The magical second time around. Good for lovers and careers, but not so good for bank robbers. More bank robbers get away with their first crime than they do the second. I guess the trick then is to rob a bank once for a lot of loot without getting caught.
The second time around works for us too, us 21st century humans. I think about this sometimes when I look in the mirror at my aging self. How nice it feels to be somewhat settled (what poet/writer ever is completely?) I think about the events that make up my existence, that have formed and shaped me and made me so perfectly imperfect. I think about how I came into this world capable of nothing but love and the ability to scream, and how those 2 things so often in adulthood get intertwined with each other. I think about that thing called self-love, wondering where it has so often gone in my adult life—the result of fingering my own mistakes like a rosary, counting and counting the various levels of stupidity of which I am capable.
And then I see something else. If I lean far enough toward the mirror, I can still see it—the eyes of an innocent young girl, self-knowledge and self-love curled up inside me like a tiny fist. It manifests in those young eyes as glints of light, teensy rays of hope and trust. This little light of mine/I’m gonna let it shine.
We are all this way. If we investigate closely enough, we can see ourselves. The self-that-was before we learned to laugh and toddle and explore our surroundings, that little fist as it began to unfurl.
Then, doggone. Stuff starts happening. Our mommies discipline us too harshly, and in reckless anger. Our daddies work too much. Everybody watches too much TV and plays tag too little. We get into fights on the playground. We don’t defend someone we love. We crash our parents’ car. School isn’t particularly invigorating, not enough to make us fall in love with it. So we don’t make good enough grades to get into college. We settle into somewhat unfulfilling lives because we don’t know what else to do. No one gives us an instruction book. We let ourselves go. We gain weight. We develop high blood pressure. We worry cancer will come to call.
We start feeling our mortality. We start remembering that little balled-up fist that once lived inside us, remember the whole and happy feeling of that self-love open and blooming. Remember the first disappointment, the thing that made it withdraw its turtle head, and then in an oh-so-clear moment (thanks to author Ed McClanahan for that one) we realize how teen-eensy that disappointment in the scheme of things was. How it got magnified by the feeling of slight itself. How youthful and inconsiderate of us to think that a stolen Barbie doll is enough to ruin an entire life over. Or a stolen boyfriend. Or a sports medal not won but lost. Or a failed career. Or a botched relationship. Or a botched anything for that matter.
What the perpetuation of life depends on eventually is you, is me, is our own moxie. We can’t keeping soggying up the couch forever. Grief is one thing. And I believe we do grieve the passing of the first half of our lives. At some point we step on a turntable. We are repositioned toward our starting points, toward the way we came. But it is us to lift toe and heel, to put our feet on the return trail, else we stand there forever simply staring at where we’ve been. We have to come around to ourselves a second time. We have to arrive at that original self-love, pill-sized as it may now be in comparison to our adult size, our adult troubles. We have to trust our own ability to reclaim what we abandoned. We have to will it to come to fullness again, because it’s that moldy self-love that will lead us the rest of the way home. Making peace with your creator, I believe, is about making peace with you. The one who made you into what you are at this moment. What your choices made you. Warts and all.
Cheryl Strayed, author of the memoir Wild, says that you have to break your own heart. It’s true. You do. But then you have to forgive yourself—hard as that is—and let yourself fall in love again.
That’s what the cookbook Blue Moon Vegan is all about. It’s about the artistry of living more slowly and intentionally. It’s about coming to a new level of consciousness about our place and connection with the greater world and our mutual responsibility toward it. It’s about me telling you how two people came to see food in a new way, as a way of coming into our own as individuals, as a couple, of cooking as a way of centering, of loving self and each other. It’s about understanding the deepest implications of the verb “to nourish.” It’s about Phil and Jan and I being at once willing inventors and guinea pigs for what we hope will be a large group of budding self-loving kitchen magicians. I speak for everyone involved when I say these are the messages we want people to absorb from Blue Moon Vegan as it goes flying off into the world today.
Yes, it’s also about pretty pictures, and the exquisite, subtle touch that Suzi Hathaway brought to photographing the recipes and how working with her was a way of coming full circle itself, since she also photographed my and Phil’s wedding and is dear to me in more ways than she will ever know.
Yes, it’s also about rethinking the notion of gluten-free and coming to understand, thanks to the wizardry of Jan Calvert, that baking with gluten-free ingredients is an eye-opener. That you can have so much fun exploring the myriad possibilities and combinations and understanding a bit of the science behind baking. That you can ultimately save money, improve your health, and support small growers all at once by making your own baked goods at home, eliminating not only harmful dough conditioners and questionable additives such as dyes and preservatives, while also reducing environmental impact by NOT buying something in a plastic bag.
And, yes, it’s about yummy food; it’s about creating and inventing; and it’s about helping people understand what they have to gain by slowing down the pace of their living.
But it’s also about making a very clear pronouncement: the world is a better place when you do right by yourself. That love and caring you throw back your own way returns to your friends and family and the greater world in exponents. I hope that’s what readers realize. And I hope that’s what pushes them over the edge toward once again making wholesome food the center of home and hearth.
And here’s my promise to reinforce everyone else’s efforts by continuing to do the same thing for myself and those I love.
Which is why I’m going to end this now, so I can go make my Valentine for Phil—a Cherry Oat Sunday Cake. Who cares if it’s only Saturday?