On Photography and Memory Keeping

Last week I did a little day in the life photography project as a small-scale version of the week in the life project that so many of my favorite bloggers do. I have been thinking about it a lot in the past few days, and it has led to some really interesting realizations. The whole series of revelations begins with a paradox: I am not a scrapbooker, and I never have been one. I don’t know, maybe it was because my awesome Besfrinn had it totally covered back when we were in high school. She made such beautiful and creative books; I was always in awe of them, and maybe living through her glory made me content to just snap a picture here and there and throw old movie ticket stubs in a box in the closet.

But part of the reason why I decided to the do the day in the life project was that I felt like I hadn’t been taking enough pictures. Sure, I snap away when I am cooking or working on a project, but I didn’t find a lot of time in my busy workday to look for things: a perfect flame-colored leaf, the shadow of a songbird on the sidewalk. So, last Wednesday, I made a real effort to see and to take pictures.

The thing is, honestly, I didn’t have to try too hard. I had the day off, so there was plenty of time to devote to aesthetic pursuits. And I am so glad I have those pictures, and those memories of the day.

It was only when I started looking at others’ day in the life photos, though, that I realized something more profound. Here were pictures of women washing their faces in the morning, children stepping onto the bus, piles of textbooks and a sack lunch, cars packed on freeways in an evening commute. Whoa. There is so much beauty in all of this. A light bulb went off in my head, and I was immediately inspired to try to capture as much of my busy workday routine as I can. Not just those pretty shots of afternoon light settling over a cup of tea, but pictures of the stereo in my car (set to full blast!) as I ease my way out of the garage in the morning, the materials I work with during the day (often a mess, albeit a beautiful one), the smile on my face when I get to read and respond to blog comments in the evening. There is such tremendous wisdom in this practice, and I am so grateful to have gleaned it from these wonderful bloggers and scrapbookers. Here it is: even what we see as the most ordinary of the ordinary, the most mundane of the mundane in our daily lives, will one day be beyond our grasp, receding into the distance of our memories. Even moments to which we assign no particular value, whether because they occur so frequently or because they do not appear to be significant, will one day be treasures to us.

I have long trained myself to look for the extraordinary hidden in the quotidian, and I find (gratefully) that even the slightest bit of mindfulness will lead me in that direction. But what this project has shown me is that there is so much more beauty to be found in the quotidian, more than I could ever have imagined. A few weeks ago, I might have thought that documenting all the ordinary events of an average workday would not be too interesting. But as I looked through these blogs of other memory keepers, it didn’t take me long to realize the profound significance of the everyday. I lived in the Bay area for 7 years. For 7 years, I took the same bus to campus, passed the same shops and cafes, wore a path into our hallway on my way to check my mailbox or fetch something from my office. What I wouldn’t give now to have just one day’s worth of photos of a daily life that is now a thing of the past. Wow. It was a powerful revelation. Instead of making me sad for memories lost, however, this revelation made me excited about preserving the moments that make up my daily life today. I know that someday I’ll look back on these pictures from our first year of marriage and from my first job after finishing school as treasures. I am so grateful that digital cameras make the cost of this form of memory keeping almost non-existent. Every moment is precious. Every moment is fleeting. All the more reason to rejoice in the ones we can capture, the ones we can carry with us.

Green Lentil Dip

I love hummus, and now that I’m completely comfortable baking my own pita bread on our baking stone, it’s a totally appealing lunch staple for me. There’s just one problem. I have really seriously not mastered the art of hummus making yet. I try a different ratio every time, and it always ends up…dry…and a little too bitter. Another mystery is that, while I do love hummus, it appears that I can’t stand the taste of tahini, which is a real problem in hummus making. Maybe next time I will just try leaving it out? Or substituting oil? Any tips you have are more than welcome! All that is to say, I am always happy to find a good hummus alternative to try in between my attempts. This one really called my name.

You start by roasting a whole head of garlic in the oven (a real luxury!), and while that’s cooking, you saute vegetables and herbs. It smells heavenly.

Then you stir in the French green lentils. So pretty.

I made ours in our giant Le Creuset, which made me feel fancy!

By this point all that’s left to do is puree it in the food processor. As you can see, it’s not the prettiest food in the world, but it is so deeply and richly flavorful. I carried it off to work in a glass container (with a pita bread crammed in on the side!) for a week, and I was sorry when it was gone. This recipe is definitely a keeper, and I think I’ll be turning to it pretty frequently as a detour from my hummus (mis)adventures.

