Kale Mashed Potatoes + September in Nashville

tim's plate

Tim went away for a work trip last week, just for two days really, but all the way to New York, putting him not only out of state but also in a different time zone, for the first night (and nights) we have ever been apart since we got married. It wasn’t something we looked forward to, upcoming nights apart like these, and, leading up to the trip, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel dread (or that I didn’t say to him, when I dropped him off at the airport, “Do you think it’s too late to cancel?,” both of us laughing).

It wasn’t that I thought I’d be afraid at night or have nothing to do with myself or break down on the side of the road and not have him to call (OK, a little bit the last one, but only in the same way that I tend to imagine a plane going down once I get on it)—it was mostly that when you love someone, you want to be with them, and I love Tim.

reunited at the table

I feel really grateful to have him, and I know I’ve said that before, but I say it again because gratitude isn’t the kind of thing that you can leave on auto-pilot, and whether it’s a good husband or a beautiful September or a dinner that we share with someone we love, it’s more natural to take it for granted than to mark it down.

When Tim came home Saturday afternoon, I think we both let out a collective exhale, grateful to remember we are not each other’s best gifts (and that the One who gave us each other never leaves), yet grateful to be together again. And then, the next day, we killed the fatted calf, so to speak, with home-cooked filet mignons and big salads and mashed potatoes stuffed full of greens.

celebration lunch

Then, afterward, in that golden hour when the sun makes everything glisten, we grabbed blankets and sweaters and escaped to the park, soaking up the crisp September air, bright white skies and, mostly, the gifts we’re being given, today.

golden hour in tennessee
trees
fields of tennessee
tim and shanna at the park

We brought the camera, and the thing that’s so great about bringing your camera for a few hours at the park is that you get the chance to look through its viewfinder, capture moments through its lens, and mark them down, the way you do when you’re listing things you’re thankful for.

us on a blanket

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the pull so many of us have towards beautiful things, such as the ideas we mark on Pinterest or the stories we scroll through on blog posts or the pleasure I receive from seeing pretty pictures and photography. When I was really sick earlier this year, I would say to Tim, let’s go walk through Anthropologie!, just to soak up the atmosphere and remember there is beauty in the world. You could, I think, look at all this pull and say there’s something wrong with it, that we want to create imaginary lives that are perfect and flawless and fun to look at, all the time, and that doing so ignores the realities of pain and suffering and poverty and despair.

But personally, I think it points to something bigger.

TimandShannaFoodLovesWriting

There is something in us, in all of us, I believe, that craves beauty—whether that shows itself in Pinterest folders or fantasy football scores or keeping the kitchen clean. My blog friend Sarah says we crave beauty because we were made for the Beautiful One. It’s not that we don’t see hard things, or experience them; all human beings do, even if in different degrees. We have loved ones die. We fight with our spouses. We experience serious physical pain that shows us how small we are. But it’s just that, in the midst of all of this, we’re also drawn to what’s beautiful and right and good and true. We look for it, go out to find it, hope for it and want it to exist.

daisies and us

I think about that all the time lately, when I’m snapping photos of wild daisies growing in the grass, sidled along a busy road; when I’m setting a plate before me, as colorful as a garden or an elaborate painting; when I’m listening to someone tell me how she wants to make her living room look a certain way. There can be unhealthy motives in these things, sure, as in any things, but a lot of times, truly, I just sit back and think, how good of God to give us pleasures such as these to enjoy.

us

Pleasures like sunlight in the evening and foothills in the distance. Pleasures like a bed to sleep in and food in the fridge. Family who loves us when we hurt them. Books that make us think.

Gifts around us, all the time.

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the perfect complement

roasted red potatoes

For some of us, we found out in kindergarten, say when we were the goofy pink pig in a school play, holding a large cardboard animal in front of our puffy party dress, wearing a big white bow in our equally puffy hair (later immortalized in photographs we’d see again and again). But there are others, I suppose, who didn’t know until high school or adulthood maybe, when they didn’t get the promotion they wanted or didn’t become famous, or, if they did, it didn’t turn out to be what they’d hoped.

Whenever it happens, we eventually learn: Not everyone can be the star.

And maybe I’ve just known this for so long that I’m justifying, but, here’s my take: It’s not so bad to play a supporting role. In order for anyone to be a star, someone has to be a fan. For every leading lady, there’s a winsome best friend. For every best-selling author, there are publishers and editors and illustrators, not to mention readers—the people who ultimately determine a book’s success. And in that way, we behind-the-scenes types play a pretty important part, don’t you think? I mean, how interesting would a basketball team be if no one watched it? How much would you want to see a movie with only one actor? Heck, how sad would this blog be if no one read it? [You all who do are pretty wonderful, and I’d send each (!) one (!) of you a dozen homemade cookies if I could.]

These rules are so universal, in fact, that they extend even beyond human interaction but to things we do on a routine basis. Things like the way we view food.

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