The Feast

You and I entered the party. A huge mahogany Table rose up from the middle of the room piled with rich food: including the most delectable cakes, and sugared confections. The Feast dazzled the eyes with so much wonder. And you marveled,

‘Surely, this Feast brings comfort and rest. We will never find happier and richer life elsewhere .. Look at the generous fare!!’

We moved into the Hall filled with so many Satisfied Ones. Everyone here labored willingly, creating Beautiful Offerings within each of their Little Homes. They shared these at Table with one another. We wondered too. No disturbance nor upset came between Husband or Wife, nor Children. All appeared remarkably cheerful. We set ourselves to learn to lead such a Happy Life… which began at Feast. After every single grand meal, they inspired us to prepare our own delectable Offerings for the next weekly Table. And at first, we presented many such treats, received with much Joy and Thanks.

One day, instead of exercising Delight, dishes were set side-by-side on the Table. The Self-Appointed compared them for suitability and banished some out of sight. Poor food rotted Under-Table. We deemed it a Well-Meaning Thing, so both of us cheerfully re-doubled our expense and time at the Home Fires.  With effort, our food would escape such Waste. Thus, the Feast grew more sumptuous day by day…

After a time, we suffered sickness. So… we sought help.

The Great Physician advised you and I to choose wisely from Table. We examined each bite of it. We added basic fare of our own and engaged our hearts in more exercise too. A body, kept in proper order, withstands some indulgence. Such advice from the Physician countered conditions at Table. So discipline payed off… but slowly.

We approached our Hosts with the concerns of the GP.

They extolled the Table’s Virtues above all our questions. They admonished us not to wastefully avoid, nor dissent, but to eat without question their Provender. Some, they countered, grew Well and Good on this Diet. They recommended seeking physicians to dispense some Magic Remedy for certain Inherited Tendencies. It stopped ill effects, and allowed a Ten-Fold consumption. Surely a Ten-Fold-Table would draw Outsiders seeking greater culinary capacity. The Improved Feast might be deemed Best in The Village….

Quietly, we noted other things too…

Table-folk’s sweet Complacency seemed a side-effect of both Remedy and Fullness. Some managed The Diet unaided. Others took up Helpful Exercise. But the Unwitting, lacking in constitution, required treatment. The Hosts praised such compliance. They even favored a few with better Seats. All extolled more loudly the Ten-Fold-Table.

A few poor ones missed Table and were pronounced Truant.  The plain Under-Table fare nourished us, so we lingered below. Our Hosts did not mind if we stayed quietly out of their way. But they shrugged off our fresh fruit, honey, milk and eggs as Common.  Gaining health, we grew in our silence, to avoid begrudging our Hosts any satisfaction. Living Table-Top suited us less and less.

Now and then a token apple, or carrot, might appear on the corner of the big table. Longing to sit upright, some apologetically crawled up for these. Others grew tired, and left. We wondered where they found food and rest.

Wearily, we looked at one another. And you spoke the Sudden Truth.

Never once did This Table belong to us…

Mashed Authenticity

Lumps. Like ’em or hate ’em?

I love potatoes with lumps…. plenty of cream and plenty of butter. The real deal.

Growing up during the Sputnik era space-race, ‘Tang’ bested real orange juice…boasting a day’s vitamin C and absolutely no floaties. Velveeta melted better than cheese. Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese beat all. Doctors declared baby formula superior to breast milk. Mashed potatoes were sold in a box as dry flakes. We whipped them up speedily… adding hot water, margarine and milk. No peeling, chopping or boiling. Very little mess. And no lumps.

When I knit, I miss-stitch. Then I re-do or adjust on the fly. Over long-term wear and tear, skilled hands mend injury… and record such a history in warp and woof. Innovative alteration authenticates. Personal choices of pattern and material, plus other individualizations, ensure originality. Wear and tear on high quality craftsmanship increases value–both sentimental worth and real-world appraisal.

Which goes back to my point. Real potatoes… Why try SO hard to turn regular old taters into some sort of whipped, fluffed… perfection? Too much ease and uniformity betray cheapness.

A million widgets–all exactly the same–replace easily. If they break, you toss ’em. Only 999,999 left! Our tastebuds long for things singular and personal…. the lumps. So let’s boldly marry human creativity with our all-too-fallible skill.

Then perhaps we find beauty in the lumps. And touch authenticity… 

Take it or Leave it

She sweeps the grey misty hair out of her eyes with a swift motion, and resorts her gaze to a newspaper. The horizon lost its fascination with the silent lowering of a large yellow orb into the water. At sundown, darkness approached, and cut off both view and horizons. Emotions slip in and out of the recesses of her mind, like photographs fading between the pages of an album. Empty expectations eat at her soul. She’d later silence these heart appetites by gnawing on a few inner reserves.

