cleaning, housekeeping, the recipe
sometimes i feel i need to apologize for being such a cleaner. not now, not at the new year. which for me begins today. this is my jan. 2, by the way. i’m on a two-day delay thanks to the accident of my birth.
but here we are. all of us on the relative same page here. all leaping in anew. perhaps you too are cleaning. it seems to be a widespread affliction. right up there with new date books, new diet plans. i, believe it or not, forgo both of those. get my date book in july, just to be a trend-bucker, i suppose. don’t diet; hard to do when popcorn and broccoli are your main food groups.
ahem, back to the subject at hand here, back to the cleaning. the older i get the more i give in to my quirks and my personal square pegs. and the quirk of the day is i love to clean. down on my hands and knees in the corner. vacuuming can send me to the moon. (which by the way, that wolf moon has me howling.)
there is something about wiping away dirt, sweeping off crumbs, returning to order that simply sings to my heart. i cannot go to bed with dishes in the sink. oh, okay, maybe the single occasional popcorn bowl waits ’til the morn. but i am a girl who likes to pretend my life is in order by banning the crumbs to the dustbin.
i am not naturally neat. naturally, i am a piler. piles are not mess, i tell myself. piles are order, vertically. but i married a guy who likes neat. and i am a once-nurse who likes clean. so, once children were born, and my life turned upside down, inside out, suddenly found myself cleaning for joy.
and, oh the joy. i breathe easier when i walk out of or into a room that is sparkling, especially when the sparkle comes from my own sweat and muscle. there must be little tiny specks of my germanic genes washing around in the great irish stew, for the hard work of cleaning is balm to my soul.
the tree is not yet down. i should say trees, for we indulged little T and planted a sweet baby balsam up in the hall on the landing, so he could fall asleep to the lights, wake up to the rumble of the train tumbling off the tracks down below.
so the big cleaning, the clearing of trees, still lies ahead. but for days now, i have been clearing my desk, sifting through files, wiping the slate for the start of a new year of piles.
and speaking of cleaning, how ’bout time for some…
housekeeping: with the holidays tucked behind us, it seems there’s a new percolation of chairs being pulled to the table. i couldn’t be more delighted. it is a gift in ways you will never know. my heart only keeps whispering, carry on, carry on. a most important critical point is that at a table we all take turns talking. please please add your thoughts. and if you’re new here, or took some time off, feel free to meander around. there are some magnificent thoughts being added to meanderings, some way back in the days.
please see a delightful, wonderful passage, tacked onto “extending the table” (12.27.06), by a marvelous thinker and writer, who tags herself jcv, and who trembled at her first-ever blog moment. she is a treasure i know you too will come to treasure.
delight yourself further, and not so far back, by reading along with jan and her moon story, on “bring on the birds” (01.02.07).
marvel, as i do, at anything posted by the mysterious, marvelous wm ulysses, who goes back nearly to the beginning and makes my jaw drop every time.
and finally, drum roll……
the recipe, the one we’ve been waiting for….here’s where i will get teary. if you haven’t, please please read, “eggs, cheese, an ungodly hour” (12.22.06). it was a magical, heart-filling tale of a miracle of a woman named nina who for years made a christmas gift for a soup kitchen. she made a strata, which is an egg-cheese-and-bread layered-y thing. (forgive me, i love making up the occasional word.) well, sweet blessed nina died nearly two years ago but her strata lives on. in a pure christmas twist, her beautiful husband, her father, and her sweet little girls carry on. they make strata by the carload, and we (the ones who get up at an ungodly hour) dish it up in the dark of christmas eve morn. i had thought that we could truly lift nina up if we all got the recipe, and beginning now, made nina’s strata into a most blessed christmas tradition. what if, i wrote, we all made nina’s strata, and, in true nina spirit, we gave it away, gave it away to someone whose eyes needed glistening.
well, michael, god bless him, came through with a marvelous rendition of the recipe. and it seems those who loved nina most have added their heart to the mix. please please, i beg you, go take a look. it’s right there in the archives. and i will re-post the recipe on the lazy susan page, for easy plucking. fear not, next christmastime i will haul it out of the recipe box, remind everyone. and we shall all of us, perhaps, take to our kitchens, tearing up bread by the bits, to lift nina to heights she only could have imagined, as we all brighten the world nina-style, through our great oozy pans of eggs and cheese served at an ungodly hour.
bless you each and everyone. ’til tomorrow…
nina’s strata, coming out of the oven christmas eve morn….
…like nebraskan wheat bending to the pacific summer breeze, conversations among friends lean and sway randomly, expanding and opening…like a flock of birds…endlessly and sometimes riotously…who among us knows not the joy of pulling a chair up to the table engrossed, where the table becomes place, and too, a metaphor for “agora” and its exchange, herein not of commerce, but of ideas and information, that which is vital. Given such flow allow me to change the topic, with all regard to protocol and not to digress but to push the edge further…in the jargon of the seventies, I mean to say “…and now for something completely different.” our hostess is bright, she misses not a point, and given my moniker she knows I think of olive trees and the journey, the return to home. Our hostess knows home. She knows place. Which is what we seek in coming here, in pulling up a chair. Consider a chair, and its joinery: “mortise,” of arabian derivation, means cavity, an empty place; and “tenon,” from the latin word meaning ‘to hold.’ In the joinery of chairs the cavity is filled and cultures are crossed. In historic terms this is perhaps the crusades at their crux. But that tension holds still and whatever the standard, chairs are central to our culture. We are wise to learn from their designers.To the shaker it would be a matter of utility, economy, and proportion, formed of indigenous species. For John Ruskin, and the Arts & Crafts movement, it meant a cross current to the dehumanizing trend of modernity, a celebration of natural materials. Hans Wegner, the celebrated Danish master, a modern paying homage to the shakers going before, believed one could not design a chair before the age of, well, that point in midlife when one’s experience becomes full, like a fine glass of claret. Aristotle too shared that thought, in terms of philosophy. He profered that to study philosophy required a ripened reflection, better thereby to plummet the depths of this mortal coil.We speak at this “.org” of chairs and their wisdom, that is the wisdom of life, which is accrued. Society may celebrate youth, but civilization goes forward upon the wisdom of age. And so we are fortunate to sit at a table set by one who has gained of life’s wisdom, and takes the time to pass it along to us.thank you.
wm ulysses, sir (though i feel that i may call you by another name): past barb’s half-century mark and thinking about these sorts of midlife things all the time, you have lifted my middle-aged day by offering the building of a chair as metaphor and reminding me that the school where i have learned — of experience. sometimes difficult — was the right school, the one we all attend if we’re lucky.in my too-busy life with young kids, work, and some nonsense, you have done the reading and offered the pearls. thanks and happy new year to you and yours.
i have read great texts in august classrooms, but when i lived off the grid in a swamp, just south of the confluence of the pea and choctawhatchee rivers, in what we called “the oxygen factory” and where i cut wood and hauled water, there one of my truest insights was gained. my dark companion, caleb, was wont to say: “how do you know you’re alive if you don’t have the scars to show for it.” at first blush that is too raw, but allow its truth to open and you may see that it is neither tragic nor maudlin. it merely is. which is plenty, if you agree.