Ciao'd while watching the Australian Open qualis. Tennis season is back!
It’s been raining for days. The small birds flow onto the lawn to peck at the sunflower seeds I’ve thrown and then ebb into the trees. The blue jays and crows, on the other hand, spiritedly make their presence known regardless of the downpours, alighting on the rail outside my den and looking sideways in at me as I write. If I ignore them, they hop closer in, onto the planter boxes. One came so close as to balance on the door molding and tuck its head over so it could laser-eye me. Cue Tippi Hedron.
I admire the birds’ resilience to the pounding rain and their sassiness, too. Last week, our ferns were fringed with frost and the grass thickened with ice. The birds navigated the situation with aplomb. I walked out into the back garden and telepathically high-fived my yoga teacher (shout out to Susan Hauser at NOW!) when my feet went flying, and I was able to regroup. Core exercise, people.
January is a month of future-think. “If I do the Whole30, I’ll be thinner in a month or so.” “Now’s the time to look for a new job and after the bonus comes in March, I’ll make a move.” I applaud the people who make these resolutions, and I salute those who see those resolutions through. Don’t look at me. I’m no role model. I'm enjoying a cocktail at the moment.
What I attest to is an affinity with the birds. It’s not only their day-in, day-out perseverance; it’s also their optimism. Every sunrise brings possibility and permission to begin again. So it is with me. The 3 am worries float away. The recipe I made yesterday morphs into the one I will make today (often a re-test of the last). The chance I will master a headstand in yoga class shines brightly. The glass is half-full.
The small birds, the titmouses (or is it mice?) and the towhees, are the first to greet the morning. They wake in the sycamore trees, and then alight onto the back fence, nodding their heads and riffling their feathers. By the time early light nudges aside shadow, they are pecking to and fro on the lawn.
The birds remind me that routine can be restorative, even rejuvenating. Change and challenge are good, but it’s the present-think that grounds us. The simple, and the “slow,” and the everyday. Simmering oatmeal, stirring pasta, dressing the salad. Kissing our children’s cheeks as they kick off to school. Commiserating with our girlfriends. Hiking on the mountain or striking a tree pose to begin the day. Picking up the book or the knitting (while watching The Crown) to end it. Daily rituals bring a reassuring rhythm to our lives.
Take a moment to watch the birds. They welcome the day. They nod to the night. In between, they flutter through the flux. And then they do it again tomorrow.
Here’s a recipe for Italian White Chicken Chili that’s a cinch to put together. As it bubbles on the stove, pick up that book or your knitting. Maybe give a grateful nod to another day well-lived. Namaste.
ITALIAN WHITE CHICKEN CHILI
Pancetta, cannellini beans, and a flurry of rosemary, oregano and thyme infuse this all-American dish with Italian flavors.
¼ cup diced pancetta
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons chili powder
3 tablespoons flour
2 cans (15-ounce) cannellini beans, rinsed
2 cups frozen corn, thawed
4 cups chicken stock
Freshly ground black pepper or ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
In a Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the pancetta until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the onion and celery and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and chili powder. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is lightly browned and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the chicken mixture and stir to coat. Add the beans, corn, and chicken stock to the pan. Bring the mixture to a simmer, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by about half, about 55 to 60 minutes. Add the black pepper, to taste, or the red pepper flakes, and simmer for 5 minutes more. Serve with the grated Parmesan cheese.