The Written Word

I had “high tea” with an old friend, a man, yesterday. We met at the local art gallery. We were pleased at the presentation of our two unique pots of tea with matching cups on coasters set on a tea tray with a mini pitcher of agave for sweetening our Masala chai’s. He had the black tea version while I had the rooibos (not caffeinated) version. The presentation elevated the art of sipping tea. We felt special. And the whole thing evoked a conversation about an acquaintance of his, a potter in Sebastopol, who at some point in his career visited Japan and returned with the inspiration for a whole new line of pottery with a Japanese aesthetic.

Conversations are funny animals…they start in one place and then wriggle into another entirely different arena. I mentioned that I had begun clearing clutter once again. Not exactly clutter, but I had ripped several pages from a journal dated 2020, not that long ago. I quickly found that on each page was something about which I became curious. This led me to investigate further online, to inquire into why I had thought something was important enough to write down in the first place.

Sorting through my written words, reading them before I decide to discard them or not, certainly stalls the clearing process. There on the same page is a reminder to buy applesauce with a notation of the Werner Herzog film “Where the Green Ants Dream.” I did rent and watch that film and found it to be insightful and sad. But I hadn’t seen the other film, “Neither Wolf nor Dog.” I added it to my list of films to watch.

Then, there were notes from a Permaculture group that I had met with briefly, before Covid. I can let those pages go for now. Then the reminder to “Do something for someone else”– always a good idea. And then to “dress wild.” I wonder if I was feeling too conservative and hemmed in by inner and outer strictures at the time. I don’t think that one took–maybe I added some brighter colors to my wardrobe. Lists that were fulfilled…or not. Tomato plants, applesauce again, reminder to buy a birthday card and book on meditation for one of my daughters. And to call my oldest brother to see if he remembers “the old man” in the neighborhood when we were kids.

As a woman of the age that I am, I wondered on paper about what my job description is these days. Is there an affirmation that I need that might propel me forward in my life…a way to live that is fulfilling to me and helpful to others…I wondered. I added books from my notes to my books-to-read list. And there they were, the directions on how to make a face mask. I pondered in pen if there was a group that embodied artists for social change.

My friend and I duly noted how one can get diverted so easily from an initial task and end up pursuing another direction. How could I resist following the note to listen to an interview by Frederik Skavlan, (a prominent Norwegian TV host, journalist and cartoonist) with Leonard Cohen and his then partner, Anjani Thomas? I told my friend that I’d send him the link to the interview which was quite good. And a link to Pearl, a once-upon-a-time Mount Shasta spiritual icon. In her very late years, there she was reciting a poem about aging and she broke down and cried towards the end of her recitation.

My friend said that when he and his elder men companions meet at another café daily, they discuss what it means to them to be aging. And they comment how they no longer “fit” in this world. And, he also said that they talk about getting rid of stuff. He might pick up something that he either received as a gift or purchased on a whim at one time. He has had it for say ten years or more. It has no particular use other than being novel. He dusts it off, studies it and decides he can’t part with it yet.

I tell my friend that Al Gore was also on the stage in the interview with Leonard Cohen. Cohen had said something like “It’s only catastrophe that encourages people to change.” Al Gore begged to differ on that point…he believes that we are at a critical time on this planet. And that “A course correction is urgent and indicated.” And that we need to employ our foresight to change that course. Hindsight is a luxury that we don’t have in this case.

Later on in the day I listened to four young Norwegian men singing Hallelujah…one of Leonard Cohen’s songs that has global appeal. I find it difficult to easily part with the written word. It takes me down so many tunnels. Enjoy your day.

Things Change, People Die

We know this…Most of us can name things and people that we’ve lost over the course of our lives. I certainly can. However, it really came home to me (again) yesterday when I was continuing with sorting and discarding “stuff.” There is a normal accumulation of things that we do as humans. In fact Stephanie Vogt in her book, A Year to Clear, says that clearing our stuff is a lifelong process. We can count on accumulating and releasing things ad infinitum. However, I believe that I would feel better if I had that sense of spaciousness that she offers in her book. I’d like to look out over the landscape of my little cottage and feel more order, beauty and space now or at least a year from now.