After all, rapping at the door of hope gave no answer. Surprise, unfortunately, showed up at the same threshold too often. Disruptive variety replaced anticipation. Long arms hung limp with the years, along with her heart. Today, she had waited … to no avail.

Gifts arrived on the front stoop… simple boxed events tipping her life this way and that. Today appeared empty of such. Within the quiet chaos she lived frugally and wistfully imagined the faraway world as charitable. These outside receipts had kept her alive. Parcels, when metered out carefully, carried her one to the next.

She grew to check desires against the means and learned to recognize the seeds of things. She sowed a bit of garden within an inside courtyard. This crop rendered her tiny master of this small domain. She put up pantries full of jars. When snow covered the ground, whimsical couriers failed. Men were fickle. Under a clear sky, and shining sun, all turned friendly once more. But in the cold and dark… her own stores kept her warmed and fed.

She moves inside, away from the dim porch. Tonight’s biting wind hints at the shadows of winter. Instead of turning toward the middle of the compound, she looks down the same gravel road. One more good night’s rest…. she could manage the walk.

Turning to the hearth, she states to no one,

“Done with it all’….  ‘tomorrow, I go. Any crap can wait.’

She thrilled quietly and pictured her own little stoop underneath piles of baggage.


Five Fish… each with a Tale(and a few fins)

Our predicament….

My son brings home some fish. He had faithfully cleaned the tank, changed the fixtures, and added back his cleaner-fish—the sole survivor of another tank full. We bottled up a water sample. Hope runs high as my son and big sis drive off to the store to gather new tenants for this lovely place.

Five tetras arrive home later that day. We place them into their new digs and remark how beautiful they are! Except for a bit of skittishness with one-another, and low-appetite, all seems well…. for a time.

They eat little at first, so we feed them slowly. They act upset. We chalk it up to the regroup and relocation. The next morning one fish appears ‘missing’–no dead body. I pick up the castle and this little guy darts out. He took refuge–not inside a room–but down underneath the pedestal. The fish all pick at one another… we struggle to find a source of the conflict.

One theory… hunger leads to cannibalism. On day two, appetite kicks in. We shower these fish with boatloads of food three times per day. Our corollary: a satiated fish makes a peaceful fish. But this lot manages to eat plenty and swipe at each other, too.

Yet the next morning, the same little runt turns up with fins and tail mauled. One of us accuses the little fish of bullying—his beatings must arise from natural fish-justice. Doubtful, I take a net, and corner my best suspect. I sequester him in a baggie for part of the afternoon. Time out. The situation calms. I put him back. Cynically, I wonder if we will solve the mystery only as the last fish still stands

We euthanize our first little fish after he developed pallor. He can barely swim. Infection set in, since scales were ripped open and vulnerable. Then… over the span of one more week, we lose the next two the same way.

Of course, sociopaths snipe while no one looks. So… Mr. Bully now lays low. Apparently his tank-mate manages him, for now. But fish tanks were meant to hold glorious life up close… not as a looking-glass of death.

Our choice? Add fish only to watch them die… or scrap it and start over.

We wisely watch and wait. Give it time. We will return our underwater window back to health and wellness. After all, it’s our tank.

Destroyers naturally self-destruct… and life will triumph.

Pride comes before….

you see, I patted myself on the back.

After all, my neighbor told me about her day over the phone. She lived on a farm. Her husband farmed for a living. On this day, his birthday, she surprised him with a large farm-style dinner. Since he was harvesting, she brought it right out to him in the field… hot and ready.

Dinner on the tractor or combine happened regularly. But, it rarely measured up to this one. Turkey, and all the trimmings…. and iced tea plus dessert. She pulled the big bird out of the oven, slicing it up… and fixed plates full. Covering them carefully, she headed out the door to run dinner up the road to her hungry and happy husband.

In haste she failed to account for a few details. One in particular….Upon returning home, she walked into her kitchen to find something much more like a massacre than Thanksgiving. You see, while she went out, the family’s golden retriever took note of her inattention and managed to make the most of the situation. The remains of it all lay strewn all around her kitchen, and then some….

What a horrible end to her exceptional intentions.

I sympathized with her and then hung up the phone. I returned to my household. Inwardly I congratulated myself on being wise enough not to own a dog of any kind. I turned from the kitchen where I had anchored for the last half hour—phones were tethered to a wall back then. Hearing silence, I quickly investigated my children’s whereabouts.

I found them…. three preschoolers in one bathroom. Together they enthusiastically cleaned my bathroom using all the washcloths and towels they found at hand….

….. and toilet water.