Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Miso and Memory

A few years ago one of my tentative food adventures was miso soup. Not from scratch. Not in a restaurant. Annie Chun's in an eco-bowl in the makeshift kitchen at work.

I'm not sure what I expected from that cautious venture, but it certainly wasn't a trip down memory lane.

There was a hint when boiling water hit seasoning paste, smeared over noodles. And when I removed the lid three minutes later.

But when the first mouthful hit my taste buds and my olfactory nerve, I was suddenly in a very different place. Fermented rice and soy became fresh-baked white bread and sweet Manischewitz communion wine, in the upper room that was church for me when I was twelve years old.

With taste and smell came feelings, deep and overwhelming, seductive and terrifying.

I made miso soup from scratch tonight for the first time. The fermented broth still tastes sacred to me, to this non-theistic, religious, humanistic naturalist. And it is. It all is. Then, and now, and for as many tomorrows as come my way.

Tend Yourself

Tend yourself
as you would
a garden.

Till the soil.
Pull out the rocks
and save them for later.
Rocks make nice

Buy good seeds.
Plant them
at the right depth,
with the proper amount
of space between them.

Hope for rain or
fill your watering can.

Trust our sustaining

Wait for green life, and later

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lessons in Generosity

I am so glad, at this point in my life, to have a kindergarten teacher as one of my closest friends. We have been friends for several years, but only recently have I realized that the lessons she teaches the little ones in her classroom are lessons that she also passes on to me.

I've never read Robert Fulghum's All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. I suspect that I have turned up my over-educated nose at its mass appeal. I, certainly, had left kindergarten in the dust long ago.

But as I've listened to my friend talk about the skills she teaches her students, I've come to understand that somehow I missed some of those kindergarten skills.

So I've begun remedial kindergarten lessons. So far, I've been learning about sharing. My friend showed up at my house, time and again, with gifts in hand. A book. Dinner, ready to be reheated and enjoyed. On my birthday, arms full of flowers.

At first I didn't know how to react. But as the barrage of generosity kept coming, I began to learn the rhythms of friendship, of free gifts and heart-felt thank-you's. I started to keep a corner of my mind open to possible gifts I could give, not only to this friend, but to others as well. She has started a domino cascade of gift-sharing among our circle of friends, and it feels great.

I can't wait to see what other lessons this friendship has in store.