Friday, November 13, 2009
I've been away. I've taken a solo trip to the country to regroup, refuel, recharge, and all other such res. An early birthday gift to myself (along with A Platter of Figs and other recipes by David Tanis). No telephone, no computer, no one, but me.
It's about 9 o'clock in the morning. I'm looking out the large paned window which takes up most of the east wall of my petite one-room cottage. The sky is white and the sun is shining. I see a small dark bird with a white belly perched upon the old white fence that protects the sheep while they graze. Although it is November, the grass is bright green and wet with dew. The West Marin landscape drinks in the rain after a long dry summer and makes autumn look like spring.
I'm nestled in with a generous slice of sweet sticky Morning Bun Coffee Cake from Bovine Bakery. When I entered the bakery, just about 15 minutes ago, I was convinced my drive into town had been a waste of time. I saw just about everything but my favorite coffee cake inside the glass case. My heart sunk. I wasn't feeling hopeful at all when I hesitantly asked ...any chance you have Morning Bun Coffee Cake back there? The owner replied with It's just come out of the oven. We're about to slice it. Music to my ears.
This slice is so large it requires a sturdy fork and knife. As I savor my first bite, sip my tea, and read David's seemingly effortless guidelines for preparing Lobster Risotto I have to pause for a moment, a long moment, and take in the utter beauty of it all. Nothing going on here is expensive or at all difficult to arrange, yet it's exquisite. It's worth planning this sort of solo time, what I've been calling my retreat. It is this uninterrupted time alone that offers me the time and space to reflect on my life and appreciate others. Which brings me back to yesterday, my first morning alone.
It was a quiet day. I watched a little black sheep nibble on grasses beneath the apple trees. KWMR hummed in the background. As I wrapped yarn around my needles to and fro, knit, purl, knit, purl, I heard Reading to John announced. Reading to John is a radio show. Neshama Franklin read to her husband John for many years before he died and now she reads to her radio audience. Such a beautiful idea, yet also so sad. An experience once shared with a loved one is now read into a microphone from The Creamery Building in downtown Point Reyes Station. Where it goes nobody knows.
I love the indulgence of having a book read to me or having someone serve me a simple meal. Why do these things feel so indulgent? Perhaps it is because I'm an adult and such offerings are typically reserved for children. John was lucky. I'm lucky.
No one can prepare perfectly buttered slices of toast like my mother. I have bitten into many fine slices of buttered toast, but Mom's, it has some indescribable quality that cannot be duplicated. I believe this is the type of feeling we all long to conjure up again, those good ol' days when we were fragile and small, served nice slices of toast, and loved unconditionally.
Chris has prepared elaborate meals for me and surprised me with interesting new ingredients, but it's those little things (those things along the lines of buttered toast) that really make me happy. There's nothing that makes me love a man more than his placing a cutting board decorated with apple and cheese slices in front of me while I'm reading a nice book on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Oh, yes. That's what I'm talking about.
Reading a book to me works well too. I recall lounging in a little cottage on Block Island, watching the sun set, as Chris read from Michael Ondaatje's Divisadero. I also have some beautiful memories of listening to Chris read John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley to me while we camped in Yosemite. There were moments in the sun, sprawled out on mats beside our tent, late nights inside our tent when Chris read with a headlamp, and one day that is so clear in my memory, Chris reading as we both relaxed and dangled our feet from a bridge near Glen Aulin Falls. The light was so beautiful that day.
Why were these moments so special? Is it because I'm in love, because Chris is such a great guy, or is it because these moments take me back to the comfortable feeling of being a child--fine toast, bedtime stories...
It was a warm summer night. Our exhausted voices pleaded One more story, Mom! Just one more! One more! Please... Mom looked down at us, dressed in our cotton nighties and tucked beneath our cool sheets as she, tired from a day filled with two rambunctious little girls, gave in and said Okay...
Once upon a time there was a butterfly.
The butterfly flew away.