Monday, June 18, 2012

Lessons Learned?

It's a chilly Monday morning and June is already half over. Am I the only one feeling sideswiped by the speeding-up of time? I long for the days when I was 12 and summer vacation lasted f-o-r-e-v-e-r. Actually, no. You couldn't pay me to go back to life when I was 12. Except maybe for a day, just so I could take back all the power I'd handed over to undeserving people.

Lately I've been trying to view my life through a lens of "lessons learned." Pausing mid-stream, looking around at where I am, and asking myself what I've learned from this experience, or what I may be in the process of learning. Sometimes there's an answer, sometimes just a blank cartoon bubble and that frustratingly aimless feeling.

Already I can tell you I've learned a lot from my days off as an impostor-baker. I've learned how to make granola - a really, really good granola that gets me out of bed every morning - which has, in turn, taught me that I actually like granola.

I got to be on TV and share my buttermilk drop biscuits, where I learned that if your pre-measured baking powder sticks to its little cup, just pretend it didn't and keep going. Well, I also learned - re-learned, let's say - the importance of laughing at myself and moving on.

I've learned that it's one thing to serve beautiful baked things to friends and family at home, quite another to serve them to customers at a coffee shop. At home, I can coerce people into eating and enjoying what I make. They can claim, "Oh that's too pretty to eat," to which I can reply, "I know! And I'm cutting you a piece right now. Dig in!"

But at the coffee shop I have to watch people pass these things by, enviously declaring them "too pretty to eat." As if we weren't worthy of beauty. I can't protest, cut a slice, and shove it in their face. By the end of the week, I end up dumping my masterpiece in the compost bucket. People seem more comfortable with slightly sloppy sweets, the irregular cookie, the simple cupcake, and I've adjusted my menu accordingly.

I've had a lot of firsts already. I've cooked with rhubarb, made quiche and blanched almonds and whipped egg yolks into a frosting that was so good, I literally had to ask one of the staff to dispose of the leftovers. I've enjoyed the company of young people who are still gazing into the world with fresh, optimistic eyes. And I was called "chef" by a man who'd worked at a restaurant I reviewed in San Francisco 20 years ago. He gave me his resume. I nearly imploded from mortification.

The pretty stuff? I'm already looking forward to releasing all that pent-up creative energy on family when they all visit next month. They'll be hit with so much pretty they won't know what to do. "Worldwide Gluten Usage Quadruples," the headlines will read. "Sources cite Maine baker as cause."

What have gone over well are the Claramels. I love making them - I especially love the luxury of being able to wander over to the giant shiny La Marzocco machine, previously off-limits to me as a customer, and pour my own steaming shots of espresso. I love hearing people come in and ask if the Claramels are ready yet.

How refreshing to communicate with people in a primal, nonverbal way. Don't get me wrong, I'm a writer, I love words. But I also love seeing someone take a bite, pause, close her eyes, and go somewhere you can't possibly lead with words alone.

And the book? Weirdly enough, the very day I asked myself what I was learning from the writing process was the the day I finished the manuscript.

It's still a teenager barely out of high school. Much work remains. This is the Knitter's Book of Clara*, by far the most meaningful and personal thing I've done to date. I'm proud of it and terrified at the same time. I've made something that's very real in my mind, but just a handful of trusted people have even seen it or reacted to it yet. The road is still long. I don't even know what the book will look like or when it will be published, and lord knows I have no idea if you'll like it or not. I so hope you will.

For now, it's in the best possible hands, so I'll try to let go and keep moving forward. I'm noodling on something big and exciting to do with wool, which I hope to be able to announce in the coming months. With it? I imagine a slew of lessons ahead, just waiting to be learned.

What about you? Has life taught you any lessons lately?

*No that's not the real title


Anonymous said...

(frustration---I hate leaving comments here. I don't want to create a blogger account!)

Anyway, I love reading your stuff and cannot wait until the new book comes out. (I just read the asterisk before commenting on the title...phew.)

I understand this "too pretty to eat" -- I just gave my parents a knitted blanket as a gift for their anniversary and mom started to put it away for safe keeping. I made them promise to use and love it. It isn't meant to be hidden away. Use it! And if it gets loved into oblivion; all the better



Adrienne Martini said...

Well done, you. Can't wait until it is ready to be read.

purlewe said...

