what’s for dinner?

On this particular occasion, though, my mind was in no such higher place. All I thought was, “He must know exactly what he looks like”.

I know the desire for an all-encompassing lifestyle, a shrink-wrapped, prepackaged existence whose rules I must devoutly follow. I tried that with ballet. Unfortunately, it is not my nature to squish so easily into predetermined sets of characteristics, nor goose-step unquestioningly down predetermined paths. Yes, my life needs rhythm and guidance,  but the shortcuts I’ve tried to take have only served as reminders that, when it comes to shaping my life, the onus is on me. The crazy quilt of my life is my own; only I can rummage through the scraps of my experience and choose which to hold onto, which to put aside for later, which to place in contrast or in harmony, how and when to stitch them all together.

Still, I long to know what I look like. As Ms. Le Guin said, I know my body intimately for what it can do. I know the slight asymmetry in my hips (the left opening slightly less than the right). I know my right shoulder’s tendency to raise slightly higher than my left (the fault of carrying a heavy backpack on one side before “double-strapping” ceased to feel embarrassing). I know how to unlock my ankle joints when they stick, and which foot bends more, and that my spine rotates more easily right than left. Yet if you ask me how I believe (or even hope) how a stranger on the street might see me, I come up empty-handed. I do not often feel that I dress “like myself”. I don’t know if my haircut reflects my personality, or if I’m the sort of person who wears makeup, though I do sometimes. I have absolutely no concept of how old I look, or if I look fat or fit to anyone who isn’t a trained dancer. Sometimes I wonder if I appear wealthy or poor, high-maintenance or carefree, approachable or aloof. I want to stop people in the street and ask them, “who do I look like to you?” I know it’s just another shortcut, but some yearning part of me will not stop wanting, however superficially, to be described. I guess that’s the difficulty of being in process. Perhaps it’s why so many young adults go to such extremes in their beliefs and habits of dress;  I must have faith that in suffering through ambiguity I am at least not pigeonholing myself, that the subtleties of my character will, in time, work themselves out toward legibility. It’s uncomfortable, though; employing moderation kind of feels like being no one at all.

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Gallery

An Open Letter to Oliver Sacks

A piece I wrote a few months ago that isn’t only about mental health, so I think it has a place here. Thinking of Dr. Sacks, and my dad, more than usual today in anticipation of the Columbia semester commencing next week:

The Panic Button

Dear Dr. Sacks,

As a dancer, I once relied on my daily toil being constantly reflected back to me: by the mirrors in the studio, by the comments and review of my audiences, and by the reactions of my fellow artists. It took me many years of training to realize that dance is useless and empty if it it is nothing more than a search for approval. Unless I learned to look inside myself, my life’s work— ballet— would be more of a symptom than a calling. I realize that the work of science is more culturally sanctioned, better defined, and far less transient, and needs no such reflection to assure its legitimacy. Still, feeling the depths of the insecurity that plague so many of us in the search for meaning, so I publish this letter. I know now that it will never reach your hands, but perhaps, in releasing…

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The 21st Century Ecosystem

I’m admittedly relatively new to blogging, and there’s a lot I don’t know. I have an on-again, off-again relationship with our increasingly digital world; I don’t really understand the allure of online communities, I don’t use Instagram or SnapChat anymore, and I’ve never met a friend online before meeting them in person. I’m not against the idea; it just hasn’t happened for me.

A lot of the allure of blogging for me is, quite honestly, aesthetic. I want to create something beautiful and pertinent, a self-contained, relevant world that you all can disappear inside for a little while and emerge with a lingering sense of pleasure.

In a word, I want it to feel curated, for visitors to feel that someone cared enough to create a beautiful, cohesive experience while maintaining enough diversity to keep things interesting and provide depth. There are so many elements of other blogs and websites that inspire me; the vast technical resources of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s site; the touchingly personal photography and prose-poetry concept of Charly Cox’s Style The Natives; the frothy, wildly popular, beautiful-girl success story of Zoella, and the glorious, minimalist escapism of travel publication Cereal ’s online edition.

