Wednesday, September 12, 2007

No Expiration on Passion

“There’s no expiration date on passion.”
Paula Panich carved those words in to my writer’s soul. They are found in her inspiring instruction book, “Cultivating Words: The Guide to Writing about the Plants and Gardens You Love”. My copy of that little blue paperback is dog-eared, highlighted and underlined. Great truth is often simple, its boundaries reaching outward from the subject it addresses. While her book is ostensibly about garden writing, it is a wonderful guide for anyone interested in cultivating or harvesting the bounty of words.
When I learned that Paula would be teaching a class on writing the Getty Garden, even though a weekday getting across the Los Angeles Basin may take longer than a flight to San Francisco, it was a double opportunity. It was a chance to develop my craft as a writer. And it was a chance to see this controversial garden through the eyes of someone who loves it with passion.
If I spent three hours driving the freeway to maybe arrive before the class started, the chances of being fresh, receptive and creative were not likely. Since being armed with the proper attitude is important to the learning process, I called Patty Gee, travel agent extraordinaire. She booked an overnight stay the night before at the safe and sane Hotel Angelino. Now, the morning of the class, the alarm might not go off, the traffic could be insane: I would still be on time. This decision created a bonus opportunity to leisurely take in the Big City as is was crossed.
My sons are both college graduates. By the time they were in elementary school, I remember reading about The Cook’s Library and wanting to go. This isn’t part of the county library system. The Cook’s Library is a store front bookstore dedicated to cooking and to those who are passionate about what is brought to table. But in two decades there never seemed to be time when I rushed home from whatever called me to that part of the city. My mistake. Packed with books stacked floor to ceiling, nooks and crannies: this charming shop should be a pilgrimage for anyone interested in the culinary arts.
The smell of yeast rising to me is primal. The feel of the dough becoming alive as it is kneaded is sensual. The sight of fresh loaves on a tray laden with fruit suspends time. And the touch to the tongue of bread freshly broken open, the steam melting butter to its silky best, is proof that heaven on earth is achievable. And this little nirvana is available to everyone with no distinction of class, race or ethnicity. It can be had for the cost of a loaf of homemade bread.
Last summer I took a class on baking bread. But I did not find a book that tempted my hunger to bring home to use as guide to bake bread. Not until I walked in to The Cook’s Library. There, in this charming bookstore are yards of bookshelves filled with volumes on baking. All proficiencies and areas of interest are represented.
Better than the internet or big box bookstore, the help is passionate about food and beverage. It is their calling to help those of us who want to drink in the knowledge of the printed word. Alan Zumel and Tim Fischer (pictured above left to right)asked a few questions to help discern my individual desire in a book, then they narrowed my search far better than I would have on my own. They led me to “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”.
Now, over the coming months I will practice my belief that books are like faith, best when used.


Anonymous said...

Great article, Lydia! Now please let me know what is controversial about the Getty Garden. You didn't touch on that. Keep up the excellent writing! I sure do enjoy!!
XO Trisha

Lydia said...

The controversy began when the decision by the Getty Foundation was made to hire an artist, Robert Irwin, rather than a horticuluralist, to design the garden.
Robert Irwin chose plants primarily for form, color saturation and other artistic qualities rather than primarily for their suitability to the site.
For some people, the controversy was the lack of emphesis on native plants. For others, that young plants were used was a temporary problem because they were so small in the context of the compound of buildings that make up the Getty Museum. The garden appeared flat and lacked personality or gravitas the first few years it was opened.