This weekly blog is mostly about three things I like. For a little different flavor, here are three things I detest: nuclear war and reckless, bellicose threats of it; white supremacy in any form; that blowhole of an idiot who is currently president. These things are not up for debate, so take that shit elsewhere. That said, the weather has cooled off and someone mentioned Labor Day and I got excited in anticipation of September. I hope we’re still around to enjoy it.
SOMETHING I’M LISTENING TO: LEWIS WATSON
It was way back when in our rainy, wet winter when my daughter and I were chatting one evening about music. She told me about an artist she had sworn to go see live if he ever toured through Seattle, which was very rarely. “I have a bunch of his music on every one of my playlists,” she went on to tell me. “I mean, basically, his songs are the soundtrack of my life.” This sounded like someone I should know, so imagine my surprise when she said his name and I drew a blank. “Who the hell is Lewis Watson?” I asked.
Well, let me tell you.
Lewis Watson is a young Englishman who broke onto the scene around 2010 via videos he posted on YouTube. The comparison to Ed Sheeran is a no-brainer–unassuming, quiet-spoken, singer-songwriter who plays a wee guitar. If you fancy yourself an Sheeran fan, you’ll likely be smitten with Watson. Now, I like Ed Sheeran for a variety of reasons and after seeing him live a few years back, I have mad respect for him as a performer. But I’ll admit when I took a listen to some of Watson’s music, I was, well, a bit sleepy. My tastes tend to run a bit more on the edgy, punky, funky and loud side and Watson’s catalog is comprised mostly of ballads. Nice ballads, but ballads.
It was May of this past year when Watson rolled through Seattle. On my birthday, no less. My daughter, knowing how I like to celebrate my birthday, had already assumed that going to this show was not an option. Au contraire, my dear, I told her. If there’s one thing I’m sure of it’s this: if there is an artist that means THAT MUCH to you, you GO. End of story. Tickets bought, plans made, friends invited. Knowing his music wasn’t really up my alley, I made playful wagers about who would fall asleep first.
Lewis Watson strode out into a singular spotlight on the stage of the Crocodile that Tuesday night in May. His fans, nothing less than ardent and attentive. He sheepishly mumbled something about not being able to afford to tour with his band, admitting to being a bit nervous, just he and his guitar. Whatever nerves were there, they quickly dissolved as Watson commanded the stage and the crowd with his personal and moving songs. He’d share a bit about them in between–his inspiration, his creative process–and the crowd was riveted. I learned awhile ago that the key to any artist connecting to their fans is an unflinching willingness to be seen naked–metaphorically, usually–but absolutely stripped down and honest with no pretense. Watson had this in spades. We sang choruses and rounds and Watson even jumped down off the stage, surrounded by the crowd, eyes closed and sang “Made Up Love Song #43” as he spun around in a dreamy trance. It was official–I was a Lewis Watson fan.
As it often goes with the best shows, it ended all too soon. Watson promised to hang out at the merch counter and meet every single fan who wanted to meet him. And he did. With good humor and grace and the most genuine attention, he sold t-shirts, signed CDs and dolled out hugs and photo ops to everyone until the last fan had left. My daughter and our pals and I floated out of the club and into the brisk Belltown night, fat and happy with the knowledge we had just seen something very special. Happy birthday, indeed.
You’d be foolish not to subscribe to his YouTube channel. Also, download and stream every Lewis Watson song and remember his name. One day you’ll be saying, “I knew him when…”
SOMETHING I’M COOKING: RICE NOODLES WITH PEANUT SAUCE AND PICKLED VEGETABLES
Since the weather cooled off, I’ve actually been back to my baking, taking good advantage of all the beautiful local berries in season. Also, when the world gets me all anxious and ungrounded, baking soothes my soul. The careful measuring, the waiting, the testing, the smells–therapy, all of it. Yesterday I managed to bake a pan of Blackberry Crumb Bars (because I simply do not do pies) as well as a lovely Blueberry-Lemon Yogurt Cake for dessert after tonight’s family dinner. But I promised the recipe for the rice noodle dish I posted a photo of last week, so I won’t let you down.
