gwen learns

honest hymns: february

Posted in Uncategorized by gwenlearns on March 3, 2015

January was about grief.  I ended this job that I’d been at for a year and a half… my first kitchen.  I know it’s not like losing a loved one, but I try to pay attention to quieter losses and acknowledge the subtler grief that follows.

February was about what’s next, and asking God all these questions… what my life is amounting to, where I’m headed, and what’s the better path…

Am I Waiting in a Line (<–click for song)

Am I waiting in a line / Or am I heading somewhere / Will this ticket just expire / Or can you make it something // What is a life well lived? / Is it bleeding hearts and hands in the mud? / Or just being faithful? // Am I waiting for the end? / Will this story matter?


honest hymns

Posted in Uncategorized by gwenlearns on January 12, 2015

I finally have my keys with me. Piano keys, of course… As always, I’m still looking for my apartment keys. But I’ve been fiddling around and I think I might write a little song every month in 2015… a sort of “song journal.”

The world needs more honest hymns. While “was lost but now I’m found” is a great story, sometimes I want one song to talk about the lost part. When God confuses me or seems impossible, I want to write about that without feeling obligated to resolve my emotions in a song. This is how I pray.  I tell God exactly where I am and ask him to work in me.

So here’s January (click to listen).

In this song I tell God I want truth more than I want hope.  The day after I wrote this, I walked through the subway on my way to work, and an evangelist was shouting “Jesus is truth” again and again. Not “Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life” like you’d expect to hear from a preacher.  Just “Jesus is truth.” Things like this happen every once in a while, and I try to take it with a grain of salt, but either way I’m listening.


Posted in Uncategorized by gwenlearns on August 19, 2014

I’ve been daydreaming a lot lately.  Yesterday, as I was walking to see The Giver, I started flying.  It was such a leisurely, casual swim through the air that no one noticed.  I soaked in the sun.  Flew to some of my favorite buildings, especially the ones with round corner rooms, and I wondered how I would fill them.  It usually involves a piano… I’m playing a simple, tight succession of chords while looking longingly out the window.  I’m even sad in my dreams.

The other one that has come up a lot lately is the 23rd St. yellow line hat dream.  I never get off at this stop, but all along the platform are these hats, mosaics on the wall. Just floating, whimsical hats. I imagine myself making a ghost-like jump through the window pane onto an inverted purple bowler’s hat. I start weaving through the subway tunnels, chasing trains.

I have another one that has to do with this sign:


The boom box started it… mostly because we don’t have boom boxes anymore and it makes me think of John Cusack.  So I usually imagine a crowd of people rebelling against these signs but getting it all wrong. Like instead of cigarettes, the people are all waving these batons with flowing material coming out of one end.  The middle littering man picture varies… sometimes it’s a bunch of people doing a weird dance with yo-yo’s or glitter. And the boom box one I of course imagine everyone dressed up and posing like John Cusack with the thing on their shoulder… except that it’s quiet because they all have their phones, listening through headphones.

My daydreams are mostly in transit, when I’m walking or taking the subway. I’ve got two related categories of things falling on me versus me falling down into things. The former are fears and the latter are exhilirating. So I’ll imagine an air conditioner or big block of ice break away from a building and crush me into the sidewalk. Or the elevator will get loose from it’s pulleys and I will free fall into a pillow at the bottom of the shaft. The falling ones always involve a pillow… Restaurants have these sidewalk entrances into their basements like storm cellars in the midwest. I imagine myself walking toward one of those, not realizing it’s open and falling down into a pillow and laughing.  So I suppose my dreams are more happy than sad. 

The way thunder sounds… and other things I love about “the city”

Posted in Uncategorized by gwenlearns on August 19, 2014

– The way thunder sounds. It echoes off the buildings and sounds like bombs are being dropped in the city.

– Conversations with strangers.  It doesn’t happen everyday, but occasionally someone starts saying something to you and you don’t mind responding. Sometimes it is drunk people on my walk home, but don’t tell this to my mom.

– Food, languages, colors… all in great variety.

– The magic of the express train, especially when it pulls up as you reach the platform.

– Feeling like the hulk when you pry open closing train doors.

– Running in Central Park

– Walking everywhere

– The peace of a snowstorm and a Sunday morning (esp. the 5am-6am window)

– Union Square Farmers’ Market… on Saturday when it’s crazy, on all the other days when it’s not… I love it.

– Slices… Prince Street Pizza, John’s near Union Square after work.

– Delivery… from pretty much whatever restaurant for no delivery fee. Also, delivery of laundry and basic stuff like paper towels… though I haven’t really gotten that far.

– The ability to find any ingredient you want.

– I love how a place like Chipotle, which seems necessary in other cities, has become quite unnecessary in this city with a wealth of options.

– Broadway. Musicals. Plays. Talented people coming together to entertain and inspire. And the ability to get reasonable tickets if you live on a budget.

– Giving directions to tourists, then realizing you gave them the wrong directions (almost 95% of the time), then chasing them down the street (okay I don’t do this every time).

– Being forced into simplicity because of the size of your apartment and the cost of living.

– Elaborate, ridiculous storefronts. My favorite right now is the life-size purple and black zebra at Alexis Bittar. When I first moved here, they had a turquoise buffalo.

– Community gardens.

– Parks with big trees.

– Parks in general… people sitting on benches. Musicians. Artists. Fountains. Playgrounds. Picnics… it all makes me happy.

