Putting Pen to Paper and Cinnamon Oatcakes
My notebook with its soft, worn, black cover has been quietly watching me for weeks now, like a friend that asks little of you, but wants to reassure you that she’s there when you’re ready at last to talk it out. I put the notebook in a drawer. I don’t want to be reminded of who I am at the precise moment when I’m longing to forget as much, wanting if only for a day to be someone else. I lose time staring at the drawer. The thought of my written words trapped in the airless darkness is unsettling. I pull the drawer open just enough to peek inside. My notebook is still there, waiting. I open the drawer fully and pull it out. Still, I’m not ready. I put it on the kitchen counter and walk away.
It’s time to get to the matter of making breakfast. Our weekly vacation from smoothies or peanut butter toast is always a welcome production on weekends. No matter how long the to-do list, we take it slow. Tea. Coffee. National Geographic. Saveur. A little bird watching. Pancakes. Or waffles. Maybe veggie-packed skillets with eggs. Today it’s oatcakes. I’m drawn to their rustic simplicity and the way the batter sits and waits for me until I’m ready, like my notebook. I sprinkle Greg’s with flaxseed, a necessary step to keep him off cholesterol meds. Extra raspberries for me so fresh and delicate they break apart in my hand when I sprinkle them over the little cakes. We start our Sunday Times crossword. The living room paint can wait and so can the tray of coleus I bought for our shady window boxes.
“What’s a four-letter word for tiny building block?”
We take turns reading the clues out loud even though we’re both staring at the same puzzle.
“Bird that perches with its tail straight up?”
“You should know this one. What’s a stroke of the pen?” I don’t know the answer; I seldom do when he precedes the clue with “you should know”.
I return the volley, “What’s the fifth book of The New Testament?” We both laugh, knowing we’ll have to move on to the next one. The bible clues always stump us, our penance for abandoning our Catholic roots.
We work doggedly to piece together a five line George Carlin quote for how long I can’t say, because I always sit with my back to the clock on Sunday mornings. Greg shifts his weight in his chair, a sign that the day’s list is starting to tug at him. In my bird watching seat, I can see my notebook from the corner of my eye. We’ll finish the puzzle another day. I carry the raspberry smeared plates to the sink. As if it were nothing at all, I grab my notebook and pull my favorite pen from the drawer, a fine point Uniball with blue black ink. It’s time.
Pen to paper. Pen to paper.
One foot in front of the other. One word to follow the last. This word follows what came before, leading to what’s next. I don’t know what’s next only that I must keep writing now that I’ve started. Ink flowing, the side of my hand inching across the blank page below these words. Keep on keepin’ on they say, and today I do just that. I’ve given myself permission to write about nothing, the small stuff, the empty, meaningless bits, anything to keep the pen moving across this paper leaving its smeary, indigo trail.
There, I’ve done it now, opened the notebook, marred the pristine, college-ruled page. Look ma, I’m writing. Yah, I know it’s nothing, but it might be something. I never know when the good stuff is coming. It’s just as well. I can’t see when the crap is coming either, here on this page or in life. Oh, there are times when I think I’ve bumbled into genius with this pen and paper. Ironically most of those pieces are garbage. I’m at my best when I don’t know it, when I least suspect it, when I’m not even trying. Not like now, I’m trying, trying real hard here to connect with my writer. She will guide me through this in time like she always does. With her help I’ll eventually turn this pain into a story I can share and a story others can learn and heal from. Until then I’m staying small here, writing about nothing just to write, because in the end it’s all I know how to do and it’s how I heal myself.
Cinnamon Oatcakes with Raspberry Compote
Adapted from a recipe in EatingWell Magazine, March/April 2012.
2 cups almond milk or skim milk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon butter
2 cups raspberries, fresh or frozen (thawed)
3 tablespoons maple syrup
pinch of salt
- To prepare oatcakes: Whisk milk, egg, and vanilla extract in a medium bowl. Combine oats, flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in another medium bowl. Stir the dry mixture into the wet mixture and let stand for at least 20 minutes. The mixture will thicken as it sits.
- To prepare compote: Meanwhile, place raspberries, maple syrup, and salt in a small, heavy saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the berries are mostly broken down, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
- Coat a griddle or large nonstick skillet with butter; heat over medium heat. Using 1/4 cup of batter for each, cook oatcakes until bubbles dot the surface, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip and continue cooking until browned, 2 to 3 minutes more.
- Serve the oatcakes with the warm compote.