First, can we talk about peanut sauce? You’d think I’d have learned by now that anytime I set out to whip up some peanut sauce, I need to double the batch. A good peanut sauce makes my toes curl. And this peanut sauce is a fantastic one. I used this recipe from Smitten Kitchen as my inspiration. (About that tahini paste: you, like me, probably have an open, half-used jar of tahini. Look in the very back of the middle shelf of your refrigerator, behind the jar of lingonberries and that bottle of salted shrimp. It’s there, I just know it.) I love SK, but I felt the dish was begging for the additional brightness and tang of a few pickled vegetables, rather than just plain old cukes on top. So, I sliced up an English cucumber super thin, added a bunch of skinny carrot peelings and threw it all into a jar with a quarter cup of rice vinegar, a tablespoon of toasted sesame oil, a tablespoon or two of soy sauce and a shake of red pepper flakes. Taste it and add a teaspoon or two of sugar if you like it sweeter. Mix it all up and let it sit at least an hour or even overnight. Then, follow the recipe and DOUBLE THE PEANUT SAUCE and thank me later. I find that rice noodles seem to eagerly sop up any sauce I put on them and you don’t want this peanut sauce to get lost. If you happen to have leftover peanut sauce, I trust you will use it up wisely. Happy toe-curling.
SOMETHING I’M DOING: GUT-LISTENING
I was six years into teaching yoga and seven months into an apprenticeship at one of Seattle’s best yoga studios. The twice-weekly assisting I did with my teacher-mentors was a valuable education and the lessons I learned during that time I continue to use today. After each class, my teacher and fellow assistants would gather together and assess what we did well and where we could improve. It was during one of these discussions when I expressed the need to feel more grounded and present before the start of the class. “So, what pose could you do beforehand to help you get grounded?” my teacher asked me. I thought for a moment and said, “Ragdoll.” (A standing forward bend.) There was a long pause before my teacher slowly shook her head “no” and corrected me. “Mountain pose. Tadasana.” she curtly replied. I felt my cheeks grow hot with shame and confusion. I assumed she had been asking me what pose was helpful to me. I didn’t realize there was only one right answer and I had gotten it wrong.
It’s funny what experiences we remember and carry with us. And yet this seemingly innocuous interaction I had six years ago has stayed with me as a reminder to always trust my gut. Whether it’s intuition we have regarding relationships, a career change, choices we make for our health or something as simple as a yoga pose, trusting our gut is never wrong. Seriously, never. People will try to tell you otherwise, just as my well-intentioned teacher tried to convince me I gave the wrong answer all those years ago. The best yoga teacher in the world is not able to be in my body and tell me what I feel.
But here’s the thing: life teaches us not to. We are conditioned early on to rely on our brain, our analysis, our common sense far more than our “gut instincts.” We are told our decisions “don’t make sense” and are therefore wrong. As a recovering anorexic, I spent years conditioning myself to ignore my body’s cues of hunger and fullness, and instead would constantly calculate exactly how few calories and how much exercise I needed to stay small. Isn’t it ironic that it was literally my gut, my stomach, that I deadened all responses from? Isn’t it ironic I learned to hate everything about my belly? It took intense therapy and years of yoga practice to bring me back to me. To my instincts, to my body, to my life. And yet I still have moments of doubt.
So, the answer is simple–trust your gut–and the process isn’t easy at all. Find a practice that helps you drop into the stillness of your breath–meditation, yoga, tai-chi. Something. Dare to get beyond the busyness of your brain and see what’s really going on. Don’t worry so much about making sense but instead tap into your senses. It takes practice and bit of courage and I can’t imagine living any other way.
Now, when I slip into the bathroom before each yoga class, you can bet I’m not standing in Mountain Pose. I hang forward in Ragdoll, feet grounding, legs strong, feeling the ebb and flow of my breath until I’m ready to walk into my class and teach. Connected to something greater.
Namaste’, mofos. Be kind to each other and I’ll see you next week.