Something Out of Nothing

How do you make something out of nothing? You combine equal parts time, imagination and joy. Mix well, bake and voila! Sprinkle with a little silliness, if desired, and enjoy!

I think, my favorite people are those who can make something beautiful out of just about anything. We all know a couple of them. A few scraps of fabric, something someone threw away, some random ingredients in the pantry all are transformed when the right person touches them.

The web series done by Clara Cannucciari (who passed away in 2013) called “Depression Cooking with Clara” is a perfect example of this. Soft-spoken and sweet, she pads around her humble kitchen showing us how to create a satisfying feast for the ones we love from a few handfuls of staples we all have on our pantry shelves. Her web series and her cookbook, Clara’s Kitchen, have seen a rise in interest since Corona virus has become part of our vocabulary and we’ve now had the experience of visiting supermarkets with half-empty shelves.

It’s been almost two months of self-quarantining and social distancing and as in so many areas of life, the wheat and the chaff separate themselves without even trying. The chaff people don’t really contribute anything except negativity. They’re the complainers who, armed with a comfortable home, mostly plentiful food & drink, Netflix, telephone, Face Time and a limitless supply of music and books (thanks to the internet) just can’t endure. I want to point out that Anne Frank lived in an attic with seven other people for over two years with none of those conveniences and then ask, in true Sebastian Maniscalco form, “Aren’t you embarrassed?!”

I am, however, in awe of the creativity of so many others – the wheat. I’ve watched families sheltering at home together choreograph intricate dance routines, enjoyed musicians give weekly free performances from their homes, listened to Italians join in nightly song from their separate balconies and watched horse owners bring their horses to nursing homes to share some equine love through the safety of the patients windows. 80-year-old Pasquale Sciarappa does online cooking demonstrations from his New Jersey kitchen each day. Not only is he keeping himself busy, he’s sharing his gift and bringing much needed joy, inspiration and laughter into our homes. “Cin, cin!”

Teachers are helping kids learn online or by phone. People are organizing drive-by “parades” to celebrate the birthday of someone special, sewing masks and delivering food to those who need it. Actors and others are reading to kids online. John Krasinski even organized a Zoom prom for this years seniors who are missing this traditional milestone.

I’ve used the extra alone time, like most of us, to do some extensive cleaning, organizing and reading. I’ve also traversed Mont Saint-Michel in France, wandered the streets of Positano, Italy and attended a live performance of one of my favorite bands in Scotland – all without leaving home. We don’t often take the time to read a new book, explore works of art, write a letter to an elderly Aunt, reconnect with old friends – really appreciate and bathe ourselves in the words or the art of those who so fully express things we feel, but sometimes cannot articulate. This is the perfect time for that. It helps us to not feel so alone in what we’re thinking or feeling. It is essential to pulling us out of sadness or loneliness. It allows us to feel connected, validated, understood.

Bertrand Russell explores this in his essay, “In Praise of Idleness”. Too often, creating or really delving into art, books, poetry or music only happens in the stolen moments; the slivers of time in between all our other responsibilities and distractions.

Now, there’s time – time to examine life, friends, family, career and relationships with a discerning eye. This can be a transformative time in which to take advantage of the quiet solitude for self-reflection, taking stock and examining the direction of our lives and our priorities.   Cull through and keep only that which (and who) is positive in our lives.

The happiest people make the best of difficult situations. Although none of this is easy, I choose to strive to be happy. I’m going to use this time to appreciate the connection and validation that all these generous artists sharing their gifts supply (and enjoy getting a tiny peek into their homes and families, as well!) And so, I prop up my computer on the kitchen counter. Melissa Ethridge has invited me into her living room for one of her free concerts. I watch her build loops and make mistakes – which is nice to see! We all screw up sometimes. She makes me smile and laugh with her stories and raspy renditions of her own songs as well as various other artists’, while I begin cooking one of Pasquale’s recipes for my dinner.




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