School cannot prepare you for this. You may define “this” differently. Perhaps it’s paying a mortgage, considering a career change, mourning a death. Where does simple mathematics play in here? Or perhaps mathematics is too much of a given, that simple logic of 1-1= 0. Maybe you would say that high school French class was a misstep in your education, but it taught you the importance of J’ai perdu. Some things cannot be taught but must be learned. This distinction can be quite a doozy.
A friend sent a forward with her good intentions. It served as a sign of her thinking of me, of her including me among her inner sanctum of women to send this email. I gave the tiny screen of my smart phone a cursory glance in the Atlanta airport, waiting for the gate attendant to begin announcing the boarding of the flight to Miami. Sipping an iced coffee, I was using the time to catch up on an inbox that might have subscribed to an all-you-can-eat buffet. Among junk emails and subsequent messages, I found my friend’s forward cajoling me to “Buy More Bath Oil!”
That subject line caught me by surprise. It niggled at me along with all the other signals trying to catch my attention in ATL: the small boy complaining about needing a nap, the affluent young couple decked out in Louis Vuitton and flip-flops, the mechanical voice on the P.A. noting a gate change for Flight 5260. The Nora Ephron email won.
With my curiosity piqued by that curious subject line, subject and seeming irrelevance to one another, I tuned out the imposing distractions and read on. Ephron, who passed away just a few weeks ago began this essay on aging with the statement that “it’s sad to be over 60.” She continued describing rising health risks and watching friends die, even going into elaborate and heart-panging detail over one particular friend she described as her “phantom limb”.
This well-written essay disturbed me with its candor and her perspective of what the young have to look forward to. Something she said pronounced a truth so profound that it elicited the need for a response. “Death doesn’t really feel eventual or inevitable. It still feels… avoidable somehow. But it’s not. We know in one part of our brains that we are all going to die, but on some level we don’t quite believe it.” I could taste her fear through her words. I found myself needing to refute them, believing another way exists, that aging can be graceful. Moving toward death doesn’t have to mean fear.
I’m 35 but I know that much. I’ve seen it in the death of my landlord mere weeks ago and I hear it in the poetry of Jane Kenyon.
School doesn’t prepare you for your death. Is it so morbid to consider we will one day die? Is it not in some way the reminder to truly live? To die well is to live well. I think about a story my Mom told me a week after my Dad died unexpectedly. While it penetrated some of the cloak of grief I had wrapped tightly around my shoulders as comfort, it means something more to me now. He had walked out his front door to fetch the newspaper and waved at his neighbor. Somehow death wormed its way into their conversation. It has a way of making room for itself like that. He told his neighbor he was ready to die, that he had lived a good life, that his only regrets would be to leave his wife (of 25 years) behind and not see me get married. At the time, he was not dying, but sometimes epitaphs are pronounced in advance of events. May I be so blessed to be able to say the same thing as my Dad when my time has come many years from now.
I don’t know about you, but I want to suck at the nectar of what life still has left to offer! How I want to grow old and grow into these bones more, even if osteoporosis comes with that later. How I want to be old with time enough to embrace those that need to be embraced. I think of my death in light of my voracious appetite to live. We don’t know what’s up ahead the bend, do we? Whether smooth or rough, if I could make you a batch of these Rocky Road Popsicles, I would. One of these might take the edge off enough to consider the cause of mortality in light of the call of action to live.
ROCKY ROAD POPSICLES
YIELD: 16 mini popsicles
TIME: Overnight plus 5 hours passive time; 10 minutes active time
If you stick with just steps 1-4 below, you will make your own fresh Chocolate Almond Milk. It’s ridiculously easy and gives you the ability to control how sweet you want your milk. Then again, if you don’t have time to make your own almond milk, by all means, buy a box of your favorite flavor from the store and proceed accordingly. I developed this recipe with the intention of not making the popsicles themselves all that sweet, so feel free to add more sugar and taste while you go. I figure with the addition of the mini chocolate chips and marshmallows, they sweeten things up enough for my palate. Go crazy and leave some of the almond pulp in your milk for a variation of texture. If you do try that, then why not also add graham cracker crumbs sprinkled generously over the popsicle sticks and tops of the cups for a variation on a Rocky Road S’more Popsicle? The sky’s the limit. I picked up a bag of “Black Cocoa” from a recent visit to King Arthur Flour and can vouch for not skimping on the quality of cocoa used- the flavor is unparalleled.
2 cups organic almonds
7 cups water plus 4 cups water
2 tablespoons Black Cocoa (or premium unsweetened dark cocoa powder)
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
1 cup mini marshmallows
Optional: 1/4 cup organic almonds, toasted and diced
1. Place your two cups of almonds in a large bowl. Then pour seven cups of water over the almonds and let sit overnight (7-10 hours).
2. After the almonds are done soaking, drain out the almond soaking water and place almonds into the body of a blender. Pour 4 cups fresh water into the blender and then puree until smooth, about 3 minutes.
3. Take your large bowl and line it with cheesecloth. Hold onto the corners of the cheesecloth and begin pouring the almond milk into the cheesecloth, slung over the bowl, so that the almond pulp is caught in the cheesecloth and strained from the almond milk. Do this until all the liquid from the blender has been strained.
4. In a medium sized pot, pour the freshly strained almond milk and add your cocoa, vanilla and sugar. Stir over low heat until combined and heated through, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
5. Pour liquid back into large bowl. Cover and set in fridge to cool for 20-30 minutes.
6. Once cooled, remove bowl from the refrigerator and place on a counter. Stir in mini chocolate chips, mini marshmallows and diced toasted almonds if including them.
7. Line a rimmed roasting pan with mini 3 oz. paper cups. Using a tablespoon, measure 5 tablespoons of rocky road mixture into each cup. Aim for about 4-5 marshmallows per cup- they will bob to the top.
8. Once all cups are filled, place a small popsicle stick in the middle. Since your liquid is pretty thin, use the marshmallows to help hold the stick in place, positioning them as point guards around the stick.
9. Place your pan in the freezer and leave to set for about 4-5 hours. Once frozen, peel back the paper cups and enjoy.