Writing for the Love of Food, Nature and Soul

Sometimes I think I should simply write about food. Forget this soul-based stuff, let’s just go back to the kitchen, shall we?

Yes, I could easily keep adding to that Slow Food category of posts on my website. Cook that I am, the kitchen is where you’ll find me every single day, crafting something for dinner whether simple or elaborate (usually the former). And while I’m hardly food-obsessed or a ‘foodie’, I am frequently musing on what’s to eat, what things I might like to combine and create. To taste. Either for myself or to share. Really, that’s what led me to French culinary school and my former career as a private chef: a deep, abiding love of preparing simple, beautiful fare that honors the earth it came from.

It’s a mixed bag, this Soul Artist Journal: a bit of this, a splash of that, a dollop of something else. Perhaps it’s not unlike the ‘box scheme’ of farm-fresh vegetables delivered weekly to my doorstep when I lived in England, never quite sure what’s going to turn up from one week to the next. Honestly, how many onions can one use? Or potatoes and carrots? And though the unifying thread in these posts is always soul, a curious diversity has existed from the beginning, because before I became a chef, I was a bodyworker and healer. (I still am, actually.) 

In 2012, recently returned from years of living in Europe, in hopes of attracting a publisher for my manuscript, I began building an author’s platform by launching the Riverspeak podcast (now defunct, despite all the requests to bring it back) and this Soul Artist Journal. What began as merely a means to an end, steadily shifted and drew me in, becoming a weekly practice that changed me for the better.
 
The voice, tone, and length of the posts have all evolved over the years. Residing in a secluded cabin high on the slopes of Haleakalā on Maui—sheltered amid the fragrant eucalyptus in a cloud forest, a wild realm of unearthly voices and whispering spirits—wading through the process of cutting my manuscript in half and redrafting it, I felt inspired to improve the journal itself. I wanted it to be deeper, richer and more reflective. Just as with my book, I found myself yearning to touch the soul with lyrical words, attempting to capture how a moment felt … and to offer something of beauty.
 
deck_olinda

A writer’s nest in the woods of Olinda, Maui

The more capable writer within stepped up to the plate (or perhaps sat down at it): my style shifted, a more authentic voice emerged and, for better or worse, the posts grew lengthier.

When my publisher enthusiastically welcomed The Bones and Breath, I was specifically requested to refrain from revealing any of the material via my blog or podcasts until the book was released. Things move slowly in the publishing world, so another year passed of continuing to record and write weekly from the wide, grassy field of life as a Soul Artist. During that time, the journal finally found its own feet with “celebrating a life for the senses” (though I didn’t adopt that as a logo or tagline until recently).
 
Midway through 2015, I began writing for online publications and finally learned the nuts and bolts of ‘platform building’ to better promote my book—a task that I naively thought would simply happen of its own accord if I had a blog or e-column. {Alas, no.} Reluctantly I ventured deeper into social media, and I accepted that much as I enjoy longer narrative, the shorter pieces are shared far more widely. (This one misses the mark for brevity.)
 
My reading interests tend to hover around nature, cuisine and wine, France, and personal evolution, and lately I’ve been following a couple of award-winning food blogs. Yet despite the occasional temptation to settle in comfortably and simply write about being in the kitchen, to exalt the rustic, local, seasonal fare that I love to prepare, I figure that the world doesn’t need another food blogger—probably not even a French-trained, barefoot, nature-boy attuned to the subtle art of nourishing the soul.
 
Too, there’s the matter that I’ll glance out the front windows of my California cottage and observe the coastal light cascading through the spiraling, wind-raked limbs of the great Monterey cypress. For a moment my breath catches, seeing the bare winter garden suddenly illuminated as a living, breathing poem, and I deeply ache to share that beauty.
 
When I go for a ramble on the wild seashore or amid the whispering trees, charmed by the chattering discourse of a family of red-capped acorn woodpeckers in a gnarled silver oak, I want to share that too. Similarly with the bright green blades of irises stabbing up from dark soil, seemingly everywhere in the neighborhood where I walk my two English Whippets. Or my childlike joy that the little winged ones have finally discovered the decorative bird feeder I received from my beloved at Winter Solstice.
 

I yearn to relate the wordless grace of greeting the dawn with an open heart and a cup of tea, as I do each morning, feeling an expansion in my chest at the twinkling inspiration of a diamond star in the periwinkle sky. And I wish for you to meet the sly red fox in an open, green field, each surprised by the other. Or to deepen into the quietude of writing with an old Paris fountain pen by candlelight in a small cottage at the edge of a continent, hearing the rumbling low voice of the ocean like an ancient chant at night. Daily I long to give you the cool of grey stones and sweet, damp earth beneath bare soles, the briny taste of the air, and the alluring perfume of ripe, organic strawberries at a farmers market. 

Organic polenta, garlicky chard, and pepitas

Organic polenta, garlicky chard, and pepitas

Because each of these things—and a thousand more—in its own way offers an antidote for the ailments of life, for the tiring crush and electric hum, for those lingering troubles and heartaches that beset us all in one form or another. Healing and nourishment, of the soul sort, that’s really what I write about.

How easy it is to lose touch of the tactile, goodness of our days, especially when beauty seems distant and mostly forgotten or ignored in a harried rush. Yet beauty exists everywhere. Most of us are simply not paying attention. And in both the heart and senses, too many of us are closed like a fist rather than a hand held open in giving. 

Daily, I am seduced by sensual moments of ordinary, heart-fluttering beauty that I love to offer forward, just as I would something from my kitchen, handed to you on a simple plate. 

Be open, my friend.

If you read this journal at all regularly, you know that I’m an old fashioned, mostly quiet fellow who repeatedly encourages others to slow down, to unplug from a wired existence, and to dilate their senses. Taste. See. Listen. Smell. Feel. I remind readers to relish the pleasures of life with a wild heart steeped in gratitude, urging us all to savor the precious gifts of being fully human, even amid the challenges. Especially then. Life is not always art, but certainly there exists an art and soul to living—to cooking, eating, writing, walking and sitting, dancing, friendship, making love—and it is a worthy goal to live gracefully, both in abundance and in need.
 
I know that some of you would like more food-based posts, and I would dearly love to deliver. Others hope for more nature-based writing and creative inspiration, and I want to offer you that, too. Yet I’m afraid it’s like dinner at our little house, where one just never knows what is going to end up on the table; it simply depends on what’s local and in season, what I fancy at the market, and whatever caught my eye.
 
Perhaps what I can give you regularly is this: a nod towards the re-enchantment of everyday life. For when our senses and hearts are ajar, and if we are paying attention, we discover that a subtle sense of magic still inhabits the world. There’s goodness in that.
 
Come, pull up a chair. Gather round our well-traveled dining table. Perhaps I’ll light a fire on the hearth, or at the very least a couple of hand-dipped beeswax candles. I will pour you a cup of tea in a blue and white porcelain cup from England, put some sweet nibblies on a plate. Let’s sit and talk like old friends about our deep longing—the hunger we feel—for a dear place and food for the soul, for healing and magic, love and personal evolution, and for a connection to something larger. Much larger.
 
Gentle reader, may we savor and share the best of what we have. And may we all be fed and nourished deeply.
 
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