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rooftop porches

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olive oil rosemary cake_2

I tend to want everything, all at once. To never have to say no, to respond yes to every option. Perhaps it’s my aversion to decision making, but I think there’s more to it than that. I want life to be weighty and meaningful and rich and deep. I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing, as though I had wings (leave it to Mary Oliver to say it best).

And yet when I end up there, in the midst of weightiness and beauty, it’s a bit unsettling. Right now, for instance, I am grateful for all of the goodness in my life, which suddenly seems obvious, like it’s written in sparking letters in the night sky. (And, by the way, I felt that way even before we went and got engaged, so it isn’t only that. But surely, yes, the feeling has increased in the last eleven days. You’ll forgive me this indulgence, won’t you, and let me be sentimental for at least a few weeks, right? Maybe even until my wedding, if I get married fast enough?)

With the weightiness, of course, comes complexity–in this case, the future, with opportunities and decisions and plans and unknowns coloring it with their heavy strokes.

Parts of my life feel rooted and certain; other elements blow wildly like streamers in the wind–or, for a less charming analogy, those inflatable figures that wave their long limbs uncontrollably from their posts outside auto dealerships and the strip mall shops that want to buy your gold.

Whatever the image: it’s curious to feel a profound clarity about some things while others remain such a mystery.

Living an intentional, meaningful life can be difficult; it is, by its nature, not simple. Immersed in the nonprofit world as I am, I think often of how when we dive into these things we feel called to, these lovely and important things, we’re faced with so much of the dirty, murky, tired and heavy of the world. I don’t want to coast through life, so I’ll take it, but easy it is not.

Better, though, wouldn’t you agree?

On a recent morning run, I saw a red chair perched somewhat precariously on the overhang of a purple rooftop, a makeshift porch created for a house that didn’t have one. It reminded me of Kimberley’s wonderful post about her kitchen, about the normalcy of it and her determination to continue making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

And isn’t this what life is about? We construct porches on rooftops and silk purses out of sow’s ears; we take pretty photos in drab or tiny kitchens and find joy in a complicated world. We brace our feet against the purple shingles, intent on maintaining our grasp on the loveliness we’ve found in the complex and/or quotidian, determined not to slip back down to the ground, enjoying the feeling of the wind in our hair.

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This cake–flavorful and delicious but far from mild–feels like that. It looks rather simple in these photographs, but its taste is nuanced, interesting and extremely good. The ingredients are tried-and-true favorites, but I likely would not have thought to combine them in a cake sans the direction of ever-wise Kim Boyce. She comments that the rosemary and chocolate “bring out the spice and fruitiness of the olive oil.” Yes! That’s exactly it! And my oh my, but is it ever a glorious thing.

So run with the complexity of this cake, and of your life. Make porches on rooftops. Do what it takes to life your life to the fullest, and be glad.

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Olive Oil Cake with Rosemary and Chocolate

From Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain

3/4 cup spelt flour

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

1 cup olive oil, plus extra for the pan

3/4 cup whole milk

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly grease a 9 1/2- or 10-inch fluted tart pan or springform pan with olive oil.

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the olive oil, milk and rosemary; whisk again.

With a spatula, fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, gently mixing until just combined. Stir in the chocolate.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake the cake for about 40 minutes, or until the top is domed, golden and darker around the edges and a knife inserted in the cake’s center comes out clean.

Serve warm or cool. Wrapped tightly in plastic, the cake will keep for about 2 days. Leftover slices also freeze nicely.

Yield: about 8 servings

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