Last week, I moved out of my cabin and back into town. I didn’t move to the woods for life lessons, but that’s what a year in the woods gave me. I was drawn to my little place instinctively. The tender part of me that was exhausted by city life, and by so much change, needed a counterpoint to the frenetic energy of San Francisco, and the soothing green-on-green hues of the woods called out to that. I also wanted that rustic reclaimed barn wood, those wide-plank wood floors, that deck tucked into the trees, that wall of green in every direction, and I was determined to inhabit it. I wanted to live in a beautiful space; the cabin gave me that too.
But for all of those lovely, repurposed details, I sacrificed a lot of practical things. There were no closets or storage. Because it was a loft, there were no doors. Who knew the simple truth of a bedroom with a door that closed, a sense of contained space, could have such a profound impact on my sense of security? Its many windows, which gave it a vaguely treehouse aesthetic, made me feel vulnerable. I have joked that my cabin was like dating the hot guy that I had nothing in common with. Well, not much anyway. We shared a love for quiet, and for the trill of the morning birds and the occasional coyote loping into the woods. But that good-looking man, my cabin, did not provide me with some essential stuff.
My biggest lesson in this is that people and relationships, for me, are more essential than the solitude and peace of living in the woods. Peace and solitude are lovely, but they need to be balanced. As Brene Brown so wisely points out, we are wired for connection. Even the most introverted among us. (Hand raised.) I used to pride myself on my ability to be alone; I was almost competitive about it. In that cabin, I found the hard edge of my solitude. I no longer want to spend that much time alone.
Perhaps the cabin was simply containing all of the heartache that I brought with me: the unexpected sense of displacement from moving, the unresolved feelings from the breakup, the crushing weight of the election, the loss of regular work. Perhaps any place that I moved to, at this juncture in my life, would have simply reflected back the what was moving through me. After one year there, sitting in all of that, the best thing I could do was leave it behind. When I moved in, my landlord said that the place attracted people who needed retreat, often after breakups. Perhaps, indeed, it was simply the accumulation of so much loss and sadness over time. It was a sponge for our sorrow.
So here I am, one year later, seeking out people with a ferocity and enthusiasm for socializing that I haven’t felt in years. Awkwardly building community, a deeply-rooted anchor that I had taken for granted in San Francisco. Appreciating that a neighborhood provides an ambient sense of community, by way of neighbors, the folks at the cafe, at the grocery, and the many goofy and entertaining dogs that make me laugh on my daily walks. It feels so good. I guess that I needed to live without all of all of that for a year to understand its value.
A Nourishing Savory Porridge for Winter
Yield: about 8 servings
For years I have loved the savory porridge on offer at Bartavelle in Berkeley. It’s a lovely mash up of red and brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, and flax seeds. A friend shared the recipe and I have been tinkering with variations ever since. The result here is a porridge inspired by Bartavalle’s version and Indian kitchari, another breakfast porridge that incorporates lentils. I used red lentils here, which melted into the porridge, lending heft, protein, and an earthy richness to the flavor that is so welcome this time of year. Sturdy, nourishing, slow-cooked whole grains and pulses are just what we need to lean on in the winter. Find more delicious and nourishing winter dishes incorporating pulses at Half-Cup Habit.
1 tablespoon ghee or coconut oil
1 cup brown or mixed rice
1 cup red lentils
1/2 cup tricolor quinoa
1/4 cup amaranth (or use millet)
2 tablespoons flax seeds
1 teaspoon sea salt
8 cups water
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups arugula or similar
2 green onions, thinly sliced
Toasted sunflower seeds, for serving
Toasted pepitas, for serving
Hemp hearts, optional, for serving
Warm the ghee in a large pot. Add the rice, lentils, quinoa, amaranth, and flax seeds, and toast for a couple minutes until fragrant and nutty.
Add the water and bring to a low boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until cooked through, stirring every few minutes so the bottom doesn’t burn. It should be ready in 45-60 minutes. The lentils will have mostly dissolved, but their earthy, nutty flavor is resonant.
While the porridge cooks, fills a small pot with water and bring to a boil. When gently boiling, add the eggs and set a timer for 7 minutes, to keep the yolk from over-cooking. Remove from heat and rinse under cool water. When cooled off, peel the eggs and slice in half lengthwise.
To serve, dish one or two scoops of the porridge into a bowl, and drizzle a little ghee over it. Top with a handful of arugula and green onions, and one egg. Finish with the nuts and seeds. Enjoy!
This post is sponsored by USA Pulses and Pulse Canada. Pulses are the delicious, protein-packed, sustainable foods known as dry peas, chickpeas, lentils and beans. All thoughts and content are my own. Partnerships like these sustain me as a small business!