It’s one of those days when life is best lived from the inside out. Fall has arrived here in my little corner of Germany. The temperature has dropped twenty degrees Fahrenheit since last week. The leaves on the deciduous trees around the village have started to turn that warm fuzzy orange-red-yellow that invites us to say goodbye to summer and reminds us that winter will come as planned. Nature’s artists give us familiar tableaux that reassure us that life continues in its cycles as the earth rolls on its axis indifferent to Covid-19.
I haven’t gotten out of my pajamas and robe yet. In fact, I might spend the whole day in their softness and warmth. My wife bought the robe I’m wearing several years ago in a German men’s store. It is a substantial piece of clothing, not something one would pack for an overnight trip because it would take up a third of the travel case. It’s just the right thing to wear on a day like this, at home, with rain tap dancing on the street below and clouds creating a cottonous dome overhead. When I walk to the window and look out, I instinctively wrap it tighter around me, not because it is so cold, but because it is my protection, my body mask, to put space between me and the cares of the world.
I know I cannot permanently seal myself off from the challenges the world is facing. They are out there on the other side of my window but for now, on this Saturday morning, the warp and woof of my tightly woven blue robe is my protection. Today I know I need to be inside and safe.
I woke up feeling rested and at peace. This is something I don’t always experience. Often the previous day’s events, the struggles of my clients, the endless news of pandemic and conflict stick a little too much to my psyche. They march about in my body and soul and persist into the new day.
This morning I went into our very small kitchen and decided to make a clafoutis with the blueberries and raspberries I bought a couple of days ago. I knew I had to rescue the raspberries. They are more delicate than blueberries who hold on longer against the ravages of time in the coldness and darkness of the refrigerator.
Clafoutis is one of my wife’s and my favorite weekend comfort foods, especially on a day like today. It is a simple dish that combines the sweetness of fruit with the softness of a pancake-like batter and the aroma of cinnamon and vanilla. It is a French farm dish that is easy to make. I follow a recipe from Chef John on the internet site, Food Wishes*. If you haven’t been on that site, check him out. He is a good teacher and makes cooking fun. Clafoutis is traditionally made with cherries but you can use any fruit that’s in season. We have been getting wonderful raspberries grown in Germany and blueberries from Spain.
As I sit here at my dining room table which is both a place to eat and doubles as my home office, I am basking in the coziness of the day. It has cleared up a little bit outside. There is actually some intermittent sunshine getting through. This is tempting but right now I am gemütlich. This is one of my favorite German words. It is usually translated as, cozy, but it really means more than that. It includes that feeling you get when you are snuggled into an easy chair reading your favorite author or binge watching episodes of “The Office”. If you are from an earlier generation, it might be “The Andy Griffith Show” with Opie, Aunt Bea and of course the lovable bumbling deputy Barney Fife. It implies closeness, comfort, warmth and safety.
For me gemütlich is what I crave on this rainy October day in tumultuous 2020 beset by a pandemic that flies among us unseen. A virus that reaches even into the White House that saw itself immune from its effects and indifferent to its reality. It is a feeling that helps me keep my hope alive that humanity will persevere in the face of wild fires, hurricanes, Proud Boys, dismantled mail sorting machines, missing polling places, scarce ballot drop boxes, nationalism around the world, flagging economies and fear driven cruelty against the “other”.
I know I can’t remain in my blue robe forever. One cannot stay in the state of gemütlich. In fact, it is perhaps the transitory nature of gemütlich that makes it so special like a vintage wine or that magical time with someone you truly love. It is a state of being that gives us respite and renewed energy to face the challenges of our time.
Today however, I am going to savor the aroma of clafoutis and the protection of textile armor that surrounds me in my pajamas. I am going to take this time to let the outside stay outside and be inside with myself and my loved one. I wish the same for you, along with a warm serving of clafoutis.
*www.foodwishes.com In addition to Chef John’s recipe, I top my clafoutis with a thin layer of cinnamon sugar. I think it adds a brightness to an already great recipe. It also makes the whole house smell sooo good.
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Love the ones you are with even when they are hard to love. Life is short even when there isn’t a pandemic.