With every site I visit, though, some element feels missing, and the whole experience starts to fall flat. I know there’s no single Utopian blog to fill my every secret desire— that’s what real life is for. But I also don’t think internet content is necessarily one-dimensional. People don’t fit so neatly into the niche categories marketing directors and producers try to squish us into; the internet should be a place to celebrate individualism, not to conform to effective marketing strategies. In my life, I am trying very hard to be more than just one thing, even as I feel the pressure (from where? From whom?) to pick just one label. ‘Dancer’ doesn’t quite cut it, but neither does ‘Student’, and ‘Anxiety Disorder’ certainly doesn’t do the trick. We are all so much more than a brand, and (remind me of this somewhere down the road, if necessary) if ‘success’ means oversimplifying my ideas and watering down my ideology so it’s easier to slurp up with a spoon, it’s not the kind of reward I want. I am setting out—yes, to be validated, yes, to be understood— but primarily to help people, as writers and artists of all media before me have tried to help. What rule states that I can’t create a beautiful space that’s also nuanced, intelligent, even? Readable but diverse?

People need different things on different days; I know I do. I want to wax eloquent on baking without being a wholesome stay-at-home mother of four; I’d love to slip in references to Woolf, Nietzche, and Kant without being relegated to the dusty back corners of “intellectual” discussion boards; I hope to share thoughtful, lovely photographs without dedicating my life to travel journalism or interior design. If there’s some unspoken internet rule that says I can’t write about epigenetics one day, how to make your own toothpaste the next, and wake up on the third morning feeling a passionate need to expound on the beauty of Sicilian olive trees, I dare you to drag it out before me.

It may be a wild ride, but I hope it’s rewarding… Will you join me?

xx

Sophia

Letter-Writing

Let me tell you a secret: I think nostalgia is useless. Especially in our day, when the present is becoming the future with such hurtlingly exponential intensity that one hardly knows where to look, turning around only makes one dizzy. I promise.

Don’t try to swim backwards against the current.

This being said, while I am not anti-tech, I believe in the value of slowing down, shrinking the physical scope of our lives even as technology widens our perspectives. The vast dilation of the previous century must reverse. Food must come from closer to home; communities must reintegrate themselves. The friction of our explosive industrial progress has already heated this planet too much, and the literal and figurative boiling point is at hand.

I haven’t tried to be an adult for very long yet, so there’s so much that’s easy for me to say. I am still, ideologically speaking, relatively molten, though I’d like to think that I’m obtaining a bit of an armature. Though I still believe that open-mindedness is one of the most sacred states of being, I’ve found that my brain needs habits for sanity, after all. This much I know. Structure is vital; too much spontaneity and I just unravel. It’s like Virginia Woolf said: the self is so tenuous, a “kind of whole made of shivering fragments”, that sometimes the only way to literally pull our-selves together is to organize our lives. According to modern neuroscience, we are no more than the sum of the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and what we’ve done. No wonder I feel compelled toward something of a routine, glancing over my shoulder to see what those who came before me did to get through it all. In the familiar, there is a sense of ownership, and ownership requires an owner. In repetition, in the constant reaching out and folding back in of tradition, I am made mundane, but I am also created: the shivering fragments are made whole.

Still, I am dissatisfied with the present, and dissatisfaction with the present has an alarming tendency to breed nostalgia. In the interest of moving forward, then, there are a few “lost arts” which I believe we should evolve into this mad, modern world, finding each a place on the cluttered desks and countertops of our everyday mindscapes, recalibrating them and reforming them and dusting all sense of anachronism away. Chief among them, the art of the letter:

On Letter-Writing

 

No, emails are not the same–

And no, it’s not the computer that’s at fault. While typing is absolutely not the same as scribbling away with a pen ( I recently realized–with a jolt– that the entire concept of handwriting may soon be obsolete), the meaningfulness of a letter is a matter of discipline and intention, not a matter of screen v. page. There has to be a way to train ourselves to imbue the technology that’s made our lives so convenient with the thoughtfulness that was requisite when sending a letter meant considerable time, effort, and expense. Yet I recently started writing real, tangible, paper letters (in envelopes! Remember those?) again, and it’s made me so happy, if a bit confused. I think it’s human nature to assign meaning to tangible objects, to delight in the ability to hold someone’s thoughts in your hands or stow them in a box under your bed to be unfolded in a time of need. One also can’t tear a text message into tiny pieces, or toss it in a fire, or fold it into a paper airplane or a crane. Our world is being quickly converted into a breathtaking one-dimensional abstraction, and clicking imaginary buttons (for touch screens have rendered even buttons obsolete), no matter how many different sizes and colors and labels these possess, will never have the symbolic value of objects, with all their limitations and slowness and simple, unalterable thingness. Yet filling white leaves with lines and lines of flowing script leaves me sick with the old-fashionedness of it all, like precious floral wallpaper just peeling at the corners or hand-laced linens laid in boxes with the ghost of a once-heady perfume still clinging to their yellowing folds. What to do?

