As an amateur photographer, using a point-and-shoot Canon PowerShot which isn’t even manufactured anymore, I have one rule: Never let the picture get in front of the experience.
That’s why I missed a magnificent opportunity to photograph the illusive Sharp-shinned Hawk during a recent birding field trip. We were studying the astonishing number of Violet-green Swallows feasting on the insects at Hallam Lake when suddenly they all rose up with a terrifying kik-kik-kik call and flew off. That translates to “approaching danger,” and, sure enough, in swooped a hawk.
Someone yelled, “I think it’s a Sharpie.”
Since 90% of this hawk’s diet is songbirds it had discovered the motherlode. This was a win, however, for the swallows and the Sharpie, coming up short, flew into a bare tree to strategize. I had never seen a good visual of this bird so, for the short minute he was perched before taking off, I took a looong look. Missed the shot, got my eye on the bird.
I also opted for experience last summer with the unexpected entrance to the music tent of the Notorious RGB. With intermission just ending, most of the 2,000 people in the tent were returning to their seats for a performance by American opera singer Renée Fleming. I was seated in an aisle seat, heard commotion and turned to see Justice Ginsberg painstakingly making her way down the steps. As her surprise arrival rippled through the crowd, a wave of people began to stand up, clap and appreciate her as she found her seat. I absorbed the experience, missed the good shot.
There’s a fine line between being a visual storyteller while still being capable of re-telling the story. It’s just one of the many minor choices in a lifetime of them for me, for us all.
For me personally this has been a summer of all kinds of choices. The good news is Aspen being an amazing place to live during the summer. That’s also the bad news. It’s impossible to do all the “amazings.”
“The biggest, trickiest lesson,” explains author Elizabeth Gilbert,“is learning how to say No to things you do want to do – stuff that matters – so that you can successfully do a handful of things that really matter. Our only hope of beating “Overwhelm” may be to limit, radically, what we’re willing to get “Whelmed” by in the first place.”
This summer I’ve tried to take Gilbert’s advice, knocking out the “Over,” settling for just the “Whelm’s.” That’s even why I’ve taken a month-long break from this blog – can we call it a sabbatical? And, no, it’s not an aging thing, why would you even think that?
Recent research has shown that ‘most of us spend nearly 47 percent of our waking hours each day thinking about something other than what we’re doing.’ *
Although I’m thrilled to be blogging again, I’m sad that Summer is waning. So, loyal Readers, I raise this Toast to you: Here’s to relishing joy in the moment, savoring that which is fleeting and focusing on the present experience.
PEACH CRUMBLE SLAB PIE – adapted from New York Times food writer Melissa Clark, the Pillsbury Doughboy and Jane Hutchison (my Mom)
If you want to make a memorable impression with a dazzling dessert for a large summer gathering, bake a slab pie. Enlist help from our available bounty of berries or stone fruit. This dessert, which generously serves 16-18, is the busy baker’s answer to quick, simple and delicious.
First, let’s talk about pie crust. In this recipe I rely on the Doughboy. Here’s why. The stars of this pie are Colorado’s Palisade peaches and the to-die-for crumble. The bottom pie crust (use both pouches in the box) is just the foundation. We need the crust to do its job so the tasty ingredients can shine. Now if you wish to make your own crust, hooray, but I’m making three slab pies next week so ready-made crusts are my friend.
As a time-saver, choose your favorite pre-made pie crust dough. Use both pouches from a box of ready-made pie crust stacked together.
12 ripe large peaches or nectarines or a mix, peeled or not, pitted and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 cup packed light brown sugar
⅓ cup instant tapioca
zest of 3 small or 2 large lemons
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon/ fine sea salt
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups of Quaker oats (quick or old-fashioned)
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 ½ sticks unsalted, COLD butter, cubed
1. Remove pie crusts from pouches. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, unroll and stack crusts one on top of the other and gently roll the two stacked discs to an 11-x-15-inch rectangle, lightly dusting with flour if dough is sticking. Fold dough in half and transfer to a 9-x-13-inch baking dish. Carefully press crust into the bottom of the dish and completely up the edges so its flush with the top (no need to crimp the dough.) Refrigerate while preparing the filling and crumble.
2. Make the filling. In a large bowl, toss together peaches, sugar, tapioca, lemon zest and juice, nutmeg, vanilla and salt. Let stand 20 to 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, heat oven to 425 degrees. Arrange one oven rack on the lowest position and a second rack in the center position. Place baking sheet on lowest rack while oven is preheating.
4. Make the crumble topping. Whisk together flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Mix in cold butter with your fingertips until mixture is uniformly moist and comes together in large clumps.
5. Assemble the pie. Remove up to one cup of liquid from the filling if it seems too soupy. (Use it in a smoothie.) Spoon filling into crust and top with crumble.
6. Place pie on pre-heated baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes at 425 degrees. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Move baking sheet with pie to the center rack. Continue baking until pie is golden brown and filling is bubbling, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.
TIP: This dessert does not need to be refrigerated for a day or so. Just cover loosely with a kitchen towel or wax paper. If not eaten by then (and, I’m betting that won’t happen), cover it with Saran Wrap and place in fridge.
*research project of Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T Gilbert