Sunday, May 24, 2020

A Stay-at-Home Order: Sketches on Dining In

(And Other Divertissements)

I'm writing this post especially for True Concord Voices & Orchestra, one of the many organizations for which I perform. While musicians are grounded until further notice, arts organizations continue to connect with their concert goers in innovative ways.  Introducing performers to deprived audience members in a more personal way, as in this post, is one such strategy.  If you are able, consider supporting one of your beloved local organizations during this difficult time.

Happy, Healthy, and COVID-Unemployed! Let's Ride! Except...I'm not.  Of all my pursuits, tearing around on a Ducati is the one most likely to result in medical intervention.  So I've made the personal decision to remain out of the saddle while hospital beds are at a premium.  All the time in the world. A fully operational Ducati. Those two states of being have not coincided in years.  I won't lie.  Some days, I'm tempted.  But for now, we sit.  And wait. And wait and sit. Just like everyone else.

My last ride, over two months ago, was, appropriately, to a ghost town. Yes, Fairbanks, AZ is an actual ghost town. Even in long ago early March, a picnic lunch was a sanitized and distantly social affair.  It was with genuine sadness that I declined my friend's offer to pack my lunch for me. Is that allowed anymore?

Photo by Excellent Friend and Motorcyclist Missy Blair

So what have I been doing?  Some things, like hand washing and toilet paper usage data collection, have become nearly universal.

Other activities feel fairly unique.  In an arguably questionable financial strategy, I bought a flute*. And a roof.  In the same week.  Most days, I run between the front yard, checking on Baby Hummerbird, who had his flight feathers removed by a cat-of-unknown-origin the day after he fledged, and the back yard, assembling the contraption-of-the-day in an ongoing feud to keep a neighbor's cat from assaulting my Lucy's Warblers nestbox.  (If you read only one of my silly trademark footnotes, let it be this one**.)  Mostly, the cat is winning, although Miss Lucy is still sitting on her three eggs.  Time will tell if the eggs are viable.

Many mornings, I get a two-wheeled wildflower joy fix by bicycling on The Loop.

If you know where to look, you might find an abandoned trail side orchard.

The bicycle lunchbox proves handy for roadside finds.

My motorcycle/bicycle risk assessment may not have been entirely accurate.

Empty grocery shelves***? Bring it! Cooking with what's on hand is a daily creative opportunity for any budget minded eater, and the extra challenge of pandemic limitations only has me - zing! - sharpening my knives with a gleam in my eye and sly smile on my lips. Dosa, stuffed zucchini blossoms****, beet-walnut dip, okonomiyaki (of a sort),  roasted red peppers, lemon frozen yogurt, lion's mane sopes, pickled mustard greens, Thai beef salad, homemade ricotta, "Ground Beet Gnocchi" (so named because the mixture of pureed red and golden beets makes for gnocchi the color of ground beef), lemon curd barquettes, and, in a nod to pandemic skill acquisition goals, hand patted tortillas - no tortilla press needed, thank you very much - have all hit my dinner plate in the past weeks*****.    If I am so inspired, I snap a photo. Usually, I just settle down and eat.

Add chives to your walnut beet dip, lest you mistake it for raspberry sorbet.

Red Pepper Acquisition Credit goes to Good Friend and True Concord Voices & Orchestra staff member Shawn Campbell.

Lion's mane mushrooms. Not foraged. This time.

New favorite cross cultural snack: rice with pickled mustard greens and salsa macha

During the heat of the day, I often turn off the stove and shelter in place with the Metropolitan Opera free Stream o' the Day, while firing running commentary back and forth with an ad hoc chat group. 

But the real wild card of late? An online nature sketching course.  Typically, my level of patience varies wildly by activity. Practicing the flute? I got this.  (Even when I don't.) Motorcycle maintenance? Zero Zen.  Sketching has been an unexpected new window into my labyrinthine mind. Each time I sit down to draw, I watch myself tracing a predictable emotional outline, from one point on the serenity scale to the other. The simplest shapes can be infuriating, and when I'm not consumed with the urge to throw my sketchbook across the yard, I am perplexed and curious why I can not replicate the uncomplicated contour of a heart shaped leaf.  Like Mozart, seemingly straightforward lines are deceptive, and can take a lifetime to render with the grace they hold within.  Each time I open my little pink thrift store art box and begin, I reach a pivotal moment. Do I give in to discouragement and frustration? Or enjoy the process of exploration and discovery? The choice - and it is a choice - which I must make anew each time I draw, is an undeniable struggle for me, the proportions of which I am a bit embarrassed to admit. I take a breath, employ the eraser, and start again. I got this. Even when I don't.

* Buyin' ain't practicin', it turns out.
** Important disclaimer! PLEASE do not EVER "rescue" wildlife without immediate and direct consultation with a licensed wildlife center. It is not only illegal, but often harmful.  See here for some preliminary advice.  (Currently, Mama Hummerbird is still doing the work of tending Baby Hummerbird.)  Readers will know I like birds, especially Lucy's Warblers. See here for more information on our special little warbler, and, if you like, scroll down to see various updates on my own nestboxes.  UPDATE: Mama Hummerbird is busy sitting on news eggs, so she has stopped visiting Baby Hummerbird. Baby Hummerbird has moved to a new temporary home: Tucson Wildlife Center
*** Teensy tiny confession: Now that my evenings are free, I volunteer weekly at my Tucson Community Supported Agriculture Group.  Who knew one day I'd be thanked for my service simply for handing out cabbages?  In return, I come home with a bag full of beautiful, fresh, and interesting seasonal produce. And? They have eggs, bread, meat, cheese, milk, and other items available for sale, too.  So, in volunteering for the essential business of food distribution, I'm also, admittedly, cheating. Take, that, COVID.
****Don't be tempted by complicated fillings or batters. Pop a piece of anchovy and a piece of cheese into each flower, and twist it closed. Dip them in a simple pastella (flour and water batter) and pop them into a shallow bath of hot high smoke point oil until golden. Drain, sprinkle with a bit of nice salt, and eat immediately.  You'll be airing out your kitchen afterwards, but something has to keep us from frying food every day, right? 
*****Thatsalotta dish washing.

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