This year, I started collecting and pressing leaves from some of my best loved Japanese maples, some intricately formed conifers, and a few lovely perennials – and some interesting weeds – and using them as stencils for a series of enamels I call “Garden of Dreams.” Gardening has been one of my great loves for over twenty years. It was only a matter of time until my inner plant geek insinuated herself into my art. I was unprepared for how much more satisfying the resulting work was – how much more it felt like “me.”
Now that I think about it, I am kind of surprised it took as long as it did. Realizing that it had not just been “automatic” made me recognize how I have artificially and unconsciously segregated areas of my life. What I had viewed as separate cogs in a machine are more like leitmotifs in an opera – the distinct melodies that represent various characters and ideas, but are interwoven amongst one another to create a powerful, complex masterpiece instead of distinct points of contact that move me forward in turn, instead of in concert.
Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken,” but it takes a lot to be yourself – there is so much of yourself to be. What a relief, though, to realize that if I am disappointed in myself, I can shuffle the parts and make myself better. All those separate facets of personality can combine and collaborate in virtually infinite possibilities – and they are all still me. I just need to get the proportions right.
Speaking of getting proportions right, here is a recipe to honor my sister and her husband on their anniversary this month. They were married twenty-nine years ago and I made this appetizer for their wedding reception.
Spinach and Feta Strudel
10 oz fresh spinach 2 egg whites
2T butter 1 t fresh dill, chopped
¼ c green onion salt and pepper
¾ c feta, crumbled ½ c melted butter
¼ c minced parsley 8 phyllo leaves
fresh bread crumbs
Wash spinach and wilt, using just the water that clings to leaves after cleaning, over medium heat in covered sauté pan. Cool. Wring out excess moisture, using a kitchen towel you don’t mind tinting money green. Chop fine – can use knife, processor, or blender. Sauté onion in 2T butter until soft. Mix onion, spinach, cheese, 1T bread crumbs, parsley, egg whites and salt and pepper to your taste. Heat oven to 375º. Hold thawed phyllo as per package instructions. Brush a sheet of pastry with melted butter and sprinkle with crumbs. Repeat to stack 4 leaves of pastry. Place half of filling across the short end and roll like a jelly roll. Repeat with remaining 4 phyllo leaves and filling. Brush tops with melted butter. Bake on greased cookie sheet for 30 min. Slice with serrated knife. Eat at least six pieces to be sure it is acceptable to serve to family and guests. Serve warm or room temperature.