Slow Like Ice Cream

Summer in the northern hemisphere, more so than its counterpart winter, begs for cold treats. And while gallons of ice cream get consumed all year long, it is summer that makes me crave the stuff. There was a time that ice cream grew hoary frost in my freezer every time. Now only half the containers do. It seems that as my memory of paychecks from Dairy Queen become more hazy, my appetite for ice cream returns.

It helps too that I know lots more ice cream eaters these days. Just this morning I read an author contemplating ice cream for breakfast. Her peers not only gave her the green light of approval but they probably shouted flavor suggestions. It appears most folks like ice cream (or some variety of frozen sweet goodness) these days.

Years ago Mister Soandso and I had friends over for dinner. It was a classic Minnesota summer day so we barbecued a variety of animal protein, served up salads, and we made ice cream for dessert. I had clarified with our guests that they liked peaches so I thought we were made in the shade, if you will. But when it came time to dish up ice cream, one guest informed us that he doesn’t like homemade ice cream. Yes, he likes ice cream and yes he likes peaches. The part he doesn’t like is the homemade part.

I was perplexed.

I realize it is a texture thing. What our guest doesn’t like is the texture of homemade ice cream. But on my tongue, the combination of sugar, fat, and flavor far outweigh the possibility of ice cream crystals. The very notion of ice cream makes up for any inconsistencies in the creamy texture. The coldness on my tongue is enough. Because for me, much of homemade ice cream’s appeal is the anticipation and care it takes.

Homemade ice cream is slow. And imperfect. Simple and satisfying. And yet quirky. Things can and do go wrong when making homemade ice cream.

Perhaps it is that combination that sent my guest to the gallon of slightly hoary vanilla in the freezer while we slurped down our ice cream made with peaches so fresh they seemed tree-warm still.

If you’ve never made ice cream at home, it is a process. We have an electric ice cream maker but I grew up with a child-powered one. Either way, there is a long time between the making of the ice cream mix and the spooning of the stuff into one’s mouth. There are  several summer days spent to the familiar whirring hum of the machine out on our porch, my ear ever ready for changes in sound telling me to add more ice or salt. The whole long process of it is better because it is filled with anticipation.

It is a slow process, but worth it in my mind.

As I was running this morning my thoughts drifted to ice cream. I am a chocolate nutty kind of gal if I purchase ice cream. But making ice cream at home begs for summer’s fruit. And so as I labored along, music in my ears helping to block out the sound of my heavy breathing, I found myself thinking about what I would suggest Rae Carson eat for breakfast. Perhaps fresh strawberry ice cream. Or cherry. Perhaps Oregon Marionberry. Peach? Rae Carson’s question about dining on ice cream stayed with me during that short and not very successful run.

I am not a good runner. I’m short and stocky (the more crass might make mention of brick latrines) and terribly slow. And today I was slower. Summer is here in the northwest and the heat is hard on me. Too many cases of heat stroke, I’m afraid. But I’m no morning person and it isn’t prudent to run at 1 am if you want to live a long and uneventful life. So I was running at 8 am. Still a beautiful cool morning, but muggy and hot-ish. So I struggled.

I was plugging along and realized that every run I’ve taken for the past two weeks has netted me a progressively slower pace. And my legs are tired. I have less stamina and my ability to ignore the fatigue is shot. I started mentally ticking away the facts of the past week. I had french fries yesterday – fat, simple carbs and salt. That could be it. I had a soda with those fries so there was lots of high fructose corn syrup still in my system. That could be it too but only for today’s run. What about last week’s? How much ice cream have I had lately? Besides the scoop at a local restaurant last night when I met up with the ladies I once performed stand-up with?

The fact is, I’m not sure I can pinpoint a singular thing that is making my training runs harder than usual. In reality, it’s lots of things and they start with me.

I am slow. And I’m getting slower.

I’m slow in more and more things in my life and not because at 43 my bones don’t like to move. No, I’m slower because I know I have more at stake and the aspect of pain is more of a deterrent today than it once was. Obviously I’m still running, but my goal is to finish smiling and not bent over hurling in the bushes. Today, I am willing to walk if that means I will finish because it is the result that matters, not only the time it takes to get there.

Did you ever learn to alpine ski? I did at the age of 21. I was a college student on holiday from Trinity University in Wales. I was the only American on Mont Blanc as near as I could tell. All around me were tiny Italian children skiing on bits of magic no longer than my arm. They were fast and fearless. And they should be, after all there isn’t much distance between their feet and their ski-pants-covered bottoms. Falling doesn’t hurt as much when there’s less of it.

It turns out that lots of things don’t hurt as much when there’s less of it.

My novel is nearly ready for others’ eyes. And the closer I get to letting others read it, the slower I work. Because when I send it out, it will be read and judged. And for writers, that is the same as being read ourselves and judged ourselves. I trust the folks who will be reading it. They will make me see things that need fixing. They will make me see my story as they see it and in doing so, I will tell the story better.

But I’m still scared to let it out the door.

So I slow down the churning of my words. I turn off the power supply and turn the crank by hand. I slow down the process of writing to retain for just a bit longer the sole propriety of my words. Right now, my story has the potential to be great. And it may very well be.

But novels are like ice cream. And my novel will have bits and pieces of icy crystals that scrape the cheek and could be churned into a more creamy texture. The question is, do I want that? I’m not convinced that I do, because I like homemade ice cream that reminds me it was made on the back porch, with hours of effort and just the perfect balance of sweet and plain and the perfect fruits of the season thrown in to make us feel that at this moment we are alive.

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