Living With Poetry | That You Are Here

Living with Poetry is an occasional series where we explore how  poetry infuses our everyday lives. Catch  up with past features here. Interested in sharing your own story about how poetry inspires you (in the kitchen or otherwise)? Contact me.

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Are you a morning person or a night person? I'm not sure why we rush to identify ourselves with one of these categories. I tend to be a hybrid, anyway. If by night person, you mean someone who goes to bed past 10 pm or can stay away until 1 am watching a movie or exercising or drinking, then no, I am not a night person. If by morning person you mean I rise fresh-faced and alert at 5:15 am, ready to take on the day, then no, I am not a morning person either. But I do lean more on the morning side, I always have.

When my first job required me to be at the office by 7:30 to start combing through the newspapers, I woke up five minutes before my alarm went off almost every day. I was born with a strong internal body clock, and I'm one of those people that needs 8 hours of sleep. Now, almost 10 years later, I find myself getting up at 6 am most days to trek to work 35 miles away. (Many of those days find me waking up at 5:45 or 5:50, whether I like it or not.) Come the weekend, it's almost impossible for me to sleep in. 6:15 Saturday morning I'm wide awake thinking about the pancakes I want to make for breakfast. The movie we watched last night? I may have fallen asleep on the couch for a few minutes. Once 9 pm rolls around, my body doesn't care what day it is, it tells me bed is calling.

Early Saturday morning, bleary eyed, I opened my Facebook app and saw the new post from The Vanilla Bean Blog. On Fridays, Sarah has taken to sharing favorite links, pictures from her week, and some inspiring bits of poetry or prose that always turn my head. This week, it was Walt Whitman.

That you are here—that life exists and identity,

That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

-Walt Whitman

We're all doing it, aren't we? In our kitchens, on our blogs, in the great digital community we've forged, we contribute our thoughts and recipes. We set out every morning to be better than the day before. We are here, eating our way through life.

Did you see the movie Sister Act 2? There's a scene when Whoopi Goldberg (posing as nun Sister Mary Clarence) is trying to convince a girl with an incredible talent that she should join the choir and be a singer. The girl is resisting. But Sister Mary Clarence hands her a copy of Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet to read and says "if you wake up in the morning and you don't think of anything but singing first, you're supposed to be a singer."

It's easier to get on with it, with writing, singing, cooking, living, then stopping to ask ourselves why. When I wake up in the morning, after accepting how early it is, I think about food. And writing. I start typing a note on my iPhone that will become a blog post. If I stopped to ask why, I probably wouldn't begin.

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day. -Rainer Maria Rilke

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Peanut Butter Oatmeal Smoothie

Since the end of last year when my new commute forced me on the road before breakfast, I needed some good alternatives to ensure food could be in my stomach before arriving at work. Smoothies are the answer. I make one every morning for Andrew and I to share, and tend to alternate between this one and my favorite green smoothie.

I find that the peanut butter and oats keep me plenty full until lunch, but you could also toss in some ground flax or hemp seeds for extra nutritional power. Smoothies are very forgiving. Start with less liquid than you think you'll need, and just stream in more if the smoothie is too thick for your liking.

Serves 2 for breakfast, 4 as a breakfast accompaniment

1 cup almond milk, plus more if needed

1 cup rolled oats

1 banana

1/3 to 1/2 cup peanut butter

Drizzle of honey (or 1 date)

5 to 6 ice cubes

Place all the ingredients in a sturdy blender (I use a Vitamix), and blend well until smooth. Pour into two glasses and enjoy.