I can't wait to read you next book, Clara! I am just so excited.

Isn't it funny how people prefer something imperfect, as if they aren't good enough to eat it if it is too pretty? huh. A lesson I must remember. Sue and I have started taking down those barriers too.. not saving the nice soaps for "someday" and using them now. I just started breaking out the nice embroidery floss & yarn and am doing the same thing. There is no "someday" there is enjoy it now. Don't hedge bets on someday!

Melissa Morgan-Oakes said...

You knock out those gluten free too pretty to eat things, and I will show you how quick I can get over that whole nonsense. Shove it right down. With a swig of black coffee.

JC Briar said...

Whoo hoo! Congrats on finishing the manuscript. Can't wait to see the finished book! (And to taste a Claramel someday. Trade ya for some roasted chiles... ;-)

Brenda said...

Beautiful post. Just found this blog, altho I've been reading Knitters Review forever!

I look forward to reading more!!

glenda said...

I love your books! Very much looking to your new and oh the anticipation wondering what it will be like!!

SockStar/CaroleNJ said...

This may sound trite, but my life lesson is that friends are more important than gold. (and are the Claramels ready yet?)

Lisa said...

Fabulous post; I'm very much looking forward to your new book and all your offerings within! What have I learned from life? I've learned to attack my "bucket list" everyday in one form or another. As a cancer survivor, I've learned that health and fitness DOES matter and is increased exponentially by the love and support of family and friends. As an Oncology Nurse, I've learn that fitness and health DOES matter and, too, is increased exponentially by the love and support of family and friends. I've learned that "I" matter and that it's hard to remember this most of the time. Especially when there are "things too pretty" to enjoy.

Melissa said...

Well, since I turned fifty a coupla four years ago, I am all about What Makes Me Happy. And I think everyone else should be, too. I tell this to my students, mostly women of a certain age, and I hope that it gives them permission to recognize some of the places that happiness can be found and to savor.
There are several major issues in an ongoing state of suspension in my life right now, and I can't do much to change those things. But I can appreciate the beautiful place I live and the love of my family and the many opportunities to share what I truly love with others.
And if It makes me happy to eat a cookie, dammit, I eat one. As long as it is gluten-free!

EmEm said...

It's funny you mention being 12 again. As summer solstice approaches I've been thinking about days gone by when I would play outside until dark and summer seemed to last forever. But I'm lucky and life is good, so no regrets about how old I am. I'm glad you are having family with you soon. Your creative energy will be much more appreciated. At least your Claramels are being savored. I can't wait for your new book. From some of the statements you've made, it sounds like it is from your heart and that tells me that it will be beautiful. Life has taught me that it is worth living, so I try to live each day. Sometimes it's not easy, sometimes it's not fun, but those times are far fewer than the times that make me stop and say "today was a good day"!

Mel said...

I decided a long time ago that there's no such thing as "too pretty to eat". Or maybe I didn't decide - I think it may be inscribed in my DNA. If you savor just the look and not the flavor, too, you're missing half the experience.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the perfect for 2 biscuit recipe! I made them this morning and we each had 3 :). Delicious. Looking forward to your next literary foray too.

Amy McWeasel said...

Poignant post, Clara. The most recent life lesson I've learned is that if I'm not hurting anyone, why not do/say/not do/not say whatever?

Why *not* savor that perfect slice of cake, or that perfect sunset, or that perfectly dyed skein of yarn? Why *not* sniff that wool or dance in the street, even if people might look at me funny? Why *not* be happy in the moment or pursue happiness as if it's my job?

I'm sure that getting older is a factor, but it's getting easier to let go of the little things & just be. It's refreshing.

(and, I cannot wait for your next book. congratulations on finishing the manuscript!)

Lyn said...

If the new book is half as good as the last ones, it will be a joy!

blogless grace said...

Cannot wait for the book! Lessons learned--waiting is sometimes hard but much less bothersome with fibre in hand, either to spin or knit. In a hundred years this probably will not matter--one I keep telling myself everyday!

Dana S. Whitney said...

Likewise enthusiastic about the Knitting book of Clara! Yes, you ARE a writer... but you are also a connector kind of person and an inspiration (in both big and small (but significant) ways).
BTW: Can't wait to do the stabilized whipped cream with LEMON Curd thing. Holy Moly!! Guess I'd better get exercising, first.