I’m back in New York City from my California adventure! I spent my Birthday in Los Angeles with some of my oldest and best friends that all used to live in NYC. It was a circus of children and brunch items!
Next stop was San Jose to see another dear friend perform in an actual circus! Big Love to Cirque du Soleil’s Volta as they head to San Diego in a few weeks.
My last stop was Palm Springs where I pulled off an epic and staggered guest list Surprise Party as a belated celebration of my sister Jules’ Birthday.
All three of these trips were significant because my friends in LA all used to live in NYC and I miss them terribly. My friend in the circus is the person I talk to or see every.single.day. in NYC and now he’s out on the road with a year-long contract. And then my sister also moved away from NYC and we don’t see each other nearly enough. I’ve been deserted by all of these people that I love so much, so I made sure to soak up my time with them.
While in Palm Springs, two of my west coasties that were there for the surprise joined me on an art excursion. And wouldn’t you know, this odd sculpture in the desert gave me perspective on my relationships with all of those special people that I miss so dearly.
Do you know about Desert X? I didn’t, but one day by the pool in Palm Springs I was flipping through Vanity Fair and happened on a little blurb about it. At the EXACT same time, a neighboring pool mate was talking about the Desert X installations and some of the cool things she saw! While I was reading the article, my ears filled with audible words that supported what my eyes were seeing on the page. I took this as a sign. I had to see what all the Desert X fuss was about!
From their own catalogue of the exhibit: “Desert X is a not-for-profit charitable organization founded in 2015 to bring international artists to the Coachella Valley to create art, engage viewers, and raise awareness of the Valley’s environment, it’s natural wonders, and sociology-political-economic issues that make it vibrant, curious, and exciting.” Cool!
We put the top down of my friend Jeffrey’s rented convertible, and with our friend Amy, we went for a chilly drive into the desert (through the butterfly migration, no less!) in search of some art. We were on a mission to see the piece Ghost Palm.
“Kathleen Ryan creates large-scale sculptural works often made with heavy-duty industrial materials such as metal and stone - unnatural materials sculpted to mimic soft, organic forms of nature.”
“Kathleen’s Ghost Palm is an echo of a natural form —a reconstruction of the largest palm species native to California, the desert fan palm. She’s nestled this work of art in an off road plot of low desert between the San Andreas Fault path and a line of tamarisk trees. Ghost Palm is a manifestation of the artist’s fascination with the tenuous balance between fragility and power. “ Aaaaahh.
As my friends and I spotted this shimmering silvery palm from our parked car a half-mile away, I got excited. They, admittedly, were much more interested in the flowers blooming, the snow capped mountains in the distance, and the real palm trees rustling in the breeze along our path to the installation.
The Ghost Palm stands 20 feet and is constructed of manmade steel, plastics, and glass and is essentially transparent, almost invisible! It becomes visible only when it catches reflection of the sun like a faceted crystal. It’s like a ghost! Only appearing when the conditions are perfect. Ooooh.
Amy and Jeffrey were slightly nonplussed and proceeded to take pictures of the nature around the art structure. They indulged me, as I stood with this structure listening to the wind clatter the plastic leaves around, trying to mine some deeper meaning.
The Desert X catalogue tells me, “Beneath Ghost Palm lies the geological activity that created this natural wonder. The San Andreas Fault and the palm tree oases that trace its presence are created by two massive tectonic plates meeting - the North American Plate and the Pacific Plate. Water running deep underneath the earth pools into these fissures, thus creating lush palm sanctuaries.”
“Ghost Palm mimics what already exists in proximity to it, repositioning itself in nature is an homage. It makes visible our bodily connection to these sites, to the churning of the earth beneath us, and the natural forces we humbly exist within and among.” AHA!
As I flew back to my life in New York City, missing my friends and plotting when and how I would see them all again, I thought about the Ghost Palm. What if we hadn’t made the trek out to the desert to see it? It would still be standing, paying its homage, waiting for the sun to come out to give its invisible plastic leaves silver and white visibility. And it would be celebrated by other art seekers, even if we missed it. The value is not diminished.
My relationships with my beloveds are strong and resilient — even when the conditions aren’t exactly right and they feel invisible. Distance and circumstance keep us apart but these connections still shimmer and gleam in the sunlight of love and memory. The value is not diminished. Well, there it is. My deeper meaning.
On the food front, also with a ghostly nod, we were recommended to the restaurant Workshop Kitchen +Bar in Palm Springs. The menu had an impossibly perfect cauliflower soup that blew us all away. A pure white bowl of goodness shimmering with a finishing drizzle of olive oil. I came up with my own ghosty white version. Make this soup and think about your own beloveds!
Ghost Palm Cauliflower Soup
3 cups steamed cauliflower florets and stems (soft)
2 cup peeled and diced parsnips steamed (soft)
5 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup diced red onion
3 garlic gloves, minced
4 cups whole milk
4 vegetable broth bouillon cubes (if they make one cup of broth, use 4. !f each cube makes 2 cups of broth, use 2)
salt and pepper
high quality olive oil to drizzle
In batches, place the steamed vegetable in the bowl of a food processor and puree, adding a bit of the butter with each batch. Generously salt and pepper this mixture. Set aside.
In a large soup pot, add the olive oil, onion, and garlic, stirring so the garlic won’t burn, until the onion is softened a bit. Add the puréed cauliflower and parsnip mixture to the pan, stirring. Add the milk and broth cubes. Bring to a slow boil, lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally so the milk doesn’t burn and to make sure the broth cubes have dissolved. With a hand held immersion blender, (or a regular blender) carefully purée the soup until it is velvety smooth. If the soup is too thick, add a cup of water and another one cup bouillon cube. Taste for seasoning. Pour into serving bowls and drizzle with the high quality olive oil. The restaurant served it with croutons. Do that!
Notes: You can totally make this soup vegan by using a non dairy butter or coconut oil and even soy, almond or another non-dairy milk. I was going after what I tasted at the restaurant so I went all dairy. I steamed and puréed the vegetables first so they would already be cooked and the broth cube milk could gently steep in their flavor. I was afraid the milk would burn if I cooked the vegetables in it from the very beginning. I think I also got a smoother soup by doing the purée first.