The sky is that same saturated blue that I squeezed from a tube of paint this morning and the sun climbs. Day after day of white above and white below has leeched my cheeks of color—whitewashed my spirit from the outside in. But Someone has turned on the lights and I’ll not miss this opportunity to see.
“I’m going to work out my hippocampus,” I call to my boys, which in our house is code for going for a walk.
I want to be alone. I’ve been grieving the death of a precious friend this week and the loss has me stymied. I can’t seem to move forward.
This week’s Spirit of Food readings offer no help. As I walk, I think of a young Suzanne Wolfe, reeling from the loss of her grandfather—the man whose face was the sky that bounded the horizon of my childhood, she says.
In this world, people get sick and die. It doesn’t matter how much they are needed. It doesn’t matter how deeply they are woven into the secret places of us—imprinted between the synapses of our brains.
I remember a time spent among growing things, things wet and loamy, green-tasting, new, my infant senses moving like feelers over the surface of a pristine world, hesitantly and full of wonder…In his greenhouse he grew tomatoes, fragile shoots he planted in humus, then puddled and pressed down, his fingers—nicotine-stained and rimed with dirt—moving delicately and deliberately. Those same hands smoothed the covers up to my chin each night, planting me in a bed of warmth and darkness, his love for me the water that fed my roots, the heat that drew me upward...(This is My Body, Suzanne M. Wolfe)
The space where her grandfather used be left struggles with an eating disorder. The one who fed was gone…who could fill that gaping lacuna? When the cavity is shaped just so, nothing else seems to fit.
…Without my grandfather’s presence, food was no longer a miracle winging down in the beak of a raven or an angel appearing to Ezekiel saying, “Eat. Drink.” Food had become a thing, a dead weight in the pit of my stomach, the heft of nothingness.
I think about Thomas Maltman and the church sleepover he describes in his essay, Famine. I think about the boy, Jesse. The one who wet himself in his sleep, the one whose brother killed himself, the one whose father left him for a bar.
In this world, children often suffer because of the choices of their caregivers.
Jesse holds a string with a cardboard picture of a Mongolian child named Boldkhuyag attached to the end. Jesse is supposed to wear the picture around his neck and every time he gets hungry say a prayer for this boy on the other side of the world. Through fasting we hope to better understand a world where 29,000 children die each day from malnutrition. In the black-and-white photograph, Boldkhuyag, clad in a simple jumpsuit, leans on something for support and gapes open-mouthed at the photographer. The similarity between these two boys, one wet and frightened, one starving, troubles me. (Famine, Thomas Maltman)
In this world there are hungers that food cannot satisfy.
We are a world starving.
I have reached the creek now and I lean over the bridge—stare into that rushing water. There is still ice crusted around the edge, despite the warmth of the sun.
What can melt the hard shards of truth about this broken world?
I think of my friend. I think of her faith and the hour and a half I stood in line to pay my respects at the funeral home. I think of Suzanne M. Wolfe—the legacy of love her grandfather left to her. I think of Jesse and how he might remember the kindnesses that Thomas Maltman has shown him.
And I know the melting is in the way we touch the lives of those around us.
…Gradually my soul filled out and grew stronger, and I returned to the church of my childhood, where I encountered my grandfather in the curve of an old woman’s back as she knelt as prayer and in the knock of knuckle on breastbone, the murmur “Mea culpa…” In the breaking of bread, that audible crack when the host yields to the force of human flesh, I heard the breaking of my heart and saw it lifted up in the service of something other than unredeemable loss. (This is My Body, Suzanne M. Wolfe)
… “Lord, listen to your children praying,” we sing during the time of prayer. And we hope that it is true, the old story. That bread can transport us, touch a longing deeper than the one in our bellies. That we will not forget Boldkhuyag or Joey or all those who suffer famine in one form or another. Soon we will go downstairs and eat the pizza waiting for us, and our stomachs will fill. And as we are sated, may we not be blinded, nor turn from those who hunger. (Famine, Thomas Maltman)
As Suzanne Wolfe says, we are all children greedy for love. Let us offer the food that feeds.
As a special treat, Laity Lodge’s Executive Chef, Tim Blanks, will be sharing some of his recipes with us during our book club discussions. Thanks, Tim! Enjoy!
June Fields (summer drink)
I look forward to June every year in anticipation of eating as many local strawberries as possible before they disappear from the famers markets. Lavender brings a clean flavor to this drink--it is a complement to the ripe, red fruit in this recipe and the sparkling water is a cleansing transport for the flavors.
1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled
1 cup distilled water
1 teaspoon fresh lavender leaves
4 cups chilled sparkling water
Puree the strawberries in a blender with distilled water until smooth. During the last 10 seconds, add lavender.
Strain, through a fine-mesh sieve into a large pitcher. Add the sparkling water, stir gently and serve.
Goes great with salads. Dry lavender is not a good substitute.
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This is week seven of our book club discussion on The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting toward God, edited by Leslie Leyland Fields. Join us every Monday morning as we dig into this feast! Next week we discuss three more of these lovely essays: Common Elements, Eucharist,and Soul Food.