when roots are called for, the big red pot comes through
i’m in-between and somewhat out-of-sorts. i’m not certain we could riffle through a diagnostic manual and find it written just that way, the malady. and maybe it’s not a malady, just simply stating fact. maybe it’s merely the lull in human undulation, the dip between the rises.
and, truth is, it’s not so bad — the in-between part, anyway. the in-between part is liberation, defined. a long line of assignments is behind me, and i’m in the fertile ground where new ideas begin to rumble in the distance. for months now, i’ve been applying fingers to keyboard day after day after day. so this week, without so much as a whistle being blown, i seem to have declared it deep-breathing time. i found myself roaming anywhere except the keyboard. i found myself clipping shriveled vines in the garden, plucking last-gasp bouquets and tucking them — one last time — in the old milk pitchers that duly serve to hold their pirouettes. i found myself reaching for the big red pot. and all the roots — the parsnip, carrot, turnip — that are ours with one swift tug on their leafy tops.
i seemed to be swirling in whole body immersions. in tactile acts that drew me close to earth, and thus infused with heaven’s fumes.
i needed rootedness this week. and my big red pot came through. it’s there, thick-walled and heavy enough to shatter toes. to yank it from the cupboard is no small feat, one that usually calls for rearrangement of the entire teetering tower of lids and bottoms. but once planted atop my old crotchety cookstove — the one whose burners must take turns deciding who will burn today, and who will sit it out — the rearrangement is all worth it. that pot all but begs to put me back together. it sits wide-mouthed and waiting. all it asks is that i get to work: peel away the earth-stained skins of all those roots, chop them into chunks, toss with abandon. all whirled in olive-oil glisten. all softened, surrendered, through minutes on the flame.
i made a root stew this week because i needed roots. i simmered it all day, with a pinch of this, a cup of that. it was alchemy, all right. the sort that heals me every time. i set out to root the ones i love, the ones whose week wearies them. but all day long it was me who inhaled the essence of autumn, of doors closed, and furnace rumbling once again.
as long as i was ambling down the road to roots, i clipped a fat fistful of chamomile, the very essence of becalmed. i set the table, put out fork and knife and napkin. i awaited the return of those i love, the ones who’d shuffle down the walk long after dusk, and into night. there is something sacred about keeping watch for comings home.
there is something sacred about immersing yourself in the offerings of earth: in roots and fat fistfuls of bloom.
sometimes the shortest route to blessing is setting out to bless the ones we love. along the way, we find the sacred tapping us in our translucent parts, the ones where our heartbeat all but shows.
the susurrations of the sacred catch me every time.
and may they catch you, too. how do you carve your path to groundedness, what’s your certain route to simple daily blessing?
p.s. my out-of-sorts-ness is simply being ground down day after day by the national vitriol. it’s a toxic drip, and it’s rubbed me raw. it reminds me of being a kid keeping watch on the schoolyard bully, tempted to plant my hands firmly on my hipbones and let rip a mighty spew! (stay tuned….)
In Between and Out of Sorts….capturing a piece of my heart. Thank you for your lovely words and I also believe in the “root” of ritual to help me stay grounded.
xoxox we are a bunch of rooted ground-seekers here. here’s to turnips! bless you for leaving behind a wisp of your being here. xoxo
Barbara, how do you do it? You tap into my very corel with your phrases, your way of looking at the simple daily blessings around you, as I do here in my small Indiana town. I, too, am finding reassurance in bringing out my old forest green heavy Dutch oven, which could be a cousin to your red big boy on your cookstove. My own cookstove is a 1968 General Electric push button model, and I get pleasure in knowing that it’s been around the block and keeps on ticking. In fact, as we remodel our 1968 kitchen this winter, I’m getting little twinges of temptation to keep that avocado green relic as the entire kitchen around it gets a beautiful new update, but I think practicality will win, and a new stove will take its place. My kids, who love mid-century modern ANYTHING, implore: “No, Mom! Not the stove! It’s awesome…it’s vintage!” Funny thing is, I get it, and I have the same affection for it as they do. Maybe that’s what comforts me in times like this, when the “national vitriol” (I just LOVE that, Barbara), incessantly wears me down as well. I look around my worn, lovable home, and I love it’s humbleness, it’s proud old-fashioned homeyness. It’s what gives me a warmth on a daily basis.
