Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dance with Necessity

Butter and flour and milk and broth. White sauce the old-fashioned way. Chicken over egg noodles just like we used to make it on the farm if you don't count the jar of gourmet fire-roasted red peppers, and the dash of poultry seasoning I learned how to chop and mix and dry myself. Chop and mix, stir and taste. Sipping a honey lager that glows golden on the counter. Boards of Canada on the stereo, night deepening outside as Vancouver joggers flish-flash past, as lights go on over the bridge, creating the shimmering view from the side streets.

There is comfort in this: chop and mix, stir and taste. Simmer and cover. Wipe and sweep and adjust the burner. I find myself smoothing the over-worked, inflammed passageways of my mind as I chop and mix, stir and taste. Like the shuddering subsiding of sobs into peace, the unanswered questions, the grating doubts, the baggage of the day and the week and the years, subsides in the kitchen's warm light.

Afterwards, there will be the pool of lamp's light and the pages to write in. The questions will emerge again from the evening's shadows, but less threatening than in the noonday glare, tamed by the affirmation of life that is this: chop and mix, stir and taste.

For unto the day is the evil sufficient. For this moment we need to nourish. For at this time we re-affirm that this matters, the nuance of two dashes of pepper or three, the flick of the whisk, the curl of white milk into the savory golden pan. This matters and is beautiful, as does and as is everyone around the table, whether a dozen familiar faces, or my own blurry reflection in the darkened window pane. Feed and be fed. Love and be loved. Move to the necessities of life with no grudge, but with grace. Allow the routine to heal you, the bathing of time -- often so annoying in its demands. The repetition, the turn and turn again, becomes a dance of acceptance. A waltz with necessity, but with gratefulness.

Chop and mix, stir and taste. For this thy bounty, we thank you.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Little Gidding

Reading T.S. Eliot for the first time in a long time tonight,and newly impressed by his thought & prowess.

The opening from "Little Gidding" struck me as particularly meaningful and familiar, these frozen March days. Days like these I find myself pondering the uncomfortable (or sometimes too-comfortable) suspension between inertia (hibernation?) and growth (or "generation" as Eliot calls it later in the same poem). When this tension holds me between the two poles, I feel my own familiar life become strange territory in the witching hours of frozen, golden afternoons. As Eliot does, I ask "where is the summer?" I suppose it's the sun, plying the soul's sap with light.

"Midwinter spring is its own season
Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown
Suspended in time, between pole and tropic,
When the short day is brightest, with frost and fire,
The brief sun flames the ice, on pond and ditches,
In windless cold that is the heart’s heat,
Reflecting in a watery mirror
A glare that is blindness in early afternoon.
And glow more intense than blaze of branch, or brazier
Stirs the dumb spirit: no wind, but Pentecostal fire
In the dark time of the year. Between melting and freezing
The soul’s sap quivers. There is no earth smell
Or smell of living thing. This is the springtime
But not in time’s covenant..."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

‘O Sole Mio

I’m what you might call a romantic, and since moving from a small northern town into Vancouver, I like discovering anything about the place than can be remotely romanticized: “Oooh, look at that beautiful graffiti!” My roommate, on the other hand, is one of those no-nonsense, small-town, northern girls – what you might call a pragmatic. So when she began complaining about a guy who sings up and down Tenth Avenue, my ears perked up.

“I mean my God he’s so annoying!” she exclaimed one day, taking her runners off.

“Who? Who is?” I asked desperately.

“The guy who always sings at the top of his lungs in Italian. You’ve heard him.”

“No, no I haven’t,” I replied, practically frantic at having missed so rare a specimen.

“Well you will,” she predicted darkly, walking off to her room, “I mean, how much attention do people need to draw to themselves?”

I could have answered that one, but her disdain for the singer only made me want to hear him more. And she was right, I did. His deep, resonant voice filled the air one summer night as I was lying on my bed reading a book. I stared out into the dark, transfixed, wishing I knew what the song was. From then on, I heard him all the time. He sang in the rain, he sang in the sun, and he definitely sang by twilight – which seemed to be his favourite hour.

I tried to cajole my roommate into liking him. “Maybe he’s from – you know – the old country or something,” I suggested. “Like, maybe they walked around the streets of the little town singing and drinking espresso and red wine.”

“Well that’s ok in his village or whatever, but in Vancouver, people drink their espresso quietly!”

I didn’t mind so much. I wanted to see him, this phantom.

And then one unexpected evening, balancing too many bags of groceries from my limbs in a most un-romantic way, I spotted him – a small elderly gentleman, chest out, literally vibrating with the notes. He tipped his hat and kept going, leaving the milk and eggs and me in a wake of music.

It was one of those rare moments when the city rewards you for believing in it.