Today, When I Could Do Nothing
by Jane Hirshfield (for the SF Chronicle)
Today, when I could do nothing,
I saved an ant.
It must have come in with the morning paper,
still being delivered
to those who shelter in place.
A morning paper is still an essential service.
I am not an essential service.
I have coffee and books,
silence enough to fill cisterns.
It must have first walked
the morning paper, as if loosened ink
taking the shape of an ant.
Then across the laptop computer — warm —
then onto the back of a cushion.
Small black ant, alone,
crossing a navy cushion,
moving steadily because that is what it could do.
Set outside in the sun,
it could not have found again its nest.
What then did I save?
It did not move as if it was frightened,
even while walking my hand,
which moved it through swiftness and air.
Ant, alone, without companions,
whose ant-heart I could not fathom—
how is your life, I wanted to ask.
I lifted it, took it outside.
This first day when I could do nothing,
beyond staying distant from my own kind,
I did this.
By page ninety of Rachel Joyce’s The Music Shop, I had to stop reading to find a pen and pad to note the music. Each time Frank, the music shop owner recommended a song to one of his patrons, I wanted to hear it.
Not only a story of true love and redemption, The Music Shop was a resource for old favorites as well as new classics. Now I have new playlists. How many of these have you heard lately – or ever?
- Kind of Blue – Miles Davis
- Spirit in the Dark – Aretha Franklin
- Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5
- Van Morrison’s Into the Mystic
- Barber’s Adagio for Strings
- Waltz for Debby by Bill Evans
When Frank courts Isle Brauchmann with his music lessons, I found a list for the next time I can’t sleep on a plane:
- Chopin’s Prelude No. 15
- Heyr, Himna Smiour with the Iceland Chorus
- Brahm’s Piano Concerto No. 1
- Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven
- Perotin’s Beata Viscera
- Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata
- Vivaldi’s Four Seasons
And, the most redeeming of all – Handel’s Messiah.
Although Frank would have preferred my listening to vinyl, my music is on iTunes.
Grant Snider offered his “Reading Goals in the Book Review section of the New York Times.
I need to remember:
“I will journey far outside myself,,,without leaving my chair.”
See the full cartoon – here.
In Alice Hoffman’s The Rules of Magic, Aunt Isabelle’s chocolate tipsy cake has been handed down for generations. The tipsy comes from rum; the magic comes from the baking. You might want to try it for breakfast, as the aunts did in the book.
Here’s the recipe:
Aunt Isabelle’s Chocolate Tipsy Cake
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting the pan
- 1 cup freshly brewed coffee
- 1/2 cup dark rum
- 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Chocolate Rum Icing
- 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons half and half
- 2 tablespoons dark rum (plus more as needed)
Preheat the oven to 325. Grease a large Bundt pan;dust with cocoa powder. Warm coffee, dark rum, butter, and cocoa powder over medium heat and stir gently until the butter is melted. Remove from heat and add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Set aside to cool. Combine dry ingredients. In another bowl combine eggs, buttermilk and vanilla. When the chocolate mixture is cool, stir in egg mixture. Add flour mixture a little at a time until well combined.
Bake 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.
Prepare the chocolate rum icing by melting chocolate, then adding butter and rum; simmer 5 minutes. Add milk or rum to thin the sauce. Cool slightly. Drizzle over cooled cake.
Review of The Rules of Magic