Tuesday, July 7, 2009

An Ever-Changing Landscape


Last weekend, my daughter’s best friend slept over for the first time. We’d worried about how it would go. Lisa didn’t have much experience spending the night away from her parents. And the girls were so young—my daughter soon to be 4, Lisa just 4 1/2. We’d worked up to it, though, having Lisa come over to visit without her parents. I talked to my daughter about being sensitive to Lisa’s feelings.

When the big sleepover came, things went well. The girls spent the evening playing and watching Beauty and the Beast. We set up our tiny pup tent in the living room. The girls played inside and wrestled. At bedtime, Lisa told us she was afraid of the dark. We turned the end table lamp on low. The girls drifted off for a peaceful night’s sleep.

I thought we had this sleepover in the bag.

The next morning, the immensity of the change finally hit. As I made pancakes for breakfast, I could tell both girls were tired. They could no longer work out differences themselves. They both wanted to play quietly on their own. When I slid the pancakes onto their plates, Lisa didn’t like hers because they weren’t like the ones her dad makes. I wondered how I’d keep the peace until she went home. After breakfast, Lisa got her backpack and sat in the living room, where she promptly burst into tears. She missed her mom, she said, and she wanted to go home. She’d reached the edge of her four-year-old’s capacity for change. We packed her things and returned her to her parents.

Like Lisa, I’m facing my own battle with change. My writing has grown in the last year to the point it’s a whole new entity. I feel this inner unrest because I’m stretching beyond what’s painless. I need more: more connections, more training, more substance. I need different. I need better. I just need.

It hurts.

I visited with pal Jane on Sunday. She took me to a quiet, transcendental park where we walked amongst the wildflowers and talked. The sun draped over us in golden benevolence. My anxiety seeped out my pores. We climbed a winding path up a huge, rounded hill. Black eyed susans and daisies peeked over the top of the prairie grass. At one point, we could look both down over the fields and the stream or up to see the flowers brush the clouds. The landscape changed as we walked and talked. We traipsed through a damp, cool deciduous forest. We sat by a little pond teeming with minnows. We talked about change and growth and phases. It helped. I came home not wholly restored, but in a better place. Given the immensity of what’s going on with me right now, I’m content with standing in this better place.

I’m going to share my mom’s recipe for those buttermilk pancakes, originally from kitchen diva Martha Stewart. Don’t let the little kid’s bad opinion of them discourage you. These are the lightest pancakes I’ve ever had. They practically float off your plate. We like them studded with mixed berries (this was what Lisa objected to) but they’re fantastic just plain with maple syrup.

Mom’s Buttermilk Pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups lowfat buttermilk (worth the trip to the store to use the real thing)
1/4 cup melted butter
canola oil for pan or griddle

Sift together dry ingredients into a medium bowl. Set aside. In a small bowl, mix together eggs, buttermilk and butter. Make a well in the dry ingredients. Pour wet in and stir until just mixed, being careful not to overmix. (it’s okay if some lumps remain) Let batter stand 10 – 15 minutes before using.

Heat large pan or griddle to medium high heat. (I set griddle to 375 degrees). When griddle is hot, place a small amount of oil on surface. Pour 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto griddle* Fry until bubbles form on top of pancake and bottom is brown. Flip and cook until pancakes are browned on both sides and cooked through.

Makes 12 – 15 pancakes.

* If you want to add berries, place them on the pancakes now. I use frozen mixed berry blend. Just put them on frozen. They’ll thaw as the pancake cooks.


... Paige said...

The comfort zone so hard to break free of but oh the breath of fresh air can make one float.

Linda said...

I understand this restlessness... I believe one synonym is passion. Your writing has most definitely evolved - keep pushing, pushing... Peace, Linda

J.C. Towler said...

Do you work very hard on your blog posts? The writing here seems effortless, clear, easy to follow and begging to be read.

I sometimes find myself flipping through my "writing rules" as I'm going along and trying to write a story in accordance to what others have dictated is good writing. The advice is often sound, but sometimes better left to be used on revisions and edits. Dunno if that helps.

I'm glad you have Jane. She's a peach.


Greta said...

John, thanks for the compliment. The blog posts usually come fairly easily because I don't bother to write them until I already know what I want to say.

And yes, the advice helps. Reminds me I've been meaning to go back and reread Elements of Style.


Megan Arkenberg said...

Hello, Greta!

I was at John Harbor's in Menomonee Falls today and saw their copy of The Best of Every Day Fiction 2008 with your name and blog URL on the cover and decided to check it out. I also have two stories in the anthology and was very excited to see that another EDF author lived in the area! "The Burning Black" was excellent, and I'm now scouring the internet for more of your work.

With all the fiction I’ve read of yours today, I’m impressed by your skilled characterization and your powerful handling of language. Wishing you continued success,

~Megan Arkenberg

Greta said...

Wow, small world, Megan. I live in the Falls and frequent John Harbor's. Maybe we'll run into one another there sometime.

I remember your stories from both the anthology and their initial appearances on EDF. Both great pieces.

Thanks for the compliment and for stopping by, Keep in touch. It's always fun to meet other area writers.