I first visited Mt. St. Helens in 2000, 20 years after the devastating blast in May, 1980. The landscape didn’t appear substantially changed from the stark images I saw in Life Magazine immediately after the eruption. Except for the blue sky, it was as if we had driven into a black and white photo; shades of ash and smoke surrounding us. Waves of fallen monochromatic grey tree trunks remained scattered across the somber mountainside, reminding me of images I’d seen of the civil war dead. The area appeared decimated, lifeless. But once we parked at the visitor’s center and started to stroll along the paths, signs of life became apparent – dun-colored grasses, knee-high alder saplings, purple lupine, fuchsia fireweed flowers, all punctuated by a few scurrying squirrels. Slowly, life was reemerging from the destruction.
My mother died, her adult children around her, in late August 2010; my former Love, and man who still possesses a chunk of my heart, ended his own life two days later. Two people torn from my life in the span of 48 hours. In the weeks and months following these losses, I numbly went about my routine, elbowing waves of grief into the periphery, feeling as obliterated as St. Helens’ landscape. I met Jake two and a half months later. Opening myself up to a new relationship was like the first violet lupines popping their heads above my ash-covered earth. I was tentatively taking the first steps towards reawakening, acknowledging I’d likely be hurt in the end, but possessing an optimistic soupçon of impetus to try.
When I arrived at the wine bar for our first date, the afternoon sun shone directly through the front windows, blinding me and obscuring Jake in shadow. As I turned around to finally see him, my back to the window, I felt like the bachelorette on The Dating Game when bachelor #3 rounds the corner and she can’t wipe the tinge of disappointment from her face. He was shorter than I imagined – about 5’ 9”– and his teeth were in a terrible state, with a prominent chip in the front. I later learned that was a result of an unfortunate run-in with a fork. His eyes were a pale sky blue; his complexion ruddy. I noted and approved of his style – Vans, Levi’s and a rockabilly plaid shirt. I glimpsed a tattoo on his wrist, a sneak peek of the ones I’d discover later. I’m a sucker for a tattoo. His hair reminded me of Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20. In fact, he resembled Rob Thomas – after a bender. I didn’t fall for him until our second date; I remember pulling up to the Oaxacan restaurant, finding him waiting for me outside and thinking, “Yeah, he’s cute.” I almost didn’t agree to that second date. By our third, I was enamored with that adorable, weathered, chipped-tooth face and found myself, sated and lying naked in his arms, tracing the tattoos on his chest with the tip of my finger.
Time heals, we survive, and eventually poke our heads above life’s greyness, renewed.
How did I not know about Swedish Apple Pie? Thank you to my friend, Joan, for turning me on to the easy-to-throw-together “pie.” Of course, true to form, I zhuzhed up the recipe a bit. If you over-fill the pie plate, be prepared for a butter pool in the bottom of your oven.
Swedish Apple Pie
Apple pie on the bottom, giant cookie crust on top. A winning combination.
- 3 – 3 ½ large tart apples, peeled, cored, cut in half, and thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup butter, melted
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Freshly whipped cream (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter a 9” pie plate. Combine apples, zest, 2 Tablespoons sugar, and cinnamon. Arrange in pie plate.
- Stir together flour, sugars, and salt. Combine melted butter, egg and vanilla and stir into flour mixture just until combined. Spread batter over the apples.
- Bake at 350° F. for 50 minutes until top is fully cooked and crisp. Serve warm or room temperature with freshly whipped cream (optional).