I made it to Ojai last week for our late Christmas gathering! All of the family. Oh, it's such a good getaway for me, to rejuvenate and relax and not really have to worry about anything for a couple of days. And to be surrounded by so much love and wisdom. Every time I am with my family, I can't help but feel acutely aware of how blessed I am to have been born amongst those people. Seeing them all and being with them, I'm just always thinking, I am so lucky. I am so very lucky.
And we laugh so much together, which is a beautiful thing. My brother was telling us about a book mom passed on to him, something from the '70s I think. The author channels the knowledge of the Pleiadians, yes she does, and one of the things they tell her is that (let me pause a moment to relay that this is a non-fiction book) earth is a "magnificent intergalactic information center." Well, now, I love that, no matter who told whom. So I kept pretending to answer the phone, saying, "Thank you for calling the Magnificent Intergalactic Information Center, how may I direct your call?" We laughed. We sure did laugh.
But let me back up. Ojai deserves a better intro. The first amazing part of going to Ojai is my drive up there. I am lucky for that too, because it's just so easy. Basically, I take one road, the 101, from my apartment to my mom's house. And the drive is so gorgeous, from start to finish. This time, in particular, during that drive, I kept thinking how much I love California. I mean, I said it out loud a few times, even. I love California. All of it.
And that drive. I start in the crazy smoggy colors and then the ocean breeze and the most beautiful rocky hillsides and cows on the hills and the piers reaching out toward the bright horizon and always some misty shining fog somewhere. And then pastures and fields and groves and groves of oranges and avocado orchards. And those ceaselessly pink mountains cradling the Ojai valley.
And then I'm in Ojai. Which I've decided ('bout time) that I will try and start to refer to as home. Because I always call it Ojai, since I never actually lived there. But, it's got to be home now. It's where my parents moved years ago and it's where I sleep on a couch every time I visit and it's where we come together and cook and sing and play games and laugh and cry and philosophize. And we've been through more there as a family than anywhere, really. Well, I mean, more of the deep and heartwrenching things. The things that forced us to adjust and find the strength to soldier on together and discover ourselves to be intrepid and good. It deserves to be called home, by now. It has to be.
This trip was great all around. Sunny and warm for us. And it's always good to get to cook with my sister and brother and mom too, while Stefan plays guitar in the background, because they are the most talented bunch of chefs I know, so I learn a lot. We made Spanikopita (props out to our YaYa) and it was, I think, the best we've ever made. Or, actually, mom pretty much made that all by herself, come to think of it. In any case, the adult children did some cooking too.
My sister and I always plan on making something strange, or at least something that seems like it might be challenging. Things that you forget aren't born in packages. Like, once we made marshmallows. This year, we decided to make the english muffins to use in our eggs benedict. I highly recommend trying it some time. They were good, like really, really good. The secret of english muffins, it seems, is that they are not cooked in an oven, but grilled in a pan. Who knew?
But it would have been fine if they didn't turn out. Part of our wanting to make difficult things is to remind ourselves that the joy of cooking is cooking it, like the joy of life is living it. (That last bit's a quote from somewhere, I think, that always crosses my mind, unless I made it up, which would be cooler.) Because it's so true and important to remember. I used to only cook things I knew I could make, because if I tried something else, I would get frustrated that things weren't turning out right, or that I burnt something or dropped the batter on the ground. But it was my sister and brother who taught me that it's the experimenting and messing up that, if you can enjoy the process, make you a better cook in the end.
Well, now, ain't that the truth. As with cooking, so too with life. I struggled the most with life when I thought it was supposed to be easy. That was hard. But once I realized it was difficult, that's when it got fun.