it’s all about the hawk and the peas

When I was younger I was very methodical about how I ate… not to the point where it would be diagnosable, but I so enjoyed the order of my plate that rather than a fork of this and one of that, often I would complete all my peas before embarking on the chicken, to offer yet one simple example.

image by Elliot Margolies via flickr

My son has inherited this quirk, and while I find it rather endearing I do hope that he too will grow out of it and discover how blending flavors in one’s mouth is sheer bliss, how from a few notes—sweet and sour, crunchy and crackly and silky smooth—comes a polyphonic, synesthetic, incomparably irreplicable pleasure.

But aha… you see, there is a twist. In the same way if you were to take a palette of colors and mix them all together at once you would end up with not only a mess but a blackish color which obliterated all the hue and tone of the lovely colors which were married to produce it, if you do not take care and attention in your blending you will accomplish the same, or nothing, no rich blends, no curious pairings, just mush. Sort of like gathering together all the scraps after a meal (or under a toddler’s chair) and mashing them up.

If, on the contrary, you were to savor this blending, to curate it and care for it with curiosity and creativity and a lentitude that allowed you to savor each moment, each bite, you would find a bit of heaven, or hell, in each swirl over your palate. You would become the Michelangelo of your sensorial life which is, after all, that which gives value and meaning, warmth, to the coldness of fact and circumstance.

Where was I going with this? Oh yes, I remember…

Nearly two-hundred hours without power was a hardship, yes, although fortunately for me and my tribe really just an inconvenience, at least in light of the losses others suffered from this “perfect” October storm. But it was a crash diet, a crash media diet, that is.

Other than a quick check every now and then when I was able to power up my phone, I was as technologically poor and life rich as one can be. Refusing to join the masses of digital refugees who, for the most part, were lost without their bits and bytes, I just sort of dropped out. I saw them everywhere, though, hovering at deli counters and on library floors, if only for a game of solitaire, just to feel plugged in, as though via the cut cord their very life was seeping from them. (I am not speaking of those who had to, despite all, keep working, but rather those who clearly were just cruising through social media or watching youtube videos.)

I was glad to have real books around (and a local bookstore, lit by small battery-powered lanterns and scant natural light, that was full of people). I was glad to have a gas stove and an old-fashioned espresso pot, and enough ingredients and the occasional can that allowed me to cook what was remarkably delicious food, by candlelight.

Just as I had to clear out fridge and freezer, I went from a daily diet of thousands of calories of information, an appetite for words and images so voracious it was consuming me, to just that which was necessary, and in doing so I cleaned my palate. Like a swirl of cool lemon sorbet, it readied me for the next course.

So yes, savoring and with a careful but joyous caution I am dipping my toes back in, but my perspective is different, my priorities shaken and settling in new ways. I realize now that I was more powerless before the power outage than I was during it. By the dim light of candles I led a very different, very connected life (the connection being to the breathing beings around me, not a screen), early to bed and early to rise on farmer’s hours rather than the night-owl schedule I usually keep. Before this I felt increasingly owned by my rss feed, by my longreads and my need to nourish myself on what was happening, now, now, now. During the blackout the now became my own.

Today I was watching some kids playing soccer. It was a glorious day and I had great music swirling from my headphones, I was perched at the top of the stadium when I caught a movement in the corner of my eye and a huge hawk (or falcon or some other majestic creature) flew past me, the swoop swoop of its wings so graceful it seemed to hover there in slow motion. It happened so quickly, yet lasted an eternity, leaving me stunned to have witnessed such beauty. When I looked around at the others in the bleachers I realized that not one other person had noticed it.

It’s all about the hawk, you see. Opening your eyes, cleansing your palate, organizing your plate so that each forkfull has the potential to rock your little world.

That, indeed, is power.

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