Reflections on Hallelujah

Tonight I was folding laundry in my way-too-messy-to-discuss dorm room. With music, because obviously, that’s the only way to fold laundry. I pulled out an older playlist on my Spotify, and one of the songs that came on was Allison Crowe’s cover of Hallelujah.

It’s no secret that I love this song. I adore her voice, the piano, the lyrics. I was in the middle of folding my spare sheets: and remember when I moved in you // and the Holy Ghost was moving too // and every breath we drew was Hallelujah. The sheets crumpled on the floor around my bare feet as I stood stone still. Because if any song is the story of a “never gonna give up” relationship, it’s this one. It’s not the Taylor Swift version, because the adversary isn’t the popular girl next door or parents, and it’s certainly not a fairy tale ending. It’s two people. It’s the singer and God.  And it is not a fairytale ending. 

But’s not an ending, is it? It’s not a cry that you hear at night // and it’s not somebody who’s seen the light // it’s a cold and it is a broken Hallelujah. It’s still a Hallelujah. It is still a HallelujahIt is still a Hallelujah. I want to write that a hundred thousand times just so you can draw that conclusion like a deep breath, and stand stone still hands in the air with your sheets crumpled on the floor around you.

It’s a story of a relationship – rocky, tentative, raw, and broken – there have been good times when every breath we drew was Hallelujah. But there have also been bad times – love is not a victory march, and speaking of David – she broke your throne, she cut your hair. But at the end of all the bad times and the good times, the Hallelujah is still there.

What I want to say is burning inside of me, and I can’t get it out. I can’t express how much this applies to so many relationships I’ve been in. I can’t even begin to comprehend how true it is for my own spiritual journey. A journey that’s been so rocky and back-and-forth and in every sense a long journey. And now I’m getting to the point where I can be raw about it. I can talk about it again (and I have been). Because there are and were times where I can and could say that every breath we drew was HallelujahAnd there have been and continue to be miserable times where the only thing that’s left is the cold and broken Hallelujah.

But it’s still left. And that matters. And I firmly believe that that Hallelujah is still heard – no matter how broken or raw it may be.

Maybe its time to write

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“Now, I want you do me a favor. Print out the reading, but don’t read it before class. I know this will be hard.” She gestures towards the front row where I sit. “Especially for you guys.” (excerpt from a class today)

Last time I posted, it was a month ago, and I’d just started school. A month later, and I am surprisingly still sane. (Sane does not negate stress, it just means that I’m not going insane. Talk to me around finals for that revelation.)

Quite a bit has happened since then. I’ve written thousands of words of essays and read even more, but I’ve also managed to visit the National Book Festival (during which I met Don DeLillo at an exclusive event inside LOC, asked Susan Cooper a question during Q&A about Seaward, and got my copy of the aforementioned book signed. I’m staring at the poster that hangs across my room – a tree full of whimsical animals reading. It makes my dorm room walls a bit less prison-like). I’ve also seen National Players perform Macbeth and dragged a number of university folks to the farmer’s market during my somewhat-sporadic excursions. I’m going to North Carolina next month and going home next weekend and just trying to survive tonight’s homework. I should be reviewing notes for that committee meeting or drafting that film analysis, but you’ll pardon me if all I want to do is ramble on this little blog of mine.

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I met Steve Vetter yesterday and filled my ears with stories of people and kindness and the world and sat in the corner chewing on my pen surrounded by a bunch of economics majors. Tomorrow I’ll dig my heels into the library and “how can I help you today” and “i’d be glad to find that book for you” and a few hours later catch the rattling bus that will drop me off a few long blocks from church. Maybe somewhere between that I’ll write an imitation essay – I’m thinking about imitating Virginia Woolf, but my professor thinks that might be too easy for me and I halfway agree. I can think in Woolf’s prose at this point so maybe I should pick up Diaz or Tolkien or God-forbid Hemingway or find someone that will be a challenge. Or maybe if I write this essay at midnight I’ll just open a well-loved page from Jacob’s Room or To the Lighthouse and be creative on my second draft.