Today, I too will be bringing my big green pot out of the pie safe downstairs, stirring onions, garlic, carrots, potatoes, some green beans, a little corn, and browned venison tenderloin chunks to create our traditional Bussell Venison Stew, which will bubble and simmer for half a day, and, with crusty bread and slices of cheddar, will comfort and soothe come dinnertime. I’m with you when it comes to soaking up all of the daily blessings, Barbara. It, and prayer, is what keeps me hopeful, keeps me grounded and feeling safe. And the inherent goodness in the people all around me, those not aligned with our current political climate, and who long for a meshing of the human spirit, not a constant tearing apart of our communal fabric of humanity. That goodness is what gives me hope.
Two more things: I’m a recent discoverer of a wonderful company called “Penzey’s Spices”, due to an ad on Facebook that showed up as I scrolled down my newsfeed. The company president, named Bill, writes an essay with every ad that they place on Facebook, along with ideas for using their spices, which have a fabulous following and wonderful reputation. But Barbara, the essays…what magnificent writings, with such hope and heart for humanity. And boldness to call out all of the ugly attitudes abounding in our country right now. I’m a fan, just from reading Bill’s writings. He’s brave, so intelligent, so connected to what we’re dealing with. And he calls a spade a spade, but so eloquently, and respectfully. I think you’d love reading his writings, if you’re not familiar with him yet. I just “liked” the Penzey’s Spices Facebook page and automatically get posts from this remarkable man. If you aren’t familiar with him, poke around and check him out. I think you’re a perfect fit!
Lastly, here’s something to warm your heart when not only the chill of autumn, but the chill of heartlessness in our society cuts to the bone. My wonderful mom, who turns ninety-one next week, is an amazing woman, Barbara. She still lives in her own quad-level home, twelve years after my dear dad passed away. Mom still drives, up to 2 1/2 hours, on the expressway, to visit my sis; she has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, uses Snapchat, and all that young stuff nonsense. Her eleven grandkids seek HER out for correspondence, and pop in to visit because they love to be around her, not out of obligation. My two daughters individually sent her letters that she’s shown me, each calling her “my favorite human being”. My mom got her GED seven years ago at 84, and the only reason we knew is that she sent us an email with photos of her diploma and one of her in her cap and gown, which she took as a selfie in her dining room, just so she had a graduation picture. She’s always there when there’s fun to be had, and her motto is “I can sleep tomorrow”. She’s our family matriarch, and the last one left of her generation, which, as much as she loves being around youth, also makes it lonely for her, to not have someone to reminisce with about those good old days who actually lived it, as she did.
My mom’s 91st birthday this year will be special, not only because my sis, brother and sis-in-law will be taking her on a little getaway to the casino in Windsor, Canada, where she used to enjoy going with her group of dear cronies. What else will make it special is a certain surprise I’ve set up:
Three days ago, I privately messaged a couple hundred of my Facebook friends, letting them know about my mom, and asking them if they’d like to send her a card for her birthday, just saying “You don’t know me, but I’m a friend of your daughter Barb (or your grandson Ben, or granddaughter Claire, etc.), and I’d just love to wish you a happy 91st birthday.” I thought how wonderful it would be for her to get ninety-one cards on her ninety-first birthday. Honestly, Barbara, within minutes of sending these messages, I got responses, several per minute, of people saying how happy they would be to join in, how wonderful my mom sounded, how excited they were to be a part of this plan. Friends in Texas want to send her a book, friends in San Francisco ordered her something special online, all of her grandkids’ friends, who have known her love through their growing up years want to be involved…this has snowballed in the most loving and heartwarming way, Barbara, and has in its own way reinforced my feeling that underneath it all, we all want to feel the nobility of just caring for each other, of just doing the right thing, the loving thing. I’m so excited for my mom, who will be getting her first cards today, lots of them from perfect strangers, who feel privileged and joyful about spreading love to her.
This very excessive note is ready to close. But not without thanking you again for the ripple effect of the musings of your heart, Barbara. They echo with me, and I know I have a kindred spirit in you. From Indiana to Illinois, I’m sending the love right back to you.
OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! (the rare use of caps, you’ll note!) i love love love this note, every bend and twist and undulation. i sank into its every groove, its blessing upon blessing. i smiled, i laughed, i melted. i felt as if i was right across the indiana kitchen table from you. the power of writing. i love love love that we seek nothing more than holy communion, in the weaving of shared spirit, in compassion, in pure living breathing empathy. i love that your green pot (kin to my red one, indeed!) is coming out for venison stew. i love every drop of every word and sentiment you’ve poured out here this morning. you are a blessing. this table is a blessing. and happy blessed birthday to your mama. i’d offer to send a note too, but that would tip it to 92. please call on me next year. my pen is poised and ready to touch the page. xoxoxoxox
and did i say thank you? yes, yes, thank you. from the bottom of my heart and my big red pot. xoxo
I loved LOVED your response, dear friend (I hope I can call you friend). You enrich my life. I’m a glutton for the beautiful turn of phrase, and yours just fill me up, and make me feel very satisfied and very connected, Barbara. Thank YOU, from my heavenly-scented kitchen (onions and garlic: heavenly all the time), to yours!
