“We must always look at things/from the point of view of eternity…/from which, I imagine, we would all/appear to have speed lines trailing behind us/as we rush along the road of the world.”
--from Billy Collins’ poem ‘Velocity.’
School begins again tomorrow. We have been on break for two and a half weeks, plus two unexpected days of extension brought on by winter’s inclemency. School begins anew…and thus, the speed lines witnessed from eternity’s edges.
Time did slow over these last weeks…or perhaps a more apt descriptor is ‘expanded.’ In some ways, it was a rather lonely time for me and in others, ah…a time of such privilege. For one, I had coffee with a friend nearly every morning. By the coordination of time and technology and graced relationship, we were able to be with one another and speak of the grand and the quotidian, the quiet murmurings of heart and the soft soaring of spirits. I spoke with another friend, miles away, many times and we laughed as we shared the daily whatnot of life, and the space in our kitchens as we prepared meals miles apart and together in heart. Other loved ones and I also exchanged phone calls and messages as we celebrated Christmas and New Year’s and my birthday.
Time expanded to include new experiments in the kitchen…new flavor discoveries and delights and the renovation of the deep joy I find in preparing a meal for others. Yes, time certainly expands when I am in the kitchen, wrist deep in cabbage and vegetables, nose wide to the roasting green beans in the oven, fingers itching to pluck a freshly baked clove of garlic from its crisply starched pillowslip and pop it directly into my mouth. I learned about caramelizing onions and what happens when you marry polenta and feta. I learned of thyme, the possibility within chiles to be subtle, and admired the exquisite beauty of turmeric.
This morning afforded me experiments in electricity as I made my bed with its baklava of blankets. A spark entered my left pinky, spiraled around my body, and exited the sole of my slipper clad right foot. I could feel the whole shooshing, yes, electrifying, event…and found myself marveling at the experience of what I already knew conceptually. Freaky and fascinating at the same time.
Over break, I read an author’s love letter and was moved to tears at the intimacy she could express when simply speaking to another of nature’s beauty and the desire to dress for the solemn celestial occasion of planetary alignment. I also began a book of fantastic imagination and storytelling that is the work of a fiercely private woman with an alcoholic father and who died “unloved and not loving,” according to relatives. Yet the book is so richly detailed, so…hm, yes, expansive…one story leading to another and back…I could see where writing this book was her outlet…her place to go… I began reading Mary Poppins after seeing the movie Saving Mr. Banks. As I said on Facebook, it “changes forever the way I will see Mary Poppins...and makes me think much this evening about what and how and why we tell stories...and it makes me glad I'm a writer too...”
The elegance of Abigail Adams and the speech of 18th c. politics also makes me glad to be a writer. I have been watching the HBO version of John Adams and loving the turns of phrase, the passion with which ideals were expressed and the care with which it was done. Words mattered tremendously, as did presence in speaking them. For both of these qualities, I have great respect and admiration. Listening to them, knowing what they were about...oh, it makes me want to spill ink and speak sense in this present world and country. It makes me want to impress upon my students the role of simple elegance in speech and the idea that choosing well what one says makes for lasting substance in the being of the listener/reader.
Today is the birthday of another writer—Zora Neale Hurston. As I head afresh into eternity with speed lines marking my certain though perhaps winding path, I can not help but recall one of her quotations and pose a question to myself, to God, to the universe…
There are years that ask questions and years that answer.
Which will it be for 2014?