Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt, Kettle Chips, and Triple Crème Brie

by Zinta Aistars

That’s me wishing happy birthday to me and giving myself a good dose of pampering. All within a very grown up birthday. After all, it’s a Tuesday, not exactly a party day, and I am nose to deadline grindstone all the work day. My one reminder that this is not just an ordinary Tuesday is that I get to park in our own parking lot today. I usually park across the street—with the other little people—as the parking lot next to our office building, small as it is, is meant for directors and clientele only.

The only thing I’m trying to direct is the copy on the page I am writing and editing at my desk—and my life.

I slip out on an early lunch hour to beat the crowd and make a run to Martha’s Vineyard, a nearby deli and wine store, to find myself something extraordinary for lunch. Usually, I eat at my desk, taking a little time for myself to read a book or indulge in a little creative writing or even put my head down for a moment and grab a cat nap.

With deadlines pressing, I will do no differently today, keeping up with assignments so I can be sure to get out of work on time. But something decadently delicious—oh yes, today I deserve that. I prowl the deli for goodies. There’s a particular cheese I especially adore, and they keep a bushel of fresh-from-the-oven baguettes in paper bags to go with it. There it is—a large triangular chunk of Saint Andre’s triple crème brie. This isn’t just any brie. This is triple times better. Creamy and silky and melt-on-the-tongue rich and delicious.

I pluck a large bar of Chocolove Almonds and Sea Salt in Dark Chocolate from the shelf. Every square is marked with a heart, and a love poem is printed on the inside wrapper. “And all the stars that crowded the blue space/Saw nothing happier than her glowing face … “ by Lord Bryon is tucked inside mine.

A bag of kettle chips and a tub of creamy dip, and a large jar of Brownwood Farms Northern Michigan Cherries. And there, behind the glass of the deli, my coupe de grace: a dark chocolate mound, as big as a fist, drizzled with more chocolate, with hints of caramel inside. I hold up two fingers and nod. Price tags are a little frightening, but it’s my birthday! and I purchase it all with a smile.

Dinner will be waiting for me at home; I’ve already chosen my favorites in the morning—smoked pork chops from Jake’s Country Farms nearby, roasted potatoes, Swiss chard and acorn squash still from last season’s garden, and a heaping side dish of mushrooms sautéed in fresh butter.

I know there will be a gift or two as well, but I know what I cherish most about this day. The more of these birthdays I have, the more I look forward to the best gift of all—time with loved ones, and an experience to remember.

Amusingly enough, the little red light flashing on the corner of my cell phone all day long adds to those simple pleasures. From morning until late, birthday wishes come in from my Facebook page. My friends there vary from very close and intimate to barely known but with shared interest in literature. Regardless, I smile every time the red light blinks. Another “Happy birthday, Z!” has just appeared on my “Wall” and somehow it does what it should—adds a little humanity to technology. These wishes arrive, after all, from various points across the globe. They delight me. It’s a small world, after all.

The simple pleasures … ever more appreciated. Less stuff, more memories. Less prestige, more meaning. Less glory, more truth.

Closing my office door to lean back in my chair and tear off a piece of baguette and slice into that creamy brie, I fill with the warm sense of blessing. I am nearer to where I want to be. The occasional setback, but my focus remains true. Not a day goes by that I don’t ponder my dream and how I might maneuver myself one or two steps closer. The last several weeks have tossed more than one setback in my direction, and some of that hit hard, even had me reeling for a while. But there was little time to brood, only time to plan a new maneuver, and so—to it. Get on with it. The goal remains unchanged.

One candle will go on my chocolate bomb tonight, one candle only. The years may accumulate but the wish is only one. Most all else I could want I already have. I am old enough and wise enough now to know when to say: Enough.

I ponder the manuscript I recently finished for a short novel, now in the hands of a trusted writer and editor. I have jokingly called it my fantasy autobiography. Indeed, that’s what it is. Much of it is from my life, and what yet isn’t, I hope someday will be. I’ve dug back into my past to uproot what has shaped me, tangled it into daily frustrations, and then worked it out again into threads that lead me into my future.

In that novel, I am the age I become today. I am entering my future today—the future I have predicted and worked toward. The story ends about a year away. Have I written my own future?

I pop a square of salted chocolate into my mouth and let it melt across my tongue. As my eyes fall onto the notes strewn across my desk for an article I am working on, I see the quickly scribbled words: “Believe. When we marry intention with action, miracles happen.”

At this moment, there are a few large gaps in that path paved forward. Steps I don’t yet have any idea how I will make them. I realize I may be facing some pretty big tests of my resolve, and points of reevaluation, perhaps even needed changes in direction. And still—that vision at the end is clear. I’ve come to understand that the journey itself is making me worthy of the goal.

Without this journey, without these obstacles, without these tests, the goal itself might fade away like a mirage. I am being shaped and molded and evolved to have the eyes that know how to see the beauty, the heart that is capable of embracing the commitment, the wealth of experience to recognize home when I get there—in person, in place.

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