And then, there was Rosemary.

by smartini on October 24, 2012

I am beginning to explore this place I will call home for the next few weeks.

Back home, in Los Angeles, I tend to keep myself rather busy.  In recent years, I have managed to align myself with jobs and clients that have kept me working 50-60 hours per week, traveling constantly, or on-call 24-7.  I recognize that it gives me a sense of worth and of belonging to feel needed and valuable in this way.  Finally, after a few years of this, I began to realize the cost of this choice. As much as I desire the accolades all my hard work affords me, I also see the toll it eventually takes on my body, my heart and my relationships, so I have made a concisous choice to acknowledge the pattern and consider if I wish to adjust it. In the past year or so, I’ve been trying on for size a new way of being–what I’ve been considering is more being and less doing.  With that consideration, I’ve opened myself to allow for less work and more time for myself.  And what I have discovered in the last months since the conscious shift to work less is that I have absolutely no trouble filling my time!  I think that was my greatest fear and what drove me to stay so ‘productive’–what on earth would I do with myself if I wasn’t busy working.  How will I be useful?  Its funny that it wasn’t an overt desire to make more and more money that kept me busy, but rather a desire to be productive to contribute and have my contribution be valued.  I notice how strongly I react when someone  asks me what I did today.  I want nothing more than to respond with a laundry list of all I accomplished.  How I placated that little slave driver sitting on my shoulder in the first few months of this shift was to give myself new kinds of assignments.  Assignments for self discovery  evolution and growth.  And (these are are harder), assignments for enjoyment, loving myself and nurturing.  I would walk along the beach, or through my neighborhood, listening to audio books by likes of Caroline Myss or Joseph Campbell.  I would meditate and write my dreams.  I would also write down my ‘waking dreams’ –those surreal experiences that happen in the outer world, that are too poignant to go unnoticed–that surely have significance.

And now I find myself in Athens, Greece, staying with a friend for a few weeks.  During this period, I have 6-10 hours alone to do anything I want or nothing at all.  My intention coming in was to take this time to continue my ‘work’ in this way.  And I noticed right out of the gates that this new assignent is perhaps a little more of a challenge.  Without the luxury of familiar transportion or surroundings , where will I go and what ill I do with myself? I’m soon enough surprised at how quickly the hours pass.  My first order of business for each day is to get outside and do a little exploring. My body craves the physical exercise I have grown accustomed to, so I’ve taken up running more religiously again. While my primary concern is still finding a running path that is both pedestrian-friendly and getting-lost-proof, I also try each day to at expand the boundaries of where I go and what I see just a little bit.  The neighborhood where I find myself is not in downtown Athens, it is in a nicer part of town, altogether residential, seemingly far removed from the the center of the current political unrest.  But none-the-less, it  feels more foreign to me than most places I have travelled.  This apartment building is beautiful; modern, state of the art & exactly my style.  But across the street is an open dirt lot with both a high-end Mercedes and a run-down beater that has been picked apart and left abandoned.  Down the road is an exclusive gym that  Athens’ elite frequent, a few doors down from a single family home with chickens in the front yard.  Running down each street is only physical exercise, but also becomes an exercise in visual recall; since clearly I cannot rely on being able to read the street signs, I have to use visual clues to find my way home like: turn left after the abandoned, graffiti-ridden warehouse adjacent to the Bentley & Audi dealership; or keep right at the ‘V’ in the road with the olive tree and cigarette stand.

As I go for my morning run, I make note of what I see that I may want to come back and explore later.  Like, for example, where on earth might I find fresh vegetables?  My friend, Petros, orders the grocery staples to be delivered, but he says that its really best to go the vegetable market for veggies and the meat market for meat and the fish market for fish.  Oh bother.  how will I ever find those?!  So, on this day’s run, I happen upon a vegetable market not to far from home. Naturally they only take cash, as does the little family-run shop that carries a hair dryer I’m desperate for! So, it looks like I’ve found my mission for the day, track down an ATM, get me some euros, and see what I can round up from the market to make a surprise dinner for my friend who’s had a rough day.

 

After enjoying a beautiful cappuccino (one of  my favorite discoveries is greek coffee with densely whipped evaporated milk, and if I’m feeling especially indulgent, I add just a touch of honey and cinnamon), I make the 10 minute walk to the enclosed shopping mall.  With stores like H & M & Zara, I’m certain an ATM should be no problem to find.  And heck, there may even be a bigger department store that would carry hairdryers and the kitchen basics that Petros’s state of the art  kitchen does not hold (like, for example, a frying pan!).  I’m altogether proud of myself  when I find  hairdryer for 10 Euros and a  big grocery store in the basement of the mall!  Ok, the produce still isn’t great here–the herbs are wilted and so are the greens; too bad–I had hoped to get some fresh herbs  for dinner.  Clearly, I will want to go back to the neighborhood market for greens, but at least I can get a few more basics here.  I get excited when I see spices, but disappointed when I realize they are labeled in Greek only–better get my google translate on before I make my next journey here.  Still, I’m delighted as I make my way home with lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, lentils & brown rice.  I’ve got some chicken marinating in the fridge at home already, so I’m fairly pleased with my bounty.