Maybe between writing that last paragraph and now I just opened up my email and passed along funding information and read an article request that I can’t say no to and scheduled office hours with my advisor. I’m wearing a summery dress borrowed from a friend – last week I sat on her bed and we laughed about crazy life and realized again that we were two sides of the same coin and discussed boys and life and then loaded her dirty clothes into the washers and hugged and promised we’d get together again soon. We haven’t spoken since.

So until the next time I decide to pop on and say hello to you, friend; do great. Be amazing – you know you can be. Sometimes things hurt but a few hours later you can look back on it and realize that the little things are just little, and if they’re not, than maybe you need to open a new post on your blog or a new page in your diary and just write your heart out. Sometimes that’s the only cure, and as Susan Cooper said this weekend, “it’s cheaper than therapy”.

As always, feel free to drop me a note in the comments or on Twitter.

*photographs from my Instagram.

Love (for sale?)

We see it everywhere. On the covers of magazines, the backs of cereal boxes. Love is a commodity, an advertisement that lines the pockets of corporations and is the goal of all our “buy it now”s and “save _%!”. We can love ourselves more if we buy that new dress, new phone, new book. We can buy someone’s love for us if we gift them that one thing that they’ve always wanted. If we can somehow achieve more, win bigger and climb higher, people will love us more. They will look up to us and admire us and adore us. We will be the Kardashian of their lives, the celebrity that they can be friends with, not so much because of us but because of our status and in some way by knowing us, they will be loved more by their friends. A vicious cycle – a pessimistic view of a cruel world.

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The above words cast the world as almost animalistic, inhuman. But at least some inkling of it is true, or else you wouldn’t be there, on the other side of your computer screen nodding as you switch between reading my words and the millions of updates at your fingertips. The hundreds of Facebook updates (“look at my new car!”, “mmhmm Starbucks”, “I love ___ so much!”). The relationships. (___ is now in a relationship with ____. Congratulate them! Buy them a present!). The ever-expanding Twitter feed. (“Ugh, I’m such a horrible person.”, “I look so terrible, but…”, “look at this news article!”, “100% on my exam!”) At least some small part of each of us wants to be paid attention to, because in some way that makes us feel like we mean something to others around us. In this success-based world, meaning something to others often equates to meaning something to ourselves. If others don’t love us, we can’t love ourselves. We can’t bear the thought of defeat because somehow, others would think less of us, and our security and self-confidence would come crashing down around us.

Has love become such a commodity that we automatically withhold it from others we (do or should) care about because they haven’t earned it? We’re misers on the other side of our screens, through our devices, withholding each like, each comment for fear of being too outspoken, because the action represented doesn’t really deserve that like or comment. We judiciously dish out our communication, and in the process, become something far more mechanical than we’d like to imagine ourselves.

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When was the last time you walked up to an old friend and gave them a hug, or tried to reach out to them outside of those social media sites that are so useful, but oh-so shallow? When did you last look at someone and instead of silently judging them, openly love them? It is so easy to “deal out death and judgement” (Tolkien), but it is so difficult to withhold it and instead just love on them. It doesn’t matter what that person has done, what battles have been won or lost. You need no excuse to love someone.

Take the challenge. Love isn’t a salable item, but it is something that you have the power to give. Give, and don’t hold back.

**pictures are totally unrelated**

How swiftly the days go by {& apricot sage almond galette recipe}

It feels a bit strange to be sitting in my room right now. My cat is curled up next to me, purring. This is normal. My rabbit sits alert in the corner, waiting for a carrot. This is also normal. My bookshelves line the walls, full of rich volumes of text and stories that I’ve read a hundred times over – each book sits neatly in line with the shelf edge in true order. This is completely normal.

Yet, my floor is covered in boxes, boxes that I just moved in a week ago. Heaps of clothes lie on top, remnants of yesterday’s sorting spree. A suitcase, already full, sits upright on the floor, waiting for the last minute additions and panic attacks.

