Monday, October 02, 2017

Food, Words, Dogs

When I'm at a loss for what to do about the pain of the world, I turn to a few things that keep me centered: food, words, and the comfort of my dogs.

Today is for chopping and freezing more tomatoes and canning applesauce. There is something about preparing food for the future that reminds me there is a future. There will be family meals and laughter and the reminder of a clear summer day or a cool autumn breeze.

I put away the harvest in part because I want to hold to that imagined future day when we will gather with loved ones to feed more than hungry bellies; we will feed souls and nurture our whole beings.

Food is definitely my love language.

And I also turn to words, particularly poetry, during times of crisis and mourning. Sometimes that's reading others' work, sometimes it's writing my own. I can't count the number of times I've read Mary Oliver's "Wild Geese" and received comfort from her assurance:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

This week, I was reminded of something I wrote right after hurricane Katrina tore through so much of the south. We were visiting our in-laws at their home by the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland - the home that they had lost and rebuilt several years earlier in a different hurricane.

After the Levee is Breached

Only the lightest puff of air stirs
pennants along the dock. Telltales hang
from luffing sails. In the stillness, bees
stagger between the open throats of thirsty

orchids. When wind and full moon forced
the bay to rise, it scoured the eastern shore.
This time, the great tidal surge gathers
elsewhere. Camera crews rush to film

other places more prosperous, newly drowned.
Watermen haul their catch by hand, chant
a guilty mantra--Hugo, Andrew, Isabel;
new storms spin elsewhere. Tonight a front

gathers force; it rends high, thin clouds.
Stars pour through the rift like water.
                                                                       LJ Cohen 2005

The lines that keep running through my head today are these: This time, the great tidal  surge gathers/elsewhere. Camera crew rush to film/other places more prosperous, newly drowned.

We seem to only crave the newest tragedy, the freshest disaster. And only until the next surge and the next.

I envy my dogs, especially on days like this. They soak the world up through their senses, find happiness in a warm pool of sunshine and the sound of a familiar voice, the jingle of a car key, the promise of a treat.

We are left to try to make sense of what cannot be understood, to carry heartache piled upon heartache. Is it no wonder I want to feed the world?

May you find and hold to that which brings your comfort and may you be able to share that comfort with others.


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