Small comforts on a Sunday
It’s been a very summery week on Gabriola, so it’s been hard to sit myself down to get this issue done. I hope this day finds you well wherever you are!
Sunday recipe: Cherry and Almond Granola
This granola recipe is a staple in our house. Up until recently, we always had a 2-quart mason jar full of it on the counter as it’s a great favourite with guests. We ran out a few months ago and with no visitors in awhile, I’ve been delaying making another batch. However, now that we’re (mostly) vaccinated and so are a lot of our friends, I’m anticipating summer house guests and making some today. I like to slow cook this for an hour for added flavour depth, but you can simply put it in the oven for a bit longer if you prefer to skip that step.
5 cups rolled oats
1/3 cup sunflower oil
1/3 cup honey
1 tbsp vanilla
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup pumpkin or sunflower seeds
1/2 cup shredded coconut
After the machine beeps, add the seeds and coconut, stir and then turn down to low for four hours. I didn’t find the slow cooker really got the granola crispy on its own, which is why I think the oven step is necessary. I’ve seen people recommend keeping the lid slightly ajar in order to let moisture escape – but really, the last bit in the oven is pretty straight forward and you can crisp it to your preference. Let cool completely on a cookie sheet and then store in an air tight container.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Put everything in slow cooker (I use my Instant Pot on the slow-cooker setting). Turn the post onto slow-cook and adjust to high. Leave for one hour.
After the hour is up, spread the granola in a roasting pan and pop into the oven for about 30 minutes – at 350 – stirring every few minutes until the granola crisps and turns golden-brown.
Cool and store in an air-tight container. Keeps for a long time at room temperature.
Book notes: Weather
Jenny Offill writes brilliantly about the intersection between everyday life and the end of existence.
Weather is a story told in fragments in the voice of a woman named Lizzie - failed grad student, librarian, mother, wife, caretaker of a brother with addiction, and sometime meditator. She writes to us as though in a journal - a few sentences at a time - humorous observations, fictitious responses to email queries, jokes, excerpts from books and snippets from her life. Darting back and forth from home, to work, to things she reads on the Internet, we are treated to a kind of wry dread that permeates Lizzie’s life, and captures the United States in the direct lead-up to the Donald Trump election of 2016.
That Lizzie’s keen observation of life fuels her anxiety is evident from the beginning of the novel, but things really take off for her when she is offered a job by her former graduate supervisor, Sylvia, who hosts a popular podcast called Hell or High Water with a focus on climate change and inequality. The job is to respond to the hundreds of eco-anxious emails that comes in as a result of the show. Sylvia is no longer able to keep up, partly due to the volume but also due to her own despair at the lack of answers one can really give.
Lots of questions about the Rapture mixed in with the ones about wind turbines and carbon taxes….. Is the Insectothopter like the AlphaCheetah? Does extinction matter since we know how the Bible ends? Who invented contrails? How will the last generation know it is the last generation?’
The letter-answering, compounded by the daily news, and the decline of her brother propel Lizzie into an existential crisis. Lizzie turns her research skills towards figuring out how to get out of society, go off grid, build a doomstead. Of course, she comes up against what almost everyone does when they start to figure out the depth of the problem we collectively face, only the very wealthy have the assets for true survival. Even though well-employed, Lizzie and her husband can not truly prep for a future alone against the changing elements. And while she is paging through prepper forums and facing up to increasingly worried emails from Sylvia’s listeners - Lizzie is also going to PTA meetings, helping her brother navigate a new life, getting groceries, and simply carrying on.
There are few moments of high drama or despair in Offill’s writing despite the subject matter of this novel. Instead, her characters entertain us with a specific kind of observation that draws out the absurd, juxtaposing the minutia of the everyday with the big concerns that surround us. Of course, the world continues to end,” Sylvia tells Lizzie near the end of the book before she “gets off the phone to water her garden.” Offill shows us over and over that we must continue to take care of our sphere even as we are skeptical about the future before us.
Weather, like Offill’s first novel, Dept of Speculation requires a particular kind of attention to piece together the narrative. Her writing is spare, whittled down to the essence of what the reader needs to know in order to understand Lizzie and the people around her. It’s masterful writing, the fact Offill is able to explore emotional complexity and worldview at such a level in only 200 pages. The experience of reading her work is to marvel over and over at her ability to pare down our recognizable world into its essence.
“What it means to be a good person, a moral person, is calculated differently in times of crisis than in ordinary circumstances,” she says. She pulls up a slide of people having a picnic by a lake. Blue skies, green trees, white people.
“Suppose you go with some friends to the park to have a picnic. This act is, of course, morally neutral, but if you witness a group of children drowning in the lake and you continue to eat and chat, you have become monstrous.”
Weather deals with significant subject matter and yet because it is relatable, we do not turn away. This has a lot to do with the way Offill structures her novel, giving us enough detail to understand without delivering a full-on narrative that would be too emotionally intense in one go. This is a novel I highly recommend, not as an escape (as in last month’s recommendation), but as a reminder that we are all in a process of figuring out what life currently demands of us on big and small scales.
When life comes asking
I vow with all beings
to answer the question silently
by opening the door to one who needs it.
I have reached my subscriber milestone and will be making my draw for a tea towel and a book before the end of the month. Anyone who subscribes between now and then will be included in the draw so share this with a friend you think would like it.
You can leave a comment or like this post below. Liking my post helps get it wider distribution in the Substack network, so if any of this resonated with you, please click the button and then click the heart on this post.
If you want to hear more from me, find my blog at http://red-cedar.ca or follow me on instagram @birdsongworkshop - otherwise, I’ll see you here at the end of the month!