Archive for winter

Maybe This Time

Adair,

It’s odd how January never seems like the new year to me. I’ve mentioned how my birthday is usually my marker for the beginning of a new year, both because July is a more optimistic time than the dead of winter, and it’s in line with my inflated ego to reorient the calendar around me. But there are other moments, my anniversary, the beginning of the school year, and Christmas that also make me pause and think about the year past and the year ahead.

If I had to look ahead right now, I’d be thinking about another year in New York. Another fall that just makes me feel like I’m in When Harry Met Sally, a winter that snows us in just once, a spring that begs for pictures in parks, and another summer sweating in the subway and longing for relief.

The next year is going to see a lot of new projects, and a push like never before to create things on my terms. Working with you has opened me up to working with other partners, and those relationships are beginning to blossom into new ventures that may well be “the project.”

Another year will bring another year of marriage and the wonderful joys and inevitable hurts of a life long partnership. We are also striving to create together, which brings us back to the army days of our friendship working together. This summer’s production of The Last Five Years reminded me of the importance of our creative connection and what beautiful richness that adds to our lives.

My apartment is changing layout and design, I’m changing my diet, having a car is changing our transportation, and the relationships in my life keep changing the creative means I have at my disposal. The next year is going to be one for the record books, no matter how it all turns out.

But why am I looking ahead in the middle of September? What marks this as a moment of reflection and resolve? I’m giving pause right now because in a year we won’t be writing these letters. At the end of this month, we will be finished with this project and moving on to another. I won’t begin to tackle what that means in this letter, but I know that whatever comes next, we’ll still be bothering each other about it every week.

Same time next year?

-Dan

Science of Fear

Dan,

I wish I could say that fear was a side effect of winter here in Seattle but it’s not. Fear, for me, is a side effect of growing older. It’s been a constant factor in my life since I was old enough to process the feeling. It hasn’t always hindered me; there are times that fear has given me the initiative to embrace something I had thought impossible. Fear, like most everything, has its moments.

I remember being twenty-two and lying awake at night struggling with what I could only define as a panic attack. My breathing too fast, my pulse seemed unnatural and my body no longer felt like something I could control. I would lie there for hours trying to come back to myself but gripped by the fear of my own mortality. This was a weekly occurrence for me for over a year and nothing seemed to ease my concern.

For the younger version of myself there was nothing more terrifying than death. More specifically, the idea that I would die without actually experiencing what life could offer me. I saw myself repeating the same tasks everyday without any end in sight; I saw that I could end up in this pattern for the rest of my life. That terrified me. That winter I broke my foot and was rendered useless, I wasn’t able to seek solace in hiking or long walks as I once had. I was trapped in so many ways.

I remember deciding one night, my leg propped on the couch, that I was leaving Missoula for Seattle. I was so afraid of being this immobile person that I moved somewhere that had been a dream for most of my life. Fear navigated me, with a great deal of determination, and I never looked back.

It’s been years since my last panic attack, I sleep well most nights but I’m not without my fears. Now the dread manifests itself in new ways, I would say these days I am most afraid of being replaceable.

Leaving Montana was liberating but also forced me to see my position in that life was not necessary. I rarely hear from the friends I made in a place I spent over twenty years of my life, which lead me to believe that I have nothing unique to offer the people I encounter. And it is this thought that scares me.

I would love to pretend as if I have a bright light that makes people’s lives better, but I don’t. I’m determined and busy and exuberant at times, but I live in a city of people more intelligent, more driven and a hell of a lot more positive than me.   I long to be seen for what I strive to be but I seem to fall short in my attempts to be that person. So what do I have to offer? How will I be remembered?

Well, maybe I won’t be. Perhaps I am meant to dance on the outskirts of other people’s lives while never truly being embraced into something lifelong. Maybe I was meant to narrate their adventures or be an audience member to their debauchery. Perhaps someday I will leave again, wander again, and begin again. Maybe I’m now in a new and larger pattern.

If that’s the case, I will find my way. I won’t let fear of being forgotten hinder my own need live my life in the way it deserves to be lived. It’s terrifying to not know your place, to not have any idea where you stand.   But for now I know my life continues to be better than it was and part of that is due to fear.