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It’s been a crazy week, full of library runs and cooking sprees. Full of afternoon teas with my best friend and goofing off with my sisters. Full of walking outside to fetch fresh herbs from the greenhouse and racing the raindrops back inside. Full of hammering out chords on the piano and rediscovering lost sheet music. It has been full, friends, in so many ways.

Yet I’ve done all of these things with the feeling that it is going by too fast. How is today Sunday? It feels like Wednesday or Thursday. It cannot possibly be the day before I leave, the day before I take off for most of the summer. My brain screams out that this is insanity.

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In the middle of this, in the middle of packing my clothes into the small green suitcase that sits expectantly in front of me, I made a galette. To be more accurate, we made a galette – my best friend and I. It was a Pinterest find that piqued our interest. Thus, we created it in my kitchen, measuring flour and cracking eggs, slicing apricots and chopping nuts.

And what a find. This Apricot Sage Almond Galette is positively elegant. It speaks of early summer, with a touch of the morning chill and the warmth of afternoon sun. The most surprising part is the use of sage, which normally is used in savory, rather than sweet dishes, but in this dessert it finds a home. The contrast of the tart apricots with the sage tempts me to wax poetry and the addition of chopped almonds dripping with sticky vanilla sugar creates a perfect filling. This galette is the peach cobbler’s more refined cousin, and would be perfect served under vanilla ice cream or given a dash of whipped cream. {although admittedly, plain is fantastic as well.}

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Apricot Sage Almond Galette

Crust:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used spelt flour)

1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla sugar (regular sugar could be substituted, but the vanilla is better. see instructions below)

1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

1 stick unsalted butter, frozen

1 large egg

1/4 cup milk

Filling:

1/4 cup almonds

4-5 apricots, sliced

6 tablespoons vanilla sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh sage (5-6 leaves)

1 tablespoon potato starch (or corn starch)

Pinch salt

Topping:

1 large egg, beaten with a splash of buttermilk

Vanilla sugar (or turbinado)

*Vanilla suger can be purchased in speciality stores or created a few weeks ahead of time by storing a vanilla bean pod inside a jar of granulated sugar.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, sugar and salt. Using a box grater, grate the cold butter atop the flour mixture. Working quickly, and using your hands, break the butter bits into the flour until they’re evenly distributed and resemble the size of small peas. Beat together the egg and 1/4 cup milk and add it to the flour mixture. Mix the dough together until it just begins to climb together; if the dough doesn’t hold together, add an extra tablespoon or two of milk.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a lightly floured counter. Knead the dough a few times until it comes together and shape it into a mound. Shape the dough into a disc and wrap it plastic wrap; transfer it to the refrigerator to chill for 1 hour or overnight.

Now for the filling. Chop the almonds, roughly; transfer them to a medium bowl. Add the sliced apricots, sugar, fresh sage, cornstarch and pinch of salt. Toss together and set aside.

Remove the disc from the refrigerator. Heavily flour your work surface and rolling pin. Roll out the dough, being sure to rotate it every so often so it doesn’t stick, until it reaches a 1/8-inch thickness. Cut the dough into one large 13-inch circle (I used a 13-inch plate as a guide). Transfer the dough circle to the center of a parchment-lined baking sheet. Reroll the scraps and slice ten-twelve strips that are about 12-inches long and about 1 1/2-inches wide.

Place filling in the center of the dough circle (the original recipe says to leave the fruit juice behind, but I added it and thought it was fine), leaving a 1/2-inch border around the sides. Ensure fruit is in one layer (make it pretty!). Fold over the sides.

Make a lattice by laying the strips on top of each other. Trim edges if necessary and bind strips to base with a bit of water.

Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Right before entering the oven, brush the top of the galette with egg wash and sprinkle on a bit of the vanilla sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until medium golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack until the galette is room temperature.

Makes one 12-inch galette

 

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Recipe adapted from A Cozy Kitchen.