I’ve been shortening my to-do lists and I’ve been lengthening my to-do lists. I’m torn between the two, and so I spend a lot of time thinking about how long my to-do lists should be.
First, they are short. I follow those columns in all of the magazines that I am now buying in order to see if I can write for them. They say, go easy on yourself! Know that you are doing your best and that you should set out only as many goals as you can actually accomplish in the day. I say, yes! I love going easy on myself. So I take out “make croissants”. Those have often been on my to-do list, and I still have never made them. Life is long! I won’t stress it. I take out “make orange marmalade that you froze forever ago for that exact purpose”. Didn’t happen yesterday, and I’m guessing it won’t happen today. Buy Sadie new shoes? One more day of squeezed toes won’t do her in, and she’s so indecisive that we really need an entire afternoon at the carpeted shoe warehouse where everyone walks around with their hair sticking up because of the mysteriously excessive amounts of static electricity. We’ll do that one tomorrow. Soon enough, I am down to three or four agenda items that I actually have to do, usually write this, cook this, write that. Thank you Good Housekeeping.
But then I am tempted to lengthen the list just so I can have the deep belly-tingling satisfaction of crossing things off the list. Eat. Change the toilet paper roll. Make the bed. Pencil goes to paper, and I cross, cross, cross! At the end of the day, there are those familiar items still left: write this, cook this, write that.
I think I might be going about this the wrong way.
In the last few years, I have started being late to things. I have started speeding more often, running into meetings or to pick up the girls with an automatic “sorry!” as I careen into the room.
I know that it doesn’t have to be like this. I say, I will slow down! I will stop taking on new jobs! I will take walks. I will drink more cocktails (this one, I’m doing better with). I will fold the laundry right away. I will finally get the girls to clean the bathroom. I will (someday) have the wisdom not to run for public office. I will read novels again. I will breathe several times a day, and I will chew my food.
There I go with the to-do lists again.
I absolutely positively know that I can shift the rhythm of the day with my attitude. The crazier I feel, the crazier I am. It might seem backwards, but I think that’s how it works, at least with me. So in my best moments, I exercise my patience muscle, and I take an extra few minutes. I sit out on the porch, or I read a book to Rosie, or I go see how the radishes are growing.
I am pretty sure that the life I want to live is happening all around me. As soon as I slow down, there it is. And instead of eating crackers and cheese in the car as I speed to a meeting, I’m picking violets in the yard to add to my lunch. Little, little things.
I don’t know what it is about foraging, but it makes it all feel a bit enchanted around here. Even if the day is a flurry of craziness and impossibility, finding food in the yard or the woods puts us into a page of My Side of the Mountain, and it makes the day follow a different time. We cooked up Rosie’s morels in butter and garlic for dinner, and then in the morning, my mother suggested that the leftover morels go into eggs with violets and greens. She was off to work and I was off to a meeting, but for the 10 minutes we sat together with our enchanted eggs, it felt just a bit slower and fancier. I’d say that eating wild mushrooms and flowers for breakfast can only make for a better day ahead.
Morels are all over New England right now. Some people have secret places to find them, but a search in the woods might reveal a little city of perfect caps. Make sure that the morels are are not false morels–there is a good description of both here. Soak the mushrooms in salt water to clean them, and chop the tops and slice the stems.
Scrambled Eggs with Morels and Violets
(an enchanted breakfast for two)
1 tablespoon milk
salt and pepper 2 tablespoons butter, plus more if needed
1 clove garlic, minced
2 to 3 morels, cleaned and chopped
1 cup spinach or other green
1 handful violets
Beat the eggs in a bowl with the milk, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, and cook until it smells good, about 30 seconds. Add the morels, salt and pepper, and cook until they are tender and just beginning to shrink, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Add the greens to the hot pan and cook in the butter and mushroom liquid just until wilted. Transfer them to the mushroom bowl. Pour the mushroom liquid out of the pan if there is any left in there.
Add a bit more butter if the pan seems dry. Pour the beaten eggs into the pan, and as soon as it starts to solidify around the edges, add the morels and greens. Use a silicone spatula to scramble the eggs around the mushrooms and greens, shuffling the mixture around the pan. When the eggs are cooked (but not brown), sprinkle the violets over the eggs, turn up the heat on the stove to high, and watch the eggs plump up and the violets wilt. Transfer to a plate and add additional salt and pepper, if needed.