Finding good in the bad,

Adair

Crazy Train

Dear Adair,

The winter cold has finally taken hold here in New York. As I write this it is 10 degrees out with a wind that cuts like diamonds. This weather has forced me to bunker down and crank up the heater. During these long, cold, secluded winter’s nights, I have nothing but time to think and write.

But while I hold up drinking tea under a blanket with my dog as a space heater, I must be honest that too much of this retreat is damaging to my health. Not just because my diet tends to go to hell and I don’t even think about exercise, but because I can only spend so much time alone in thought before my mind finds its way to a dark corner.

Fear is like scotch: too much will kill ya. It can save your life when you encounter a wild beast, and it can poison your mind if it’s allowed to run rampant. The immediate, visceral fear response is hardwired into our brains to save us from all sorts of disasters. But most of us in the developed world are not in immediate peril every day, so our fear finds new ground in our own head. Modern fear seems to be about what may or may not happen, not the dangers right in front of us.

For me, there is no greater fear than the fear of meaninglessness. I don’t often dwell on my insignificance since it is futile and unproductive to do so. But every mistake I’ve ever made and anytime I’ve hurt someone always draws me back to the smallness of my person.

My lack of accomplishment and progress as an artist saddens me. My inability to stick to a workout regimen makes me angry. But only when I wonder about the universe and my place in it am I truly afraid. The vastness of all things and me trying to kid myself into thinking I matter is a recipe for a sleepless night.

There isn’t any decent way to quell these fears. Because if I am honest, I don’t really mean much in the eyes of the cosmos. This is a law of the universe like gravity or NBC comedies getting low rating. I can’t change whether or not I matter to anyone or anything. But, I know who matters to me. And when I find myself lost at sea, it’s my friends and family that bring me home again.

Fighting the fear,

-Dan

Bad Crumbs

Dan,

I love to eat, more than most things. And yet, I wasn’t sure how to tell a story or write a blog about a recipe as you suggested this week. I am interested to see what you have to say about the topic, I think I romanticize your childhood and fill it with many family recipes. In my mind your mother is carefully preparing each dish, explaining to you or one of your sisters the pros of a homemade pie crust. Did you have pies cooling on your window? I feel that is something your family would do.

Both my parents were good cooks but Thanksgiving was definitely my dad’s holiday, though we didn’t have lots of unique family recipes. I think the most domesticated he got was making his persimmon pie or his holiday cheese ball (the only ingredient was cheese and I ate a whole one every year).

It wasn’t until my parents were divorced that recipes actually had stories for me. My dad was vague with how he made things so I found new recipes to cook; I excelled at baking for several years (my focaccia bread and s’more brownies are crowd favorites) but didn’t have any interesting tale behind any of the dishes.

This was the case until my sister made a brief return to Montana before moving down to Arizona, with her she had brought a recipe that our other sister had bestowed upon us and I had somehow misplaced. The dish was curried chicken and apple pot pie, and this may sound familiar to you because back in the day I made this for you and you ate pieces of it until you were sick and then went out on a date with your future wife. I have even been known to walk across Missoula for this pie; this isn’t that impressive but when your hungry Missoula seems very large.

It doesn’t sound like a truly fascinating dish but it’s a staple with my family, it was even the main course for my family dinner on Sunday. And, most likely, I will be eating it when I get home from my long day of work today. I won’t lie; I want to eat the pie right now due to my lack of will power.

And now I shall attempt not eating my leftovers for the rest of the day.

Hungrily yours,

Adair

Curried Chicken and Apple Pot Pie

Ingredients
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 to 1 1/4 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast (cut into 3/4 inch pieces)
1 medium onion, chopped (3/4 cup)
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup chicken (or vegetable) broth
1/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 medium Granny Smith or Golden Delicious apple, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
(I choose Granny Smith for the tang)
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 half and half
1 refrigerated pie crust for single crust pie (I do two for the full pot pie effect)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, onion and carrots; cook until chicken is done, about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Whisk together broth, flour, curry powder and salt. Add to skillet and bring to boil. Stir in apple, reduce heat to medium and cook until sauce is thickened, about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in peas and cream. Pour into 9-inch deep pie plate. Lay prepared crust over top of the pie, crimp or flute edges around the rim to seal tightly. Cut several small slits in crust for steam; place pie above cookie sheet and bake 20-25 minutes or until top is golden.