The Catalyst

A Writing Teacher Writes (plus some writing prompts and recipes)

Friendly Ghost August 22, 2017

Filed under: Grief,Teaching,Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher DeLorenzo @ 11:04 pm
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This time the prompts were:           

Not a very pretty kitty

Once upon a time, there was a woman who had had enough

“Your soul pulls toward the canyon and then shines back,”

(from “How to Regain Your Soul,” by William Stafford)                                                          

What I wrote is below.

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You: pop up in MS Word, a document without your name in a philosophical message that makes me think. Or sometimes a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye, or Mary Oliver. You both loved and laughed at “Wild Geese“: You do not have to be good/You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles in the desert, repenting. That was advice you might have given too, perhaps not so romantically.

You: come to me in inner dialogue. One day I said, “It sucks that you’re dead,” and I heard your voice reply, “It sucks being dead. It’s so boring!” I laughed then, but I worry that your spirit is tied to those splintered souls you left behind: the old friends and lovers, the ones who try to comfort one another now, like Rebecca, today, who bought me lunch and then invited me upstairs for coffee made with an old Pavoni hand pump espresso. I worry that we won’t let you go and so you still have work to do, I worry that you are still weary and that you need to rest.

But here we are now, in that familiar territory of a relationship between the living and the dead, you and I, after all those conversations we had about our dead loved ones, talking to their photos like I talk to yours now, asking, “Where are you? Where did you go?” A child’s question. Unanswerable. But I suppose you’re still here, in the circle of writers, in the chocolate cake with real flour and real sugar, glutinous flour, processed sugar. “Oh, fuck!” you used to say. “If you’re going to eat cake, eat cake!”

You: still cracking jokes, still holding up a mirror that says, “Look at your beautiful self. You are a great teacher. You are MY teacher.”

Oh, you. How lucky I was to be chosen, to learn from you how to really be a friend. How lucky I still feel having known you all these years.

 

 

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A Brief History of Cake October 2, 2015

Filed under: Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher DeLorenzo @ 9:49 am
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The prompts this time were:   IMG_1558

Don’t skip dessert

Sweetness personified

I just need a time out

What I wrote is below.

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I’m happiest when I’m baking a cake. In fact, when I was four years old, my brother said I once walked through the living room, where all three of my brothers were sitting, on my tiptoes, my empty hand flexed back, pretending to be carrying something. “I just baked a cake!” I proclaimed. “I just baked a cake!” They burst into good-natured laughter. “That’s our little butterfly,” I imagine one of them saying.

Maybe this story is an example of how, as a child, I played with what I thought it meant to be a homemaker: a wife who provided sweets for her loved ones. It might also show that I felt safe enough to be authentic with my older brothers. I still do. And it definitely shows how early my obsession with cake began.

I remember the sound of the stainless steel measuring cups, how they nested together in a neat little stack. I remember how Mom taught me to make sure the flour was never pressed down into the measuring cup, and to slide a butter knife evenly over the top to level it off. I liked the scratchy sound of the sifter, the loose wooden knob of the hand crank, the baking soda and salt mixing in.

I have memories of baking with my mother as early as age six: greasing the cake rounds with a half-opened stick of butter, tapping a bit of flour along the bottom of the pan and along the sides. When I was old enough—eight or nine—I mastered the hand-mixer, could fill my own tray of paper cupcake holders—pale yellow, baby pink, sky blue—and I loved to stand on a chair, flick on the oven light, and watch the cake rise from a puddle of batter to a golden dome.

I still have to force myself to wait as the cake pans cool on wire racks on the kitchen table; I have ruined the smooth bottom of more than one cake with my impatience. I still love running the knife around the edge of each cake, inverting it onto a plate, then flipping it back onto the rack. Nothing is more satisfying than pulling the oily parchment paper from the bottom of a slightly warm cake and seeing that perfectly flat smoothness. For me, baking a cake is a ritual, and I prefer to do it when no one else is around. I even like spreading the frosting and adding the second layer when no one else is there to witness, so the first time anyone sees the cake, it looks like it just magically appeared that way: stacked up and perfectly shaped, like a gift, all ready to be unwrapped.