take a right at the tree
with a bend at the elbow
don’t forget to lower your head
for the branch that swings west
you’ll find a path paved
with the crimson of iron
it will lead to a crawl space
that expands with new breath
It’s raining in LA today. And by rain, I mean downpour.
I’d planned to run all my errands for the week today. I checked the weather—drizzle and rain all day. Immigrating from a country with a monsoon season, I never take “rain” in LA seriously. I grabbed a long coat, threw on some waterproof boots, and stepped out.
A light drizzle pranced on the top of my head—little taps of soft chills cooling me through the warmth of my coat. By the time I stepped out of a shop, it was pouring. I had no hood, no hat, no umbrella. I couldn’t help but laugh—almost maniacally, my cheeks puffing under my mask, catching large droplets from the sky.
Chunks of mud creeped in between the crevices of the soles of my boots. Determined to shake most of it off before I got to my building, I stomped in shallow puddles, and what initially seemed like a chore became a determined frolic in downpour with the city.
As rain soaked the wool of my coat, I was transported back to my childhood, with not a worry for runny makeup nor unkempt hair, nor for delicate papers that would smudge and curl, nor for a scolding from my mother. Rain has a way of doing that—washing away what we have, whether or not we hold tight to them. Today was a good day to let go.
When you catch yourself in a spacey state, can you recall your last complete thought?
I caught myself adrift, in an out-of-focus glance in the direction of the plants on my table. Suddenly, I remembered a mentor of mine. His name popped up at the edge of my consciousness, like some sort of welcome intrusion, and I felt the urge to call him. His number was disconnected. I decided I would look him up. I felt a rush of anxiety, unsure but anticipatory.
He passed away last November. The last time I’d seen him was with my now ex-partner. A history buff, we brought him a book from a museum we last visited. He served us the most balanced lemon cookies.
Rest in power, Dr. G. I’ll catch you down the rabbit hole.
As a latch key kid in a working class immigrant family, I grew up quite independently. I am the eldest of three (actually, eight, but that’s another story), having to learn how to cook for myself as early as 5 years old, then cooking for my younger brothers as well. Cooking and eating was always about what was convenient.
I started working while I was in high school, and I worked all throughout college. Time was always scarce. By the time I had my first job as a high school teacher, lunch break was rarely long enough for me to breathe. When I started training to become and then became a doctor, I mastered eating (and sleeping) standing up, inhaling my food in 5 minutes. By then, I’d accepted that food was not meant to be enjoyed. It was fuel, and the best I could hope for was that it tasted okay.
Life has changed significantly since then. Constantly on the run, I felt totally disconnected from my body and developed a number of health issues. My body was screaming at me to change my lifestyle, which meant that I needed to treat it like it was the treasure it is. For me, that started with exercising for joy and eating for pleasure, and slowing down and being more present and intentional in my day.
For me, presence and intention manifests in what I can make with my hands, and food is one of those things. Granted, cooking can be a luxury. Like many luxuries, it takes resources, whether that’s time, money, access, or experience. Coming from a country where canned meat is king, cooking with fresh ingredients truly feels like a blessing, and making the time to cook and eat with such presence has become a luxurious spiritual experience.
I was marinating mackerel in miso that I plan to broil in a couple of days. I thought I’d take a stab at concocting my own version of pork belly braised in miso-butter:
These days, especially because I like to develop my own recipes and am constantly tweaking them, I take the time to plate my food and savor what I’m eating. And more often than not, this experience is worth savoring.
With Los Angeles facing rising cases of COVID and COVID-related deaths, I’ve taken precautions by physically isolating more strictly. I felt the mental and emotional strain of being away from family and community during the holidays. I’m still feeling it. Virtual dance parties have been great, but do you ever just need a hug sometimes? A big, tight hug?
I ended up on the best side of the internet. I have found my people. See below:
I’m going to be singing this jingle for a while because now I can’t get it out of my head. To my neighbors—I’m sorry.
It’s the end of the first week of 2021, and it’s more chaotic than I could have ever expected. I’m working 60+ hours during the week for a month, on top of side projects and series I’d forgotten I’d signed up for.
I’m working on re-establishing balance. On my way back from my favorite grocery store in Koreatown, I passed by a plant shop and brought home some little friends.
My new little green friends are in good company with their neighbors.