This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
(translation by Coleman Barks)
This poem has been running through my mind of late. We’ve been sick a lot this past month. Month and a half now, actually. Espen has started a Montessorri preschool toddler program, which was a hard transition for both him and me. But, it is such a blessing now that he has picked up this new routine and is running with it. He loves it there. He loves the stimulation of the activities, the interaction with other children his age (oh it is just grand to see him making friends! Little friends!!!), the sitting down for morning snack in a chair just his size with a glass cup just his size and water poured from a colorful fish jug. It makes me happy to see him enjoying himself. However, kids are kids and they are little petri dishes of sickness, and then whatever Espen catches I catch, and then Joel catches it, in predictable progression. And the sicknesses sweep through each one after the next violently sweeping our house empty, again and again. But, they’re just colds and stomach bugs, when it comes down to it, and for that I am so very grateful. Fundamentally we are healthy (even if sometimes grumpy about the aches and fatigue), and that matters.
My grandma – my dad’s mom – just died a few days ago. That’s the other thing. She was the last of my living grandparents, and she was such a dramatic, colorful, charming, spitfire of a woman, I was convinced she was going to live to be 100. My brain is not capable of admitting she’s gone. She was fine, and then she was sick, and then she was gone, and I felt like there was never a chance to process any of it. She was the sort of person who was such a personality she could drive people nuts, but I also really admired her for not being scared of being larger than life, of daring to not be bland. There’s something to that. I’m working on a cocktail recipe in her memory, something really glamorous, and colorful, and a bit overbearing, but boozy and delicious. I’ll share once I’ve figured it out. Right now it’s still very conceptual.
On a happier note, we’ve started going sledding with Espen. He and I go out almost every afternoon now – if we’re feeling well enough, ha – and go sliding either in our back yard or at one of the many hills or trails around town. But, the first day we took him was the most memorable. We went as a whole family, Joel, Espen, Squid the dog, and me, and trekked up to the hill next to the little chalet at a cross-country ski lodge where we’re members. We plunked Espen down on the sled and started to pull him around. And he sat there, completely stoic, his face an inscrutable blank. Did he like it? Did he hate it? Was he confused? Overwhelmed? Apprehensive? Trying to figure out what the hell was going on? We could not tell at all. He continued to sit there, intractable, as we ran around, pulling him on trails and up and down the little hill. And then we went careening down the bigger hill, all piled together in one sled, faster, faster, faster. We came skidding to a halt at the bottom and Joel and I checked Espen’s face for any kind of reading. Blank, blank, blank, then, a sudden giant smile lit up his face, and he gesticulated with his mittened hand like, “why are we sitting still here? Let’s keep going!” He liked it!
We sledded for a while longer, and then we went home and drank hot chocolate and made grilled cheese. But, not just any grilled cheese, grilled cheese with funky gruyere punctuated by rich salty bacon and caramel sweet dates. These sandwiches are inspired by the ladies at The Canal House, and I make them now and then when I want a real treat, something rich and special and decidedly not everyday, for lunch. They are almost mind boggling in their deliciousness. They’re best made on olive bread (the briny flavor of the olives adds a great extra bit of complexity) but we couldn’t find any olive bread in the store this last time so we made them on rosemary olive oil bread and that was good too. Perfect, just perfect, after coming in from a full morning spent sledding.
- Two slices thick cut bacon
- Two slices of crusty country style bread - preferably olive bread (or rosemary bread)
- about ¾ oz - 1 oz of thinly sliced gruyere
- 2-3 Medjool dates, pitted and thinly sliced
- soft butter (unless you want to fry the sandwich in bacon fat, which totally works too)
- Fry the bacon until crispy, then transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Pour the bacon fat out of the frying pan and reserve it for another use like frying eggs in the morning (or you can use the bacon drippings to fry your sandwich, but I actually prefer it fried with butter).
- Construct the sandwich by putting half of the cheese on one slice of bread, then divide each bacon slice in half and pile them on that side of the sandwich and top this with the dates. Top with the remaining cheese then close the sandwich with the second piece of bread and press it down to try to help it stay together. Use the butter to butter the outsides of the sandwich.
- Heat your frying pan to medium heat and add the sandwich. Cover, and cook until the bottom side is golden brown and the cheese is starting to get soft. Flip the sandwich, cover again, and fry until the second side is deep golden brown and the cheese is gooey. Transfer to a plate, slice in half and enjoy!