Monday, April 18, 2005

The lonely only one

There are so many things in bloom right now! With the Madison temp hitting 80 today, I am hardly surprised.

Determined to capture some of this bounty, I set off for a stroll this evening, camera in hand.

I got no further than the front yard.

For how can I not love this guy*? He grew out of nowhere and he tries to make a life for himself even though he is burdened by the overhang so that no rain quenches his thirst. His surroundings are… insignificant, to say the least. His closest friend is the faucet. He is imperfect, but so is the building behind him (wooden structures always look like they’ve outgrown their pants and their gray socks are showing). And the ugly faucet -- is it obvious that I lacked the strength and the power drill to finish screwing it in? (It is not wrong, therefore, to say that it looks like it's missing a screw or, even more aptly, that it has a screw loose.)

Life is not treating him well and yet he tries to pull out a smile. He calls himself the globe flower. A stunning specimen. A winner in my eyes.

* not all flowers have to be girls
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Update on Frustration (see post below):

I have received a number of emails from readers who felt I was directing my concerns at them.

Naturally, the ones who worried about this were NOT the ones I was frustrated with.

Remember: I have grown incredibly fond of those who correspond with me about my blog. The conversation is rich and there is, indeed, a dialogue.

I am also fond of the silent reader (this is YOU, my most recent emailier!) -- the person who tracks my blog and becomes taken with it so that they come to know me, even as I do not know them at all. I am such a reader myself. There are about five people whose lives I track through their blogs even though I have never commented on them nor written to them. I don't have the time nor inclination to comment every day or even every week on all the blogs I read.

So who is the target of my "Frustration" post? People who are supposedly near and dear to me but who are content to catch my posts occasionally as a substitute for real contact. And when they do catch it, they never engage me about it. They are like maggots, feasting on me, their fallen one. Well, okay, maybe not maggots, maybe not even day-old toast, but certainly they are the ones who make me feel small and insignificant -- worth only a click, nary a private word.


I’ve been cooking since I was 13. My mother did a mental calculus in her head when we moved back to Warsaw (after our 6 years in New York): If one daughter cooked one day, the other daughter cooked the next day, the grandmother cooked on Sundays, we ate grandmother’s leftovers on Monday, and we all grabbed something at the Milk Bar on another day, this would leave her with only 2 days of cooking for the family. Or – one, plus leftovers. Good deal. And so the daughters cooked.

The daughters did not take this project seriously. They grabbed whatever was in the fridge, put it in a pot and let it stew for a while. Then everyone helped themselves to whatever was under the lid when they came home. Oftentimes it was so unexciting that various family members felt obliged to continue working or studying and not make it home in time to take advantage of the daughters’ “laboriously” prepared meal.

I did not take cooking seriously until I moved out of the home and traveled back to the States at the age of 19. And I did not prepare a whole meal for a group of friends until I moved into my own apartment as a grad student (I had been au pairing in someone else’s home in college).

I remember cooking that first meal for others. It was a Polish dish – stuffed cabbage. I thought it important that I emphasize my Polishness (I seem to do that a lot…). People ate it. The food stayed down, no one called an ambulance. I remember thinking – hey, this is not bad for stuffed cabbage!

That was also the last time I cooked Polish food for others. I don’t know why. It’s not that I think Polish food is uniformly awful. Yet, my attention has drifted.

Until this week. Something possessed me to check out the Eastern European regions in search of interesting dishes to work with.

Consider these ideas, lifted out of a Polish cookbook:

Beer Soup with Sour Cream and Cottage Cheese
White borsch with kielbasa

Rump of boar
Rump of deer Lithuanian style
Saddle of Mutton in Cream
Carp Polish style in gray sauce

Foamy nut Mazurek
Compote with prunes

I’m excited. Tune in Thursday – my designated Polish-Russian cooking day.


Fact: I started writing Ocean with the idea that I would feel more connected to friends through regular posting.
Fiction: I feel more connected to friends through regular posting.

Fact: Putting up a post or photo that I do not completely hate takes time.
Fiction: I am despondent about the time it takes.

Fact: Posting has brought strangers to my email box – strangers who now are no longer strangers.
Fiction: Communicating with these people is an unimportant part of my life.

Fact: I read with greater care the blogs of people whom I know than the blogs of people whom I do not know.
Fiction: People who know me are more likely to read Ocean regularly, comprehensively.

Fact: People who know me well are the least likely to comment on the blog or give me (personally or through email) feedback on posts they may have read. Some have not said a word for months.
Fiction: I am happy as a clam posting away and I view this as a great way to maintain dialogue with those around me. We can all check in to see if each is breathing and move on. Sounds cool to me.

Fact: If the trends continue, and an increasing number of people who know me jump in on the “Let’s check in on Nina, let’s read her blog” bandwagon [update: instead of using the tried and true methods of people checking up on each other], I will shut Ocean down. Or, more likely, I will change the Net address and pass it on to everyone but YOU.