WRITTEN ON November 13th, 2011 BY Meredith AND STORED IN Breakfast, Eggs, Vegetables, Vegetarian

It’s been so long I hardly know where to begin.

My loyal readers (are there any left?) will remember that my last post, nearly three months ago, was on the eve of our family trip to Montauk.  We were taking my mother-in-law Carol out east for a vacation. As I stated in the post, she had been battling stage IV colon cancer for two years, and it was becoming clearer to us that there would not be much time left.  Little did we know how right we were.

Carol made it through the beach week, got to the family wedding, and passed away early the following week. Though we were able to get her to the beach a couple times in Montauk, and had some family dinners and one unforgettable sunset, most of us saw the writing on the wall by the end of the vacation.  So, as the first trickles of rain from Hurricane Irene started clouding up the windows of an otherwise perfect weather week, we rushed back to Huntington to get Carol to the hospital. She fought for a few more days, through the huge storm that like some bizarrely timed metaphor swept through the town and left us damaged and powerless, and passed away two days later.

I think my hesitance to post here since then was due not only to grief and a sense that things just weren’t normal, but also because there was something so poetic about the fact that my last post, dated August 20th, was written in such a happy tone, and in my excitement to spend a week in a beautiful place with our family. I didn’t want to sully that image with what came next.  I felt utterly uninspired.

And now here I am, three months later. Trying to help my husband through worlds of grief and still keep things as routine as possible. All the while, growing our first child in my belly, after so many years of wishing and hoping.  The word juxtaposition doesn’t quite do it justice, to be sure. I’ve realized, especially in the last month or so, that there really is no normal. While we cling to loved ones and memories and hopes for the future, life goes on around us, waiting for us to chose to come back into it’s chaotic, dizzying, energizing fold. It’s there for the taking, as soon as we’re ready.

Last night we had dinner with good friends at our favorite restaurant in Huntington. Walking into Joanina, especially on a cold fall evening, feels like sinking deep into the warm folds of your favorite chair, only with better food that someone else cooks for you. It’s a Cheers kind of place, where everyone knows your name and they’ll magically conjure a table out of nowhere to make room for one more guest.

At dinner, we got into a rather existential discussion about organized religion versus spirituality. The hubster grew up in a very observant Catholic family, at 8:30 Mass every Sunday without fail, marking all the rites of passage with great celebration. I am the child of a lapsed Catholic (for good reason) and a relaxed Episcopalian (translation – C&E WASP).  So, naturally, I myself was raised Presbyterian (until about the 6th grade when we stopped going to church all together, so now I’m just a heathen).

I have never begrudged my husband his faith. Indeed, I am proud of it. I know that he finds solace in attending Mass, the quiet and the rituals and the community. It will forever make him feel close to his mother, and it’s something I wouldn’t change about him. Ever.

I have always felt very spiritual in my own way. In my mind, Anne Shirley said it best when talking about where she’d most find God: “I’d go out into a great big field all alone or out into the deep deep woods, and look up into the sky…and then I’d just feel a prayer.” I’ve always felt that my God resides out of doors. I am overcome by a perfect beach day that smacks of briny air and glistening ocean, or on a lake in the mountains, the scent of pine tickling your nose and the only sounds coming from the fresh water lapping on the shore and the call of the loons. I have felt God on quiet snowy evening walks, listening to the flakes delicately fall to the ground as I come upon my house all lit up with candles in the windows, just waiting for me to come inside and get warm. I find Him in the face of my beloved husband and in the idea of this little baby boy whose February arrival is so eagerly anticipated.

This morning, I got up and walked to our local farmers market, my Sunday morning ritual. It’s very unlike my old haunt, New York City’s bustling Union Square Greenmarkets, but it suits me just fine. There is one small stall with 15 different kinds of local organic apples, one stall for the homemade pretzel guy, a fresh catch stall with gorgeous fish straight from Montauk’s baymen. An organic bakers stall, a free trade coffee place (perfect for chilly fall mornings), and a stall that sells just about the best strawberry jam I’ve ever tasted. And I always stop in at the last stall on the left, today filled with the dark leafy greens and squash and yams that are so abundant at this time of year. I loaded up my Cape Ann Farmers Market bag and made for home.

And as I trudged my way through the fallen leaves, weighed down by my loot, I realized that this is my church. The crunch, crunch of yellow and russet leaves underfoot, the halcyon blue sky overhead, the crisp fall air. The smiles of the other market goers, inspecting their kale and handing their rosy cheeked toddlers pink lady apples. The look of extreme concentration on the freckled face of the baker’s son as he diligently counted out my change. The sense of community I feel when I walk through these streets of old houses, some run down, some sparkling, all with their own unique history. The yelps of the kids across the street as they head out on their bikes, to destinations unknown, together and laughing. The bumps and nudges I’m feeling lately that let me know our own little guy is finding his way already, feeling out his surroundings and letting me know he’s ok with the gentle jab of an elbow, a toe. Coming up the walk to the home I’ve created with the person I love most on this great wide planet.

I know that things will be ok. I know that we will always remember Carol, and pass along her beloved traditions to our kids. We will keep her memory alive in these ways and so many others. I’ve realized over these last couple years that you cannot hide from life – it happens and it’s not always pretty and it’s certainly not always happy. But if you find that one thing, just one thing, that holds you steady, your port in any storm, you can and will be alright. I know that now. It feels good to be back.

Farmers Market Morning

Farmstand Eggs with Beet Greens and Toast (serves 2)

1 bunch fresh beet greens (green, leafy tops of beets), washed and sliced thin

4 farm fresh eggs

4 slices whole wheat toast, preferably fresh from the bakery

2 small cloves garlic, minced

1 pinch red pepper flakes

1 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sized saute pan, heat oil over medium heat till hot.  Add garlic and red pepper flakes, saute about 30 seconds till fragrant. Add beet greens, season with salt and pepper, stir and saute till wilted.  Divide beet greens between two small bowls, set aside.  Put bread in toaster. Heat a non-stick egg pan over medium high heat till hot, coat with a bit of oil, butter or non-stick spray. Crack the four eggs into hot pan. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook to your desired temperature (I like over easy, which is about 1-2 minutes on the first side and then flipped for about 30 seconds, for a very runny yolk and whites that are just set).  Slide eggs out of pan onto beet greens, two eggs op top of each pile of greens.  Serve immediately with toast.  Dip toast into beet green liquid and yunny yolks for the perfect bite.

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