Before I got pregnant with my daughter, I had a dream that is still vivid in my mind. I am walking down the sidewalk, perhaps towards downtown, perhaps towards the farmer's market up the street; the sun is warm and the light is dappled on the pavement. Ahead of me, my son walks with my husband, holding his hand, sometimes skipping away, then running back to him, like a boomerang. Sometimes he climbs up onto my husband's shoulders, ruffling the leaves playfully when his head nears the branches. I am walking a good distance behind them, more slowly, carrying a child in my arms. A daughter. She is heavy, thoughtful, watching the world go by with solemnity. I want to hold my boomerang child, too, but I know I must carry this one right now. I feel like I'm being left behind, even though I'm not alone. I feel my throat tighten, watching them head into the light without me. Without us.
Yesterday I went to yoga class for the first time in weeks. It's been too easy to miss class lately, with my husband's business trips, and our (too short) vacation, and the loss of momentum. I dragged myself out, knowing that there would probably be a sub because my teacher goes to India every year at this time, also knowing that I need ... something. Recentering?
The sub was someone I know fairly well, a woman who is in the 500 hour training this year. My teacher had given me her name as a reference when I was exploring doing teacher training, when I had given up on getting pregnant after years of loss after loss and had just been handed a diagnosis of unexplained secondary infertility. I had decided I was going to give myself a different goal, just a week before discovering I was pregnant with my daughter. Seeing her always reminds me of one of the alternate universes where I didn't end up, the one in which I become a wildly successful certified yoga instructor, but have only one child.
I find some irony in this. On the one hand, I have a hard time not getting swept up in the chaos. Chaos has defined my life for the past 38 years. But on the other hand, I am the center now. I'm the one who isn't changing, who is just watching the world dance around me. And I don't always find it a welcome place to be.
I am running through the better part of town now, through the Mc Mansions. I hate these houses, this sprawling treeless suburbia, and yet, I want them. Or more correctly, I want the ability to have them if I wanted them. There are other things like that, too.
You should know this about me: I was a valedictorian. I was the one who was always ahead. I was the smart one, the one in the gifted and talented classes. The first one in my class to take my exams in graduate school. The one who won the fellowship. The one who started new programs at my former place of employment, turning them into some of the most highly visible features of the university before I left my job, unable to turn a blind eye to culture that openly permitted sexism.
Now I applaud with humility and jealousy when the accolades get handed out. I'm no longer the best in show. I watch others walk into the light, and wonder if I'm not running fast enough to keep up with the chaos.
My son starts first grade in two weeks, riding the bus for the first time. My daughter is beginning to put words together to form stories: "Eat. Elmo. Eyeball. Nomnomnomnom. bwahahahaaaaa!" (in reference to consuming an Elmo cupcake last week.) My husband orbits us, coming and going on business trips and busy with work. My former colleagues' lives march onward in Facebook, with posts about new student orientations and other harbingers of the new academic year. My non-work friends have their own chaos, some of it not good at all. My blogging colleagues and friends have theirs, some of it very good chaos, indeed.
And I sit here in the middle of it, just watching. Feeling jealous of the movement and strangely disappointed by the stillness that this teacher says I should cultivate.
I am three miles out from home, feet falling rhythmically on the pavement, my mind spinning, the air thick with jasmine, gardenia, lavender, and I realize I am gasping for breath. I stop, resting my hand on the splintered wooden fencepost, and am surprised to find that I am shaking, dry-heaving. It comes, like a tidal wave. My face is wet. I brush the sweat away, but it's not sweat.
I am tired of death. I am tired of giving up, of renouncing. I am tired of the lives that didn't make it to term, the dreams I had to leave behind, the losses I had to cut. And I am tired of the stillness that invades even the motion of running.
I am shaking my fist ungratefully at the sky, at the miraculously blue sky. An older couple drives by in a beat up green pickup truck, waving, thinking I am waving at them. I wave, take a deep breath, curse everyone, and pick up my feet, half skipping to start myself moving forward again.
When I first got our ice cream maker, I was surprised to see that the paddle stayed still in the middle while the bowl turned around it. It makes perfect sense, of course, given that you want to continually give the ingredients new contact with the coldest surface in order to convince them to freeze evenly; it had just never occurred to me that it would work that way.
***I crest the hill, and turn down, towards home.
2 c. milk
1 c. heavy cream
1 T. + 1 t. corn starch
1 t. lavender
2/3 c. honey
3 T. cream cheese (or goat cheese, thank you Healthy Foodie!)
Mix about 2 T. of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.Whisk the cream (or goat) cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.
Combine the remaining milk, cream, lavender, and honey in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes, Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
Gradually whisk the hot milk into the cream (or goat) cheese until smooth. Submerge the mixture partway in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.
Strain out the lavender as you pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy. Pack the ice cream into a storage container. Press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.
Serve sprinkled with a few lavender buds, toasted almonds, or a square of good bittersweet chocolate.