Yesterday, I pulled a couple of boxes of old check registers from the closet shelf. I googled how long do I need to keep check registers. One answer was one year followed by other answers that said at least ten years or perhaps five years. So I decided on seven years. I would hold onto these for seven years. One bit of logic from the google exploration was that they take up so little space so it would be fine to hold onto them forever. My thinking is that it would be one less thing for my family to have to deal with when my time comes.

I started with registers from 2009. The Bank of America branch that I was with in 2009, had dissolved, closed and left us without a B of A locally. So I transferred my account to another local bank. The registers were bound by circular wires. I removed them from the wires and shredded the papers. As I did so, I read who the checks were paid to…I decided to list the people and the shops, cafes or businesses that no longer existed. I came up with at least forty (40) businesses and/or people who were no longer here. The businesses had closed and the people had either died or moved away. It sort of shocked me to realize this. I frequented many of the businesses more than once in 2009. And these people who passed or moved, there were varying degrees of connection to them.

So you adjust, adapt to these losses or changes or find a way to get the need that was once met by them in another way. And sometimes, you just miss them. A sort of nostalgia surrounds them. Like New Sammy’s restaurant in Talent, Oregon near Ashland. Before I had ever been there, I had heard that it was truly a gourmet restaurant with the highest standards. And that the chef was a woman with a Ph.D. who turned to a career in cooking par excellence. That her husband was a wine connoisseur,  a sommelier, who matched the perfect wine with any dessert and entrée. And to have the fullest experience, it was wise to allow his recommended pairings.

I put off going there because I didn’t have anyone to go with, the waiting list was three months out, it was expensive. Then, one day, I was in Ashland and happened to run into this handsome young man that I had met casually in Mount Shasta where we both lived. In the course of our casual conversation, he told me that he was going to New Sammy’s for lunch! I said “I’ve always wanted to go there.” He invited me to meet him there in half-an-hour. I was a believer in serendipities and spontaneity so I met him there. I had what I would say was the best dining experience of my entire life! I agreed to the full meal experience with a most delicious risotto that sat in a broth that I spooned into my mouth until the plate was almost dry. I don’t remember the wine that her husband paired with this dish, but I do remember the satisfaction, the complementary quality of the wine to the risotto.

Then came the dessert, a heavenly chocolate soufflé also paired with a dessert wine. The complete pleasure that I felt at the end of this meal, comfortable and happy cannot be described in words. Gastronomical delights is the phrase that suddenly popped into my mind.

Gabriel, the young man that I was with…the conversation flowed and there was an ease about the whole experience. He was a regular customer there, so he knew the routine and I felt guided by his expertise. Gabriel had stomach ulcers…and he delighted in fine dining which, at times could exacerbate his condition. Being a gourmand, an appreciator of fine dining, this was a bind for him. Yet he allowed himself this pleasure on occasion. I noticed, in my 2009 check register, a couple of checks made out to him. I could only imagine that it was connected to me repaying him for our shared meal. Did we go together a second time? I can’t quite remember. I know that I went by myself one more time. And I vowed I would go again.

However, since then, the sommelier husband has died and recently, the chef closed their restaurant. I knew that cooking was a love of her life as was her husband.
All of this by looking through check registers. Gabriel has died also. A few years ago, I stopped by a friend’s house to say a brief “Hello” and make a delivery…I often shared cake or pies that I baked with friends. Gabriel was sitting on the front porch talking with this friend. I didn’t want to interrupt, made a brief apologetic hello in his direction and left. Gabriel died a few days later–he crashed his car into a tree late one night.

All of this and more stashed in my memory as I shredded some old check registers. There are so many stories that we carry within us. It’s surprising what is invoked by the act of clearing some clutter. It’s no wonder that we put it off. Stephanie Vogt says that is one reason why clearing clutter is so hard…there are the attachments we have ascribed to things. They conjure up so much. I’m taking it slow.

What are you clearing, releasing, saying farewell to? How’s it going for you?