Green Lentil Dip
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

1 head of garlic
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped peeled carrot
3 small sprigs thyme
2 small sprigs rosemary
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup French green lentils or brown lentils (8 ounces), rinsed
2 tablespoons (or more) fresh lemon juice

-Preheat oven to 375°. Cut top 1/2″ off head of garlic; place on sheet of foil and drizzle with 1/2 Tbsp. oil. Roast garlic until tender, about 50 minutes (check the garlic after 30-40 minutes to make sure that it isn’t burning). Let cool; squeeze cloves from skins and set aside. Discard skins.
-Meanwhile, heat 1/2 Tbsp. oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion and next 4 ingredients; season with salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add lentils; stir for 2 minutes. Add water (or broth, if you prefer) to cover lentils by 1″. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and gently simmer, adding more water or broth by 1/4-cupfuls as needed, until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly; discard stems of herbs (the leaves will have detached from the stems).
-Purée lentil mixture and garlic cloves in a food processor. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup oil and 2 Tbsp. lemon juice. Season with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired.

Idyllwild: A Taste of the Town

Before we got married, Eric and I talked a lot about what our goals and hopes were for our marriage, and we were really to happy to find that our lists were very similar. One of the things we both expressed was a desire to take at least one little trip together a year, just to give ourselves a chance to unwind and enjoy some quality time in a new setting. Eric and I love to travel together and see new places, and it’s just one of the reasons why we make a really great team. I was thrilled to get to go to Aspen with him in January, but since he was at a conference, it wasn’t a totally relaxing getaway for him. I was on the lookout for a good deal for a few months, and eventually I stumbled upon one (on livingsocial, which I highly recommend!) for the little mountain town of Idyllwild, about two hours from here. As a bonus, it was a place Eric had specifically wanted to explore, and my love for little mountain towns knows no bounds. So, we booked it!

We stayed at the Strawberry Creek Bunkhouse, which is a really sweet little necklace of cabin-like rooms, all with their own balconies and kitchens. It was a little bit hard to find it when we arrived late Friday night, but there’s nothing like being in a place with no streetlights, where you can really see the stars and smell wood fires burning. Thankfully, someone pointed us in the right direction, and we got settled in. Every morning they leave a basket of scones, fruit, and fresh lemon curd hanging on your door for breakfast. It was heavenly.

In spite of some early worries about wasps (they were as big as small birds, I kid you not!), we were able to spend a relaxing afternoon out on the balcony, reading and drinking tea. I actually read an entire book in one day. That is the ultimate vacation luxury! I also got a kick out of the little lizards, which were everywhere. I like reptiles and amphibians of all kinds, but these were especially cute, and I loved the sound of their tiny feet on the wood.

Speaking of wood, maybe the thing I loved the most about Idyllwild was the deep scent of the pine trees. The town is nestled right into the San Jacinto mountains, and the cool forest fragrance permeates the air everywhere you go. They also have some seriously impressive carvings around town. This one had a big sign that said, “Photo Opp!,” so I, of course, obliged.

We spent Saturday morning roaming around town, which was really delightful. We love exploring together, but maybe also our current residence in a gigantic metropolis makes us appreciate small communities even more.

 This tiny little town has multiple bookstores, and for that it gets an extra five stars in my book.

And it even has several thrift stores! We popped into this one, where I got a cute necklace and a big coffee mug (the one at the hotel wasn’t big enough) for a grand total of 54 cents. Awesome!

I loved this sign on one of the restaurants. So sweet.

And I loved this Wild West store, which had an impressive array of boots, and also, this giant hat on its sign.

And I especially loved this vintage sign on the wall of the local coffeehouse, where they roast their own beans. If the word “paradise” is coming to your mind…then you are not far from where my mind was this weekend!

And I would be remiss if I didn’t also show you these Sasquatch crossing signs, which have been diligently placed all over town.

We were totally charmed and had such a wonderful weekend away. We spent most of the time smiling at each other, laughing uproariously, remembering some of our favorite moments in our relationship, and making new memories. We are coming up on four years together this summer (and one year being married!), and I am still seriously pinching myself every day. I cannot believe that in this whole wide world, we found each other, two halves that make one whole. I love him so much and am so grateful for him, and for this really special time we got to spend together.

 

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