Saturday, October 22, 2011

Best of Wilder Coast: The Year of Magical Thinking

This post was recognized as BlogHer Voice of the Week in March of 2010. Check out the review here.

On my first full day of magical thinking, I ate my power animal.

To paraphrase Ira Glass, each year in my life I choose a theme, and bring you a variety of stories related to that theme. At twenty two I vowed to make better decisions and become prettier. Twenty three was the year of chance & whitewater. Twenty four was the year of positive thinking.  Yesterday, my birthday, I decided that twenty five is going to be my year of magical thinking.

This is the year to blur the lines between what is fiction and nonfiction, what is possible and impossible. Magical thinking is like positive thinking in HD, Native American spirituality blended with American pop psychology. I am going to see the power, the potential, and the meaning in all things. Life will be luminous, studded with the unexpected, rich in omens, visions, unexpected wisdom. Dreams are going to carry a lot more weight in my everyday decisions. Sounds radical? You bet.

And though I haven't exactly hammered out the details, I know that accidentally eating my Power Animal is not a promising start.

My friend Teo had an extra ticket to a bajillion course dinner at Twin Farms, an exclusive  five star hotel hidden in the woods of Barnard. Hidden. I've been roaming this area my entire life and I have never found it. People like Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates and Nicole Kidman stay there so no one can find them. I told Teo he could not have chosen a better dining companion for the occasion: I am devastatingly talented at small talk, and I adore fine foods. Little towers of beef with sprigs of parsley. Entire entrees stuffed inside a single endive. All vegetables proceeded with the word 'baby'. Baby lettuce. Baby bok choy.

And so, on my first day as a magical thinker, I was led down a walkway of tiny white lights and seated in front of a small herd of wineglasses and an extended family of forks. I was all tights and lipsticks and good posture, playing it cool, friendly but aloof. That is, until I read that the evening would commence with something called 'Lemony Squid Bubbles', and my head almost blew off my body in delight. I was doing it- I was living out my year of magical thinking!   Yesterday, I lived in a world where lemony squid bubbles did not exist. Today, they were being served to me over the pink body of a crab, in a dining room whose walls had once been darkened by the shadow of Oprah Winfrey.

That's the difference between plain old 'positive thinking' and 'magical thinking'.

In case you are wondering, the lemony squid bubbles looked and tasted like citrus shaving cream, with a little hint of the ocean. And they were only the beginning. As the evening swept by, the terrifying and mystical little plates kept coming and coming, and I CHARGED. No matter that I don't eat veal and I have never tasted sea food: tonight, whatever was put before me, was put into my mouth. I used the correct fork, I sipped the correctly paired wine, I enjoyed amiable conversation with the elegant people at my table. In the whirlwind, I stopped consulting the menu before each plate. I ate with blind courage.

Somewhere between the salmon parfait and the quail eggs, two little red, round cutlets of meat were served. And this is when the evening took a turn for the macabre.

My power animal was established at the age of three, when I established a profound relationship with ducks.  Ducks are my friends, my (former) pets, my connection to the animal world. Ducks are sacred. I share many, many a fine quality with that particular waterfowl. From certain angles, I even look like a duck. And never, ever, under any circumstance, would I eat a duck.

As a little girl, I could never have imagined that, some twenty years later, one would be served to me medium rare, disguised under a little beret of Creme Fresh. Never could I have imagined that I would chew and nod and say 'good steak' and someone would say 'that's not steak.'  That I would pause, fork to mouth, and say, 'well, what is it?'

OH GOD. My first day of dabbling with spirituality, and I eat my power animal.

All night long, I had been swapping stories of positive thinking with the beautiful woman next to me. As the evening dwindled down  and the coffee was poured,  I confided to her my big mistake. She understood the gravity of the situation, as I knew she would.

'You ATE your POWER ANIMAL?' She asked, drawing back. 'Even I requested that they serve me that plate without the duck! Just the greens.'

I held my head in my hands. 'I didn't know,' was all I could say. 'I didn't know.'

My spirits were lifted when the final of three desserts was served, and the dining room was filled with strange little explosive sounds, like a bevy of keyboards being tapped at the same time.  My mouth tickled. "What the-" said Teo, leaning his ear towards his plate. "Are these pop rocks?" Our thin slices of bitter chocolate, dabbed with jam and dusted with peanut butter powder, had been served with a side of chocolate pop rocks.

Somehow, this brought me back down to earth. Yes, I may have digested and enjoyed the duck. But there I was, sitting in one of the most exclusive hotels in the the US, being served lemony squid bubbles and chocolate pop rocks. It was certainly nothing I could have predicted for my first day of my 25th year, and if nothing else, my year  was looking to be a very intriguing one.

My final thoughts on this night is that I may need to find a new power animal. Although I doubt any species in the animal kingdom will offer itself up, given my record.


Aimee said...

Hi! I had to look you up after being at BlogHer Writers and Lisa Stone saying she reads your blog! If Lisa Stone reads your blog --you have GOT to be on to something--at whatever age you are! Embrace it! After reading a few posts I can tell you are immensely talented!

Anonymous said...

I agree. The pop rocks were a very good sign. Perhaps it was a cosmic even-ing out of sorts. Just look at it this way: if you hadn't eaten the duck, it would still be dead. But there's an embedded lesson, as there always is. Just because you "didn't know", doesn't make you feel any better.

Nick Best said...

I vote the nasty ass honey badger as a replacement, seems powerful enough.

Jacqui Sara said...

Lena! I am glad that there is someone else out there who is also enamored with ducks. They are quite delightful creatures. it's a bummer that you ate one, but I am sure that they have forgiven you.

Also: I started following your blog ever since I bumped into you at Irwin's in wallyhood last spring... not sure if you remember. But. For what it's worth, your writing (and photography!) is artfully crafted, and it makes me happy to share in your adventures- the sad and poignant as well as the quirky ones. Thanks for writing, I am grateful for it.

Melina said...

J- I remember our meet up at Irwin's very well! I am so so glad you're reading- how is your own blog going?

Melina said...

Nick- good idea, but actually I had this ceremony done and turns out my power animal was a crow all along.


Jacqui said...

Not so well! For a while I kept chickening out, and as of late I have been just plain uninspired. Hopefully I'll make it happen at some point though!