When I found myself stuck in Chapter Nine of my second novel, Searching for My Daughter’s Ghost, I got on my bike and rode the Coastal Trail downtown to visit my friend, S, in her lovely and airy condo.
The sky was overcast but warm, and it was nice to sit in a comfy chair in S’s living room and catch up on life, nice to sit and watch her face as she talked and laughed.
On the way home I rode along the inlet for a few extra miles. The tide was beginning to come in and the air felt hushed with expectation, and I felt so happy that I almost cried.
Then I came home and started to write and my good mood fell away. Writing this book is difficult since I’m touching on sensitive subjects and using pieces of my own grief and pain. Some nights I feel so sore and bruised after a few paragraphs that I wonder what in the hell is wrong with me that it could ever be this hard, this agonizingly complex to finish one simple chapter.
Though of course a chapter is never simple, is it? Or as a writing instructor once said: If writing were easy, then everyone would do it.
So when I’m stuck in my writing, when my head is filled with words that I can’t seem to write over the page (or I’m afraid to write over the page, which is really the same difference), I bake. Tonight it was vegan blackberry muffins.
Growing up back on the farm in northwestern Pennsylvania, we had wild black raspberries back in the woods, and we used to stuff ourselves until our hands and mouths were lined in black.
But it wasn’t until years later in Seattle, after leaving a man who I once loved, that I first encountered large and ripe Marion blackberries. They grew on bushes behind my motel room and I stood out in the parking lot and wept and ate, wept and ate, those blackberries smearing my hands with purple-black juice that reminded me of blood. I filled a plastic shopping bag and carried them to the airport, my chin and mouth stained, and I did nothing to wipe off the juice, I wanted to be marked, tattooed with the blood of those berries.
Maybe it was the sugar from so much fruit or the realization that I was better off without that man, but eating those berries made me feel better. I washed my hands, got on the plane and soon fell in love again, and after that, yet again, and through all of that love and all of those breakups, I ate Marion blackberries. Most of the time I had to eat the frozen variety, since I live in Alaska where blackberries don’t grow naturally, but no matter. Like love, sometimes you have to overlook the small imperfections in order to savor the true taste.
Vegan blackberry muffins
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup unbleached white flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup honey (or more, if you like sweeter muffins)
1 cup soy/rice/almond milk
3/4 cup light olive or canola oil
1 1/4 cup blackberries
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix dry ingredients and fold in wet. Add blackberries last. Grease muffin pan or use muffin papers and bake for 15-20 minutes, until tops are golden brown. Makes six large muffins. Eat smothered with margarine or butter.