Haven or Hell?

I read the gentle, but firm, reminder of Scandinave Spa’s no talking rule: “Welcome,” the sign read, “to our haven of silence.” Ah, what a relief! I was stealing a few hours away from the nonstop bonding of our family vacation.* I planned to get scalding hot, dunk in a cold plunge pool, and then wrap up in towels to read my mystery novel. Scald. Freeze. Read. Repeat – all in blessed tranquility. Trust me, it’s why Scandinavians are thin and don’t hate their children.

But I did speak aloud a couple times, “It’s so clean,” I whimpered to a perfectly maintained hosta. “It’s so tidy and smells of eucalyptus,” I practically wept to the lemon wheel floating in my water.

I have trouble keeping order and creating beauty in my life. My house is a constant, wailing metaphor for the unfocused mind. When I try to flee inward to escape the toppling laundry cairn that is my living room, I crash into the Sanford and Son junkyard of my brain, complete with the requisite bellowing dog, Entropy.

I try to form little oases of beauty and intention in my home, but these days, they end up coated in dog hair (real dog, not the one from that scene in my brain). Okay, so clearly, I have some mental and domestic work to do. But – here comes the bright spot – I usually manage to get a meal on. The forethought and execution involved in coaxing ingredients into dishes is my way of giving shape to the day, and finding an orderly spot in my home/life.

This spicy kimchi slaw recently brought me much eating joy, and appeared in several iterations on our table over the course of a week. Though the Bon Appetit recipe is lovely as it is, it benefits from a grated apple, toasted peanuts and/or grilled tofu. Once I grated on some beets – fantastic – and also added slivered snap peas. And I used red radishes for more color than daikon provided. I left out the kimchi once, and went for lots of lime juice and sriracha.

So set yourself up with some serenity slaw, and stop glancing around at the chaos that threatens to flush you down a toilet of unopened mail, forlornly single socks, and aspirational books you will never read. Focus solely on the slaw. Fork, Crunch, Repeat. There…see? Now isn’t that a healthy, pretty little haven of order? All silent…save for the munching.


*Yes, I was back in Canada! I should write for their tourism board. My motto: “Canada! If there’s anywhere else to vacation, I don’t want to know about it!”