Also, remember long ago when I brought up creating something special for you? Actually, Barbara, it’s in the process, now that a busy summer, capped off with a wonderful son’s wedding have passed. When you have time, would you email me an assortment of very special quotes that you love, that out of all of the phrases and quotations, these make your heart smile. Preferably about motherhood, and preferably twenty words or less. Tall order, I know. But you, lover of the written word, can do this. I’ll incorporate it, or them, into your little surprise, which should arrive right around Thanksgiving.
oh my goodness gracious! SOOOO sweet, and so delicious! happy blessed wedding, a wee bit late. and as for your creation, you are too too kind, and of course i will try to think of a few quotes i love…….a challenge, indeed!
as so often happens in the serendipities of wonder, this poem appeared in my mailbox not too long after i wrote the words above. i love the intersection of musings, the sacred domesticities, in this poem, The Zen of Housework. is it not true that our deepest sacred is sometimes begging to be unearthed from the humblest of daily rhythms?
The Zen of Housework
I look over my own shoulder
down my arms
to where they disappear under water
into hands inside pink rubber gloves
moiling among dinner dishes.
My hands lift a wine glass,
holding it by the stem and under the bowl.
It breaks the surface
like a chalice
rising from a medieval lake.
Full of the grey wine
of domesticity, the glass floats
to the level of my eyes.
Behind it, through the window
above the sink, the sun, among
a ceremony of sparrows and bare branches,
is setting in Western America.
I can see thousands of droplets
of steam — each a tiny spectrum — rising
from my goblet of grey wine.
They sway, changing directions
constantly — like a school of playful fish,
or like the sheer curtain
on the window to another world.
Ah, grey sacrament of the mundane!
~ Al Zolynas ~
This is perfect. “Grey wine”…who would have phrased it that way? Perfectly domestically divine.
Well I think. you have made up a Mighty Stew instead of a Mighty Spew and that act, in the end, is much more nutritious and meaningful for all our souls. There are so many ways to root ourselves. Thinking of my red pot which looks just like yours. I like your way of stewing about the troubles out there, They are not new troubles. History alone keeps reminding us of that. I recently saw “By The Skin Of Our Teeth” by Thornton Wilder at Remy Bumppo (brilliant production and timely). It is 75 years old, this play. Not much has changed. Wilder says of his play, “I know that every good and excellent thing in the world stands moment by moment on the razor edge of danger and must be fought for”, The hearth is a good place to start. I am south of LA as I type. I am looking at ocean and palm trees and spending time rooting with and for my middle boy. Rooting is the operative word for now. Bless you for your reminder of what we need to do to stay grounded. xxoo
oh, dear angel, as you root, i root, we all root. rooting for your boy is top order of the day, suddenly, on my list of rooting. bless you for up and planting yourself where he is. bless you for reminding us that now is not the edgiest moment in history, but that there is precedent and we’ve survived and moved beyond before. i love that line from wilder, “the razor edge of danger, and must be fought for.”
we are all standing firm to claim the goodness that we will not surrender.
prayers, and love, and thank you for whirling by. xoxoxo
Thank you, precious friend, for these beautiful susurrations of your generous heart. They’re just precisely what I needed today. Love that marvelous poem you included, as well. xxoo
thank YOU, sweetheart, for offering your own susurrations here. i don’t know why but all week when i toss a glance chamomile’s way, i think of you. they are SOOOOOOOO airy. a cloud of becalming as they begin to nod, or take their exit bow……i can’t bear to admit their time is fleeting…..
BAM, BAM, Bammy! This verbal balm made it possible for me to suck breath in and blow breath out, slowly, slowly, slowly. The vitriol is poison. The roots and the work required to soften them into succulent stew draw the poison out. I am now warming my hands around a cup of tea, making a list of ingredients to throw into my own big pot, and thanking God for the likes of you, who knows how to prepare a proper word poultice for us world weary souls. xoxoxoxo
“a proper word poultice”…
Oh, kates…..only you. Love from my pot to yours….