Saturday, June 26, 2010

For a Night, Simplicity and Certainty

When Clouds Gather

Yesterday we had the most beautiful clouds here.  There’s something about the sky in Texas that makes the clouds look like mountains.  It’s really spectacular, especially when, like yesterday, we get fluffy clouds.  They were sitting on a bed of dark grey clouds, making the mountain effect particularly believeable.  I had planned on taking some photos of those wonderful clouds.  But dinner was calling my name, so I made soup.  When I went outside later, the fluffy clouds were gone.  To make myself feel better about missing the clouds, today I’m sharing a photo from April, from another glorious cloud-gathering.

I should tell you more about last night because it was a really nice night.  I spent it alone, but I didn’t feel the least bit lonely.  For one thing, I had this soup to keep me company.  I must have mentioned Jess’s Simplest Tomato Soup before because as soon as I made it the first time, it became one of my favorites.  (And her post about that soup is marvelous and so spot-on.  Oh, graduate school!)  I’d been craving a big bowl of it, but hot soup was not the way to go.  This is the season of cold soups, refreshing and full of flavor.  So before I started making the soup, I tucked an empty soup bowl in the freezer, and after the soup was done, I retrieved it, filled it with hot soup, and tucked it back in the freezer for about five minutes.  I learned this hot-to-cold trick from a Bon Appetit recipe, and it’s so handy that I’ve filed it away for summertime soup cookery.  It really works!  Just five minutes in the freezer made my bowl of tomato soup easily spoonable, the temperature mildly warm rather than steaming hot.  Eaten alongside homemade tortilla chips, baby spinach, and two nubs of cheese, it was a deeply calming dinner.  Later in the evening, after a glass of wine and a few episodes of Arrested Development, I went aqua-jogging in the pool underneath the stars.  A warm breeze swirled around me, the palm trees swayed, and I went round and round the pool.  Then I came home, showered, and tucked myself into bed with Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat.  I do love that book.

I think the reason that last night felt so right to me was its simplicity, its certainty: food, wine, fun.  It was easy and comforting.  Recently, a friend e-mailed me and asked about my life and research.  As an aside, she wrote, “Hopefully they are separable!”  The truth is, it’s been really hard for me to dial back my anxiety about work.  My main project is not going well, and my summer plans for work are on hold until I get a positive result.  I’m beyond freaked out.  I am now at the point where I’m learning to accept this turn of events because, whether I like it or not, it’s my reality.

Graduate school was really hard on me, and I thought that by finishing my PhD, I was now immune to the up-and-down uncertainties of research life.  I was wrong.  I totally panicked when I saw what was coming.  I know that research is my work, not my life, but it is a huge part of what I do now.  It is more than a job, and it’s almost impossible for me not to be emotionally invested in the outcome.  But I am so very, very lucky to have so many people in my life who love me, who accept me as I am, who want to help me when I’m struggling.  I saw that love in action over the past few weeks, at a time when I’m not sure I thought I deserved that sort of kindness.  I think these people get it—that my job is more than a job.  Their support means so much to me.  With all my heart, I say to them thank you.  You have no idea.

And so onward we go, into summer, accompanied by both hope and uncertainty.  With enough tomato soup, we’ll get through this one.  Happy summer, friends.  I hope it’s treating you well. 

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