– When cafes spill onto the sidewalk and you know spring is coming.

– The difficult game of trying to avoid eye contact with people when the train is packed.

– Fireflies in parks and gardens in the summertime.

– Paper vortexes on the sidewalk on windy days.

– Abandoned, broken umbrellas on rainy and windy days.

– The ability to go places anytime of the day and night, but especially at night.

– The magic of Christmas in New York.

I may come back and continue to expand this list… been keeping a list on my phone.

I finally found it.

Posted in gwen learns by gwenlearns on March 10, 2013

Well it finally happened.

And let me tell you, it doesn’t feel like I thought it would feel.

I thought it would feel like being cured from blindness. A perpetual high. And that bubbling over with joy and rainbows sort of feeling… all the time.

But it’s not like that at all.

I just feel content. Grateful. In tune. In stride.  Fewer thrills and chills. More peace and centeredness.

I finally found what I love to do. Three months ago, I walked into a room full of people like me.  Creators, perfectionists, dreamers, difference-makers.  And a good dose of introverts!  Yay. And then someone handed each of us a set of knives.  And we learned how to cut mirepoix without losing fingers. Eventually that mirepoix went into a pot, and we learned how to cook.

And… a couple months from now, people will call us chefs.

And I’m loving it.

Screen shot 2013-03-10 at 12.15.54 AMI’m still trying to sort out how I got here. Slowly discovering foreshadows in my story, but it still feels a bit random. I wish I could draw a map everyone could follow to this kind of contentment.

and i couldn’t have guessed.

Posted in Uncategorized by gwenlearns on October 26, 2012

a prayer i wrote back in february.

A Closed Book?

Posted in Uncategorized by gwenlearns on August 9, 2012

It usually happens around a table.  Your friends have had their turn, they’ve shared some crazy story from their job or their latest Oprah-esque “aha” moment.  You’ve been mesmerized by their ability to compose a narrative on the fly, with all the right exaggerations and details and comedic timing.  But eventually, if the group is the right size and the occasion is long enough, you start to feel the pressure rising… your turn is coming up soon.

It’s not that you don’t have anything to say… your mind is full, you just aren’t sure where to start.  And once you do start, you aren’t the type to offer a lot of opinions or conclusions, and you feel like that’s what people want to hear.  But if you exist in this tension long enough without delivering, without speaking up, you start feeling like a closed book.

I started feeling this way about a year ago.  Not only was I in daily contact with two of the most open books I’ve ever met (my roommate and my boss), but I went on a few dates with yet another open book.  Talk about an intimidating table.  I would share a story, a piece of my world with him, and he wanted the whole universe… or at least that’s how it felt.    I started to wonder if there was something wrong with me.    I wondered if I had made my heart “impenetrable”, hiding it in the “casket of [my] selfishness”…

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.  – C.S. Lewis

I’m grateful to have a father who understands me.  He said I am a closed book and I need to own that.  I probably won’t share everything with any one person, but I do give pieces of it away to different people.  “Closed book” probably isn’t the right metaphor, but honestly, it is how I feel around extroverts (at least those who aren’t self-centered and expect me to reciprocate).

So where does someone like me feel most open?  Usually in places where there’s a lot of nonverbal activity and not all the pressure is on a conversation.  When I’m immersed in raw nature, on a hike or a walk on the beach. Playing cards or board games.  Listening to music.  Making music.  Driving and listening to music.  Dancing.  Cooking with friends.  All of these are valid conversations in my world.  All of these are my book wide open.  I’m counting on you to not miss out on that, both for my sake and for others like me. 🙂


Posted in gwen learns by gwenlearns on May 8, 2012

Tonight I write in a quiet apartment. I can hear the sounds of the AC unit and the fridge’s cooling system, and the occasional car with a messed-up exhaust. As much as I love sitting with the sounds of a good folk song or an acapella choir, nothing can match silence for me. Even in the car… lately I’ve not wanted to turn my car into a karaoke machine or even have the windows down. I don’t feel free. I feel trapped, and my way to survive is to just drive and think.

Yesterday I was in another world. The world of kids yelling and laughing and tumbling. The world of a million questions directed to me. I had a three-day glimpse into the world of motherhood. And I loved it. Even though I broke down to tears in a Target aisle as kids bolted off in all directions. Even though I didn’t have silence, or much thinking time, or time to figure out who I was.

I am a mother. It’s one of my destinies, whether if its with children of my own or not. One of my callings is to be a mother. I am sure of that now.

Sweet Potato Flatbread with Chive Cashew Cheese, Fig, and Arugula

Posted in recipes by gwenlearns on April 29, 2012

Inspired by my favorite sandwich, a pinterest find, and a cashew cheese I’ve been wanting to find a good use for… sometimes everything just comes together for the win!  I just wish I could take prettier pictures… camera phones are just too accessible.

Fig preserves I used are from Loveless Cafe in Nashville, TN, only has 4 ingredients (figs, sugar, pectin, and lemon juice), and can be purchased online here.  And this is the pizza dough I used.

Broccoli and “Cheese” Soup

Posted in recipes by gwenlearns on April 25, 2012

Broccoli and “Cheese” Soup: Add 1 cup steamed broccoli and some additional water to the blender after making a double-batch of the sauce in this recipe. Blend, then add 2 cups of small steamed broccoli florets and serve. Makes 3-4 bowls of soup.