This is the Better Place


Just home from our annual trip with Yancey's family to Ross Lake. It never gets old--Cascade Mountains in the moonlight, feet dangling off the dock, morning coffee and books, Wyatt practicing dives into the cold, clear water.


I read Anna Quindlen's memoir, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. Emily read it first, then mailed it to me from her vacation in Michigan so I'd have it for mine. Is that true love or what? Reading Quindlen's reflections on aging, career, motherhood, and womanhood seemed especially poignant as I sat in the sun and watched my children. My life is now. What matters most are the sandwiches in ziploc bags, serving my clients between homework and laundry, teaching my children about money and kindness, reading the news and trying to love the world in all its brokenness and beauty.

Anna remembers her mother's early death, and the empty consolation of well-wishers:

"She's in a better place," [the friend said]. There is no better place. This is the best place, here, now, alive, a chipmunk scampering across the stones, a cloud scudding across the sky, the dogs barking at nothing on the road, the road running empty into an unseen distance and beyond, my husband busy at the office, my children busy in the world. The better place is along the Hudson River, where the loon bobs on the swell from the ferry and dives for unseen fish until it seems he must drown, then pops up glistening  twenty feet from where he went down. The better place is that spot on the highway when you can suddenly see New York City strung like a necklace of jagged diamonds, and that corner of the porch where the house wrens build their nest and disassemble it and build it again, and the table at Thanksgiving and tree at Christmas.

And I'm learning (again?!) that my task is to pay attention, both to the suffering and to the Cascade Mountains in the moonlight. And it's to pay attention to myself--my anxiety, my fears, the food I eat, the addictions that sometime seem easier than paying attention. When I take a breath in and then breathe out, I can remember that everything I need is right here. There is no better place.


And if you find that the unlikely luck of a 5 year-old fishergirl turns up a beautiful rainbow trout, you can do the following:

Whole Roasted Trout with Cumin and Lime
Preheat over to 425. Take a scaled, cleaned and gutted fresh-caught trout. This one happened to be about 15" long and a little over an inch thick. Melt a few tablespoons of butter in a cast iron skillet. Add a big handful of thinly sliced red onions, a finely chopped clove of garlic, and cook down about 5 minutes. Add a tsp. of ground cumin, coarse salt, freshly ground pepper, and a big squeeze of lime juice and simmer for another minute. Along with a handful of fresh herbs (parsely, basil, cilantro, oregano, chives), stuff the fish with most the onion mixture. Sprinkle more herbs and the remaining onion mixture over the fish, drizzle with a little olive oil, and lay some thinly sliced lime over the top. Put the skillet into the preheated oven and roast about 15 minutes per inch of thickness, or until fish is tender and opaque and the skin slips easily from the flesh. Stand around and eat with your fingers, like proud Loretta did.