Living with Poetry is an occasional series where we explore how poetry infuses our everyday lives. Catch up with past features here.
I knew it was a risk taking the walk when I did, but decided to chance it because the clouds weren't quite gray enough to assume rain was imminent. Also, given the morning I had, I was determined to enjoy some fresh air.
Everyone who lives in Los Angeles knows that traffic is part of the deal. It's what we Angelinos dislike most about the city, by and large. We grumble and plan outings based on which side of town an event is being held, at which time of day, on which day of the week. You get used to it, because what the city requires of your time in traffic, it makes up for in culture, food, and sunshine.
I have a longer commute than most would consider "normal" for LA. Thirty-two miles one way from the westside to the suburbs takes me 40 minutes in the morning on good day, but occasionally there are bouts of unpredictability. A series of accidents on the 405 caused an amazing amount of backup, and I made it to work two hours later, worn out and disoriented. By the time lunch arrived, I quickly heated up my spaghetti from the night before and set out on my walk.
I usually walk down to the library about half a mile away and bring a book to enjoy when I reach my destination, but this walk was more purposeful. By the time I made it to the library and started my loop back, it began to drizzle. Not hard, and if it had stayed that way for the next 10 minutes, I would have hardly been affected, but with every step, the bushes on either side of the sidewalk began to hiss. It was the sound of raindrops hitting dried leaves and bouncing off sticks. It was loud enough for me to hear through the Dave Matthews song playing in my iPod Shuffle. I quickened my pace, but I still had at least eight minutes to go, and the rain was coming.
I thought about this quiet poem by Peter Everwine.
"Toward evening, as the light failed
and the pear tree at my window darkened,
I put down my book and stood at the open door,
the first raindrops gusting in the eaves,
a smell of wet clay in the wind."
-from "Rain" by Peter Everwine
Wet clay in the wind. That scent filled my body when I came to the signal, the last one to cross before reaching my office building. My sunglasses were covered in water, and as I reached up to wipe it away I heard someone yell. It was a kind woman rolling down her window to offer me a ride. I laughed and told her how close I was, and thanked her before rushing across the street before the signal turned.
Then I started jogging. In my black Theory slacks and blouse and cardigan, up the road to my office. I couldn't help but laugh. I needed the rain. Needed it in my hair and on my sunglasses, not just outside my office window. I smiled thinking about the kindness of strangers, and once I tousled my hair a bit and dried off, I consoled myself with a bowl of homemade granola and a splash of my favorite almond milk.
Rain calls for granola, I think. I've been making a lot more of it this year thanks to Megan. Her master recipe in Whole-Grain Mornings is a splendid template for experimenting with your favorite flavors, and I've finally settled on mine for the time being. I use a combination of olive oil and maple syrup as she suggests, and swap the measurements for cinnamon and cardamom. It's such a satisfying thing to eat at any time of day, rain or shine.
Adapted from Whole-Grain Mornings by Megan Gordon
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup almonds, roughly chopped
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/4 cup chia seeds
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup raisins
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. Mix the oats, almonds, seeds, salt, and spices in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Add the oil, maple syrup, and almond extract. Stir again until very well combined and the oats are well-coated.
Spread on the prepared pan and pack the granola down in an even layer using the back of a wooden spoon. Bake until light brown and fragrant, about 35 to 40 minutes. Stir every 15 to 20 minutes, and be sure to check on it at the 30 or 35 minute mark. When you take it out, the granola might not seem fully crisp, but as long as it's golden brown, it will crisp up as it cools.
Let cool completely on the pan and stir in the raisins. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.