A Corner Table by the Window
I recently decided to actually execute on a project that had been haunting my "long-term to-do list" for some time: make a photo book of every year of my adult life.
My good friend, Ira, inspired me to do this. He is some who cares deeply about the physical existence of photographs. Obviously, in a digital world, we've almost forgotten what it's like to hold a photograph - or hang it on our walls - or put together a photo album. I decided to work my way backwards, one year at a time.
2017 was a fantastic year to start. It was a year of eating my way across the globe - from Mexico City to Accra to Paris. And the ritual of going through each photo (literally thousands between my iPhone and my Mark III), and choosing the ones that most embodied a trip, a day, a moment, an idea, was cathartic. It made me grateful. It memorialized so many important elements that made my year so pivotal.
And now I have a beautiful 11x13 artifact. The thing I'll grab if my house is on fire... not my hard-drives - but a physical book of memories.
Here's what I wrote in the front of the book:
Perhaps it is not wise to compare a year in ones life to the years that came before. But I can't help but look back at 2017, a year that was full of national discontent and discord, as a year that was, at least for me personally, incredible. It was full of sun-filled walks through Los Angeles, road trips through abundant wildflowers, exploring the stylish shops and cafes of Mexico City, Paris, Accra, and Cape Town.
I left behind a year (2016) that had many challenges. It was a year that felt at the time like an ultimate low in my adult life. And on the eve of 2017, as I dined in balmy Rio de Janeiro, and watched the most incredible firework display of my entire life, I toasted: "To choosing joy."
And I did.
Whenever possible, whenever I could muster it (and it was not always easy), I chose to be grateful, to savor the moment, the conversation, the sunshine, the quiet, the music, the chaos, the... food. I made meals for myself and for friends. I explored new ingredients and recipes. I went to my first Michelin star restaurant. I ate a 22-course meal in Paris, and cried over "crazy water" in Los Angeles. I ate one of the best steaks of my life in Mexico, and endured a worthwhile moment of stomach cramps thanks to the most delicious simple spicy rice and chicken dish in Accra.
Food has always represented flourishing to me. The spiritual and the physical together. There is something worshipful, communal, sacred and profane, eternal and temporal about eating. And 2017 seemed to be filled with moments that I made myself savor. I hope I can take the lessons of 2017 and carry them into the rest of my life, however long or short.
In the middle of the year, on a hot sticky July day in Washington DC, I wandered into the food section of the Smithsonian and stared for a solid 20 minutes at Julia Childs' kitchen, perfectly reconstructed for posterity.
I love how much she loved food. I remember seeing her tear up at the very taste and smell of fresh bread.
I want to approach life with such sensitivity and presence of mind, striving always to be exactly where I should be, fully awake, tasting the moment, thankful.