This, so far, is my compromise– I’ll continue the letters, delighting in their foldability, their directness, the unsayable difference of having no backspace button and knowing that this piece of paper, however imperfect, is about to embark on a remarkable physical journey across the sky. But I’ll also have this blog, a sort of open, modern letter to whoever finds it, lingering in cyberspace in all its blue-and-white modernity to be shared or followed or silently ignored (or by some miracle read and engaged with, igniting conversations at every turn!)

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

New York // Chapter Two

I am evolved; it is time to start anew. This blog was born of desperation, loneliness, and depression, and shortly after beginning The Sophist all that arrived a beautiful and terrible nadir. I decided, rather abruptly, that something had to give, and I snipped the threads as cleanly as I could, given my scattered and blunted emotional state, and hopped on a bus home to try to find a form of suffering that felt worthwhile. There’s no need for more of that story at the moment; I don’t think about it often these new days. We can talk about it another time, if you’d like; suffice it to say that I spent not-quite-a-year at home in New Hampshire, applying to college and questioning whether I’d ever be willing or able to live in the city again. It seems I am both willing and able. I’m a semester into classes at Columbia’s School of General Studies and about to embark on a season of dance auditions yet again. I am learning so much, so grateful to be back in New York and living with my little sister and each day hoping to never stop becoming… Will you join me?

In gratitude,

S

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“The Road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.”

–J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

NY // The First Supper

One thing I have always loved about living alone, even when everything else feels lonely and horrible, is cooking for myself. I’ve been dairy free, refined sugar free, vegetarian, vegan, and absolutely omnivorous over the past year or so, which has meant lots of experimental recipes and varying degrees of success. Since I moved in quite recently, I don’t have a lot of groceries around yet, but managed this extremely simple, healthy-ish meal with very little effort. It was delicious.

Amy’s Chunky Tomato Bisque

Buy soup.

Pour can into medium saucepan.

Heat on ‘High’ until just starting to bubble.

Pour into your favorite bowl and consume 🙂

Yes, I’m aware that the above wasn’t really a recipe.

Greenish Grilled Cheese

Ingredients:

Two slices multigrain bread (I used Pepperidge Farms)

1-2oz Mozzarella (fresh or not)

Whipped butter (regular butter will work just fine, it’s just a little heavier)

1/2 cup baby greens of choice (I used half Arugula, half Spinach)

Instructions:

If your cheese isn’t sliced, do that first. If your greens aren’t pre-washed, do it now. This is a time-sensitive operation.

Stick about 1/2 tbsp butter in a smallish frying pan and turn to low/medium heat. Butter each slice of bread lightly on both sides. Brown one slice (about 45 sec for each side once pan is hot). Set aside. Brown one side of the other slice; flip it over, then immediately lay half the cheese on top. Allow to warm slightly, then layer the greens evenly over the cheese. add the rest of the cheese and the second slice of bread and flip immediately. Press on the top with a spatula until the cheese is melted enough for your taste (generally when it starts oozing out the sides, you’re good). slide onto a plate, slice neatly in half (diagonally, if it tastes better that way), dip in your delicious soup, and enjoy!

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NJ // A Little Bird Told Me

Little bird, little bird

In the cinnamon tree

Little bird, little bird

Do you sing for me

Do you bring me word

Of what I know?

Little bird, little bird

I love her so…

–Don Quixote

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I’ve been searching for things to do lately that don’t involve screens. Between my iPhone, iPad, and this (albeit lovely) new laptop, I’m finding myself surrounded by glowing technology more than ever. And, while all the screen time allows for much-needed communication and an escape from the big, overstimulating environment of NYC, I’m not sure it’s so good for my mental health. I’ve been making an effort to do more writing with an actual pen on real, palpable paper, calling friends and loved ones as well as texting, spending mornings with Annaleigh without my cell phone or tablet downstairs. Reading books, not screens. Even listening to music on an actual radio instead of Pandora. The use of these ‘single function’ (and in many ways anachronistic) objects has brought texture and dimension back to my downtime, made me feel like I’m doing different kinds of things, rather than frittering away all my time and energy on one or two vastly capable devices. Perhaps I’m sentimental, but I fear the day when every purpose can be accomplished with one infinitely capable thing…

Annaleigh

I’d like you all to meet Annaleigh, my best baby friend.

She’s basically the sweetest almost-two-year-old there is, though I suppose I’m a little biased.

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As you can tell, she’s very serious and doesn’t have any sort of sense of humor.

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