Ciao'd with the words of Virginia Woolf: "How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself."
Since high school, I have kept an ongoing list of words that resonate with me. While my friends were collecting autographs and stamps, I (the nerd) was chronicling words like prairie, whisper, and lagniappe. As you can imagine, the list is now long and varied. Like a diary, the words echo the stages of my life.
Of late, the word solitude drifts with me. Say “solitude” out loud. It’s voluptuous and velvety. It spreads its syllables like creamy frosting. Solitude is a word that is deliberate and slow. And that is just what I need now.
I’ve been seeking solitude in a variety of places. The yoga studio. My kitchen. A trail on Mt. Tam. In the middle of the night when the 3 am hour rustles me from sleep, I quiet my mind by envisioning Makalavena, my favorite beach, saying a Hail Mary or two, or counting sheep, depending on the past day and its circumstances.
Jack Kerouac’s words resonate deeply with me in this time of incredulity and apprehension. “After all this kind of fanfare, and even more, I came to a point where I needed solitude and to just stop the machine of 'thinking' and 'enjoying' what they call 'living,' I just wanted to lie in the grass and look at the clouds...”
Solitude is not loneliness. It’s a celebration of being alone, away from the fray and turbulence. It’s the place where when “the world is too much with us (Wordsworth),” we can take shelter in a quiet place to hear our own voice and tap into the wisdom of the universe. Only in solitude can we recharge.
Listen, I know it’s super difficult to find time for family and friends, never mind yourself. I have found that the best time to create a space for solitude is the early morning before the house awakens. Even 5 minutes, sitting quietly and calming my mind restores me and buoys me as I go about my day. My doctor told me that after sleep, darkness is the most effective mechanism for rejuvenating our minds and bodies. If we unplug all light sources, including computers, clocks, and phones, and simply sit in the darkness and silence, we can free ourselves from the distractions of modern life and realign the fissures that create anxiety and unrest. In short, clear the head to reclaim your soul.
For me, solitude is a sanctuary. It’s the place that recalibrates my balance. It affirms what I can control and what I cannot. By flicking away distraction, I tune into what really matters. I tap into the beauty and joy that each day brings.
My kitchen is a sanctuary, too, especially when I am alone and engaged in the humble practice of cooking something like this chicken broth which is restorative in its own way. The broth is so easy to make - throw a bunch of bones and a few aromatics into a pot, cover with water and let the broth simmer as you go about your day. Here's to a peaceful mind and a happy palate. Breathe.
ITALIAN CHICKEN BROTH
What separates an Italian chicken broth from all others? The addition of tomatoes and garlic, of course. These ingredients boost the flavor and enrich the broth. And then there's the lemon that brightens the whole thing. I'm guessing if you make this broth once, you'll never go back.
Makes about 4 quarts
3 pounds meaty chicken bones, a combination of necks, wings, and backs
2 medium onions, peeled and quartered2 carrots, peeled and cut into thirds
2 celery stalks with their leaves, cut into thirds
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
½ lemon, cut in half
1 cup diced tomatoes, Roma or San Marzano
1 bay leaf
A few thyme sprigs
A few parsley sprigs
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
Put all ingredients in a large soup pot over high heat. Add 6 (4?) quarts cold water and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat and cook, uncovered, at a gentle simmer for 2 hours. As the soup simmers, spoon off and discard any foam that rises to the surface.
Strain the broth through a fine-meshed sieve or a colander lined with cheesecloth. Cool to room temperature before refrigerating (chicken fat will rise to the surface and congeal). If using the broth immediately, skim fat from the surface and proceed.