As I walk home, with Euros, hair dryer and food for dinner to surprise Petros with, I’m beginning to feel just a little more at home. By my prettified California standards, and coming in with a tourist’s expectations of what Greece must be like (think white-washed buildings overlooking glistening blue seas), this neighborhood is  more industrial than I would have thought.  But when I smell the familiar scent of Rosemary, I realize that sense of discovery and excitement for  being here is beginning to overtake the cautious acclimation I have been struggling with.  Even though the scent is imagined (clearly I’m getting comfortable if I’m imagining things), I am soothed by it and breathe it in, wishing there really were a rosemary bush on this freeway overpass.  Its probably my favorite herb to cook with, especially with the lemon roasted chicken I have planned for tonight.

I round the corner and am shocked to see, not a rosemary bush, but an entire dumpster full of nothing but clean, full rosemary branches!  Ok, ok, ok–am I really going to dumpster dive for fresh herbs?

Yes, yes. I believe I am.

This magical appearance of Rosemary is my report card for one day’s small assignment for being, not doing.  What did I do today?  I went for a walk, I softened to the possibility of something unexpected and was rewarded with the comfort of something familiar.

 

 

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

real jordans for sale November 19, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Thanks again for the article post.Really thank you!

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Jack December 23, 2012 at 2:55 am

FOCACCIA RUSTICA 3 garlic clveos, crushed2 tablespoons olive oil2 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast1 1/3 cups warm water3 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour1/2 teaspoons salt10 sage leaves, roughly chopped2 each red or yellow bell peppers3 red onions, thinly sliced1/4 cup olive oil4 ripe tomatoes, seededbasil leaves, oregano, garlic powder, red pepper flakes1 teaspoon saltRoast the garlic clveos in a skillet in extra virgin olive oil over very low heat until the garlic begins to brown, turning occasionally.Using the tines of a fork, mash the garlic into the oil, allowing it to remain together. All the oil to cool slightly.Stir the yeast into the water and allow it to proof for 10 minutes. Mixture should become frothy and bubbly. If no bubbles appear, discard and obtain new yeast (or water used was too hot).Add olive oil, (should be less than 85 degrees), stir in salt, flour, seasonings, and mix well.Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead for 6 to 8 minutes.Place dough into a bowl greased with olive oil, cover, and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (nearly).Punch dough down, divide in half and place each half on an oiled 10 1/2 X 15 1/2 baking sheet.Stretch the dough to cover as much of the sheet as possible. If the dough shrinks, allow to rest 10 minutes under a damp cloth and then continue to stretch it out. Dimple the dough to create pockets.Let rise again, covered, about 50 minutes or until puffed.While dough is rising, roast, peel and slice the peppers into thin strips, or use store bought roasted peeled peppers (in olive oil).Saute the onions in the 1/4 c olive oil over very low heat for 20 to 25 minutes until they are soft and translucent.Preheat the oven to 400F.Lightly dip fingers into the remaining olive oil and make dimples in the dough.Divide the vegetables in half and spread over the dough.Sprinkle evenly with basil, oregano, and garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and sea salt.Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the dough is crispy and golden on the edges.Cool on a wire rack.

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Gislene December 25, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Your garden looks great! You can deltnaiefy never have too much basil (if only i lived somewhere warm enough to grow it!!) and nasturtiums are my fav plant – i am a somewhat intermittant gardner and nasturtiums are wonderful for hiding the neglect and keping things looking cheerful!!

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Catalin December 23, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Hi!The best herbs for you really deepnds on the climate and type of soil in your area. There are many great books out there you can either buy or check out from a library.I’m in the upper Midwest so there are a lot of weather extremes here. Also, the soil is full of clay. I had a huge herb garden and the things that seemed to tolerate everything (in full sun, too!) were Roman Chamomile, Oregano, Lavender, Dill and various Mint plants.Caution, though: Oregano can turn into an out-of-control bush! Even after I dug it all out it STILL comes back every year. It has lost it’s potency for using as a cooking herb. But as a plant, it’s quite pretty yet it draws bees.Chamomile, Lavender, and Dill return every spring, not sure if the Chamomile or Dill are supposed to but they do!Dill is a very tall leggy plant but so pretty. If you plant that, be sure it’s out of the windy areas- maybe against a wall or trellis that you can eventually loosely tie it to.Also, be aware of tastes if you want to plant herbs for use in cooking, I’ve noticed for example if you plant Dill too close to Mint, the Mint leaves will taste a little bit like Dill!Lemon Balm did well too, and the leaves taste great picked fresh and crushed a little and placed into tea.It’s a great hobby to get into good luck!

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Gina December 25, 2012 at 7:40 am

Woah nelly, how about them appels!

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