What does it mean to take a break or even a step back? Both phrases have a negative connotation for me, as they suggest that whatever I'm doing might be in excess or require re-evaluation.
Historically, I'm not a break-taker. I like to keep the huskies mushing, believing (or being trained to believe, perhaps?) that all motion—regardless of direction—is progress.
But now, I believe this is not the case. By the above model, I (or you) would turn into the Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil version of productivity—limbs (mental and physical) flailing in all directions at once, making it impossible to discern a left big toe from a right ear.
At a design studio I used to work at, we had a phrase for this: PANTS ON FUEGO. The intentional mis-combination of English and Spanish was meant to convey with even greater urgency how really ON FIRE your pantaloons were in that moment.
Readers of this blog (all 5 of you!) know that I've been a bit reflective lately. Years of operating "on fuego", some unfortunate athletic mishaps, and a complete career regeneration seem to have spurred this. Or else there is something in my water.
To encourage my reflective phase, I recently had two "breaks" which yielded some unexpected results, both artistically and gastronomically.
I spent a week at Iach HQ babysitting my dog while my parents were on vacation.
I thought I would be lonely. I was not.
I thought I would hate getting snowed in with no escape. I did not.
I thought conversations with the dog would get old. They did not.
The literal space this break created allowed me to asses my life from afar, like reading a recipe and deciding what subtractions, substitutions or additions I would make to make it taste better.
What's my new life recipe? I'll be constantly rewriting that. And it will never be perfect, but most likely lumpy, like an heirloom tomato. Those tomatoes always taste better...I think those might be flavor lumps.
Here is an excerpt from my Food Journal for Lumpy Life Heirloom Tomato Salad:
My next "break" was in Puerto Rico - a real vacation! No computer. I brought a set of travel watercolors (pictured at the top of this post), a few Sharpies and a sketchbook. I meant to draw and paint on my own but what happened instead was a series of painting sessions with the children (ages 3-10) that were in our group's number.
Every day we found time for painting together.
Sometimes we painted food.
Sometimes the three year old commandeered my sketchbook for excessive rainbow application.
And sometimes we painted animals.
We made sure to keep everything drippy and unprofessional.
I didn't think I would enjoy this. I was wrong.
I didn't think I'd be running to the local school supply store for more art supplies two days into the trip. I was.
I didn't think the kids would be giving ME ideas. They were.
Here is the remaining pages of the notebook I kept, complete with a few loosely constructed recipes. This notebook is a combination of my works, rainbows by the youngest student and additions by the twins (aged 10).
I didn't think the book would be better with their help. It is.