Writing as Laparotomy

Returned home to Fuchsia and Lime this morning to find a chocolate cake sweetly plugging a husband-sized hole. The cake will probably only hold the gap for another 24 hours, and then we’re in trouble. I need you far more badly than Portland does, KP. Meanwhile, I am enjoying Izzy’s tail wagging and face licking while I grind the sand that is still stuck between my toes deep into the fibers of this Minnesota living room carpet—a small attempt to bring Jacksonville into the frozen north. Image

Last night, we danced. We ran along the dark shore and kicked at the black frothy tongue of the sea like something of a last laugh. It is strange to stand in the thin strip of sand between the wild ocean and the coiffured gardens of beachfront properties all glowing warm from inside. To stand still in this space on the moonlit sand in such a way, one feels the suffocation of choice. The angle of lean away from what is, for most, the easy answer– security. Sometimes I think I fear entropy as though it were a disease–a problem needing a fix–rather than what it simply is: the bare and tumbling way of things. There are times, like when I take in the ocean, that it seduces me.

What I most love about surgery is the exploratory laparotomy—because laparotomy, as a state of mind, is also why I love writing. Incisive words are incisions for thoughts. The necessary approach to good writing involves removing layer after layer of fat and fascia to expose what lies beneath, to see what really needs knowing. Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living. So ex-lap everything. Writers, take the page to the OR everytime.

Case in point: even your bread benefits from laparotomy— the cut down will help it expand and rise. Image

Whole Wheat Bread with Crystallized Pecans
1 1/2 cups warm buttermilk (105°F to 115°F)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup sourdough starter
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups (or more) unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup chopped crystallized pecan (or you could use ginger if you have it, would taste bomb—to see how to crystallize pecans look here)

Combine buttermilk, butter and sugar in large bowl. Sprinkle yeast over. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 8 minutes. Mix in whole wheat flour and salt, then 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, 1/2 cup at a time. Stir until soft dough forms. Continue adding all purpose flour 1/4 cup at a time if dough is very sticky. Mix in crystallized pecans or ginger. Lightly flour work surface with 1/2 cup flour. Turn dough out onto work surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Meditate on a sonnet. Do NOT use kneading time to work out your To Do list. That is a waste of Zen.

Butter large bowl; add dough and turn to coat with butter. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.  Punch dough down; turn out onto work surface. Roll dough into a boule. Make an incision from the xiphoid process to the umbilicus, spare the umbilicus, and proceed along the linea alba to the pubic symphysis of the loaf.  Image

Cover with damp towel. Let rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, about 40 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake bread until golden, about 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes on rack. Remove from pan; cool.

Goodbye palm trees.


Goodbye Casa Marina.


Goodbye fond swimsuit.


Goodbye Waffle House. You are an oasis at 2:30a to medical students who stomped their Shelf Exam sorrows into the dance floor. Image

Goodbye, Jacksonville sun and sand. Goodbye sea shells in my hand.

5 thoughts on “Writing as Laparotomy

  1. Oh Rach, this is so lovely, and YOU are so lovely. I wish you peace today as you await the return of KP, and adjust to life back in Rochester. Your words about fearing the unknown ring true, and help me return to meditating on this conflict in my own soul and mind. Also, I love seeing more images of your haunts in Jacksonville, and imagining you working and playing hard in that land. Welcome back to MN!

    1. Thank you, my kindred spirit. Sounds like we might need to take a trip to an ocean, or otherwise a mountaintop, so you can face these inner battles externally. Jacksonville was bliss, but not because of ignorance for once… 🙂

  2. Looks good Rachel. Nice analogy too. Yet again, I’m learning new vocab and terminology… not that abdominal surgery is something that I talk about much (*touch wood*).

    Um, also, I’ve just seen on my own blog where I put a “click here to see X” and notice you’ve done the same here… I want to see how to crystallize pecans! Last time I tried to crystallize almonds I made a right mess.

    1. So sorry, Daniel. I was apparently remiss in checking my hyperlinks! I have added the link back to the previous recipe wherein I made “pralines” that were not so smooth, but still delicious–crystallized pecans. It was messy. I probably should have invested in a candy thermometer, but life is full of regrets, no? Glad you are enjoying the medical terminology! Hope you won’t be needing any laparotomies soon, other than in your bread loaves of course!

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