Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ingredients or Durante el Después (During the After)

As I sit here and type this, I have chicken that I will eventually slice for dinner cooling on the top of the oven. There is something pleasing to me about the simplicity of the preparation and ultimate result of baked chicken. It is a complementary food that, done right, is flavorfully polite to other elements of the meal, juicy, tender, and nourishing. This will be served room temperature alongside a batch of slightly more daring creamy smooth gazpacho I made earlier in the day that is presently getting to know itself better in the refrigerator.

I had been reading back issues of Cook’s Illustrated when I chanced on a recipe for this summer soup. It is filled with nothing but refreshment—tomatoes, cucumber, onion, garlic, green pepper, a jalapeño, a little kosher salt-pureed together with a torn slice of bread, olive oil and a wee hint of wine vinegar. Post-blender, I spooned a little in my mouth to taste. It was like being invited to a small enough party where the guests have forged a group identity that puts everyone at comfortable pleasant ease. Still, you can tease the identity apart and tell that there are those who barb (jalapeño and onion), those who smooth and cool (cucumber), the interesting and unique (green pepper) and those who are at ease nearly everywhere (tomato and garlic).

It is an interesting exercise to look at things that way every now and then. Dish-ingredients, sum-parts, macro-micro.

I think about that also as I look at my desk and notice an empty and relatively nondescript blue, extra-fine point, roller ball. It is the only pen I have used for writing since returning from Chile and it ran dry three months to the day after my first moments in California, where I landed at the end of March.

While I certainly did not start out knowing the outcome, I see now that this pen, in its emptiness, has provided an answer I can offer to often posed questions—“Kim, what have you done since coming back? How have you been spending your time? Have you been working?” Instead of groping in my pocket to find more syllables among the inter-cultural, -continental, and -state, memories and mystical dust, I can say “Dejo a contarte la tinta corriente de mi pluma.” I leave the flowing ink of my pen to tell you.

This ink that has described the last three months of my journey for history and memory begins at this source—sitting in the chapel after my arrival at the last bedroom in a hallway of an RSCJ infirmary in the northern part of California, after a twenty hour journey with my leg immobilized. It speaks of going to the doctor for consultations, a scan of all bones, and the queasy uncertainty of the outcome. It addresses the dawning realization that I am no longer physically in Chile. It bends and ripples playfully through the joy of feeling at home among my elder sisters and the laughter shared at table, in the hallway, and over the computer when I could help them. There is gratitude for tasting Word anew in English when reading during Mass as well as the realization that I continue to pray the Our Father in Spanish and it feels right within me to do that. And, there is relief that no more lesions were discovered and surgery does not seem necessary at this moment-- while also knowing that the ligament remains torn and that knee is not now and likely never will be again, the same as its companion.

The blue river of words speaks gently and deeply and widely of the quiet awe of being at the bedside of two people as they died. Their feet continue to move the inky waters when I revisit those passages.

My grandfather died at home, face turned toward the sun coming in the window, listening to flute music, on April 15th. My mother, grandmother, and I were with him. I had been there helping for a week before his death and stayed on with my grandmother for two weeks following. I had not spent that much time around family for at least twenty years and for many reasons, this visit was a not always proportional blend of gift and challenge. Nonetheless, gratitude is the navigating sentiment.

Nancy Kane, RSCJ, died at Oakwood on May 13th. The ink sings of her soul for a week prior to her death as vigil is kept. Her final day is a horizon of her sisters surrounding her, singing Spirituals and offering lines of scripture, letting her know that it was okay to wade in and go. She did, humbly, quietly, without tremor.

A week later, there was a rather abrupt need to head into the rapids of my father’s life and situation. I spent three days with him, doing the best I could on his behalf and simply loving him and loving God and being thankful for the strength of the company of the saints and my sisters as I made my way. There are times when I write where minimal ink means maximum emotion…this is one of those moments.

Were you allowing the current to take you, the ink would next break open into the riotous amazement of being back in New York City…reconnecting with my community, visiting with friends, updating my resume, gathering documents for my Visa to go to Rome, and writing reflections at the request of my parish, Saint Francis Xavier. I have written four pieces for them recently and had them appear on-line and in the bulletin. The fine point strokes dance pages of gratitude for again being a part of this community, especially at this time in its history, and being encouraged to reflect and write about it for others.

I can look at all of these things individually and savor the events, taste and experience their flavors, contours, textures, complexities, on their own. I can also read the whole and see what is made of them all when brought together. It is a rich and round meal I eat on this journey. Nourishing, pleasing, con bastante pica para mantener interés y bastante dulzura para equilibrar…with enough bite to keep it interesting and enough sweetness to balance. It is a meal of the Mystery of God, the Invitation of God, to come to the table and stay there--to explore and invite others to do the same…to realize anew that the table is our whole world and to choose with passion to be open to it…to the continued experience of the complex simplicity of Love.

I am leaving soon to share my ink, my story, with others. I am leaving to say a formal YES for my life, binding myself in perpetual vow to God and thousands of others. It is good that the table we share is big--many are needed, so grand is the work, to serve and to receive, to laugh, weep, encourage, support, speak the truth as we experience it, to discover and reveal the love of the heart of Christ in a beautiful, wounded, world.

What an awesome thing.

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