Sunday Morning ~ Weddings and What?
Cosadziwa ndi nkhondo, adausa nkhondo pa dziwe. ~ The ignorant person is trouble; he seeks shelter from the war by hiding in a pool of water.
~ Chewa proverb
September 29, 2019
Yesterday, I tossed some cauliflower with olive oil and was transported to New Year’s Day 2000. I had a vivid memory of Jake tossing roasted cauliflower with sesame oil for our millennial feast. We had a house full of people: my mother, my brothers, their wives, gaggles of cousins, my kids, and a couple friends. I thought of how full and happy the house was, how Jake learned recipes from his restaurant job, how proud I was that my kids had grown into interesting young adults, how kind they were to my mother, how happily Joe organized all the activities, and how right the world seemed to be then. The earth didn’t fall from the sky at the stroke of midnight and it all bode well. We watched the sun rise from Cadillac Mountain, we skated on Long Pond, we talked, laughed, ate and drank and I remember taking it all in with a full heart. I was so grateful for the choices I’d made in life, happy for our home that could accommodate everyone, and maybe a little smug that our hard work paid off. Yesterday I wondered, is ignorance really bliss? If I had known what was in store a year later, would I have been able to appreciate that holiday with such happiness? If we knew what marriage entailed, all that raising children took out of us, would we even begin? Would the human race die away? How do you reconcile being informed with blissful denial?
I thought about all this as I picked green beans and pickled them, roasted the cauliflower, preserved grape leaves, and chopped tomatillos for salsa. My kitchen was sunny, I listened to the history of country music while reliving old memories, letting them wander freely in the landscape while doing things I love. The sorrel puree burst in the water bath and I didn’t fall apart.
I thought of an image I’d seen of women walking through the streets of Kabul in the 1970’s wearing short skirts and long hair, smiling, chatting, confident and beautiful. It contrasted with an image taken in 2013 of women in the same city wearing burkas, their eyes barely visible, their heads lowered. I couldn’t tell if they were smiling or not, but something in their posture said, no. I thought about how things can change so drastically. How little our predictions alter reality.
The contrasts in my week were remarkable. Tuesday we celebrated Lucy and David’s wedding here, a day that started early with a hike honoring Hannah’s birthday and her memory. When we reached the top of the mountain it was so socked in we couldn’t see the sound. Several of us commented that it didn’t matter, it’s always beautiful here no matter the weather, then before our eyes, the fog lifted and breaks in the clouds let the sun shine on us. It was symbolic and spiritual and comforting. Hannah’s friend lit a small leaf of sage and we held our own thoughts. I scooted down the mountain quickly to get things ready for the dinner, happily arranging flowers and putting finishing touches on the meal. Just as guests were arriving, a tempest exploded out of nowhere, pelting down rain and hail so hard I thought it would break the greenhouse windows. I looked at the beautiful table I’d set and waited for the leaks to start dripping on the linen tablecloths, jumping every time the lightening bolt hit nearby with the simultaneous thunder. It was the first time I was scared by a rainstorm, but it was fierce. The greenhouse leaks in three spots and one is directly over where I’d placed the table. But that night, not a drop on the table. A little wedding miracle, I thought as people finally could get out of their cars and come in. Jane made a toast, “Marriage can be stormy.” We laughed.
At dinner we started talking politics at my end of the table and someone told me about Pelosi’s announcement at 5 pm that day. It was the exact time the storm hit and we laughed that the gods were speaking to us. A thunderbolt, a deluge. Let this be the beginning. I’d not given up hope that our country’s direction would change course but I was becoming more impatient. I want to be careful lest I gloat, but I have been saying his arrogance will do him in. His ignorance will kill him, like the one who drowns himself by hiding in a pool, forgetting he can’t breathe there.
Wednesday was bright and sunny, the perfect day after a storm, and I cleaned up, reliving the fun night listening to the news. Every reference to Watergate brought me back to the summer of ’74 and our last family camping trip. I was politically ignorant at seventeen, assuming the ship would right itself, since that’s what it’s supposed to do, and I wasn’t terribly cognizant of how it would affect my future. I thought of us camping in British Colombia, my father and siblings on what would be our last trip together. I thought of the supper we ate of fish we’d caught that day. We’d cooked it over the campfire and my father was happy. I remember my bother Richard stating an opinion about Nixon and the consequences he should face, and my father (who was apparently a Nixon fan), went from happy with the fish to apeshit that one of his offspring dared to disagree with him. I was on the periphery of this, but I remember coming to Rich’s aid with some morally superior comment. I remember thinking, jeepers, dad’s defending a criminal! Isn’t it the parents who are supposed to teach their kids to do the right thing? You don’t lie and cheat to win? You get punished when you get caught, that’s good right? But dear old dad couldn’t bear to be contradicted and I look back and am proud of us for doing so, despite the aftermath. He yelled his point loud enough that the people walking by our campsite stopped and stared. Rich told him to keep his voice down. Dad didn’t like being told what to do. The younger three of us got up to do the dishes, leaving Rich alone to face that firing squad. We may have looked around for something we could use as a bullet proof vest. We wondered why Rich didn’t use any self-preservation skills? We’d not had any news that week, it was long before the instant information era, this was a philosophical discussion (if you can call it that) only. This was nothing new to us, being told we were wrong, but it was incongruous in that beautiful setting with the good meal. The lord and ruler was not pleased; a nerve had been struck. The evening ended without any violence and the next day we went out on another fishing boat, or maybe it was a ferry, but we were definitely on the water, and we were definitely in Canada, and the captain of the vessel definitely said, “Your president is in trouble, eh?” Rich and I looked at each other, waiting for my father to throw the guy off his own boat, but instead he said something like, “Well, that’s what some people think.” and then the captain said, “He’s resigning at noon today.” And my father just stood there with a stunned look on his face and I remember thinking, “YES!” (but careful not to do the happy dance) not so much because justice was being served or that our nation was being saved, but because my father was wrong! Yes! And we kids exchanged glances, my look told Rich not to gloat, and this nice polite Canadian had no idea how happy he’d just made us, he just steered his boat in the August sunshine. It was a great moment. And I thought, funny, how all this came back to me this week…
Love to all,