Wisdom reveals itself gradually, and comes hidden in some of our most challenging experiences.
Has your hindsight taught you this as well?
Local poet Cindy Day has allowed me to post her poem Mrs. Cloud’s Eggplant Marrakesh in honor of Poetry Month. I wonder how it will affect you? (If you read last week’s blog post on the 10 benefits of reading poetry you will have learned that poetry helps us connect to our emotions and that “poems can help us discover profound truths we didn’t realize we knew.”
Poems provoke us to think, to muse, to ponder. What we project onto any work of art (image, story or poem) tells us a lot about ourselves. Here is the stream of musings Cindy's poem provoked in me:
I came of age during the women’s liberation movement and bra burning demonstrations. We were “enlightened” to be suspicious of traditional tasks of female nurturing…like being “slaves to the stove”. If we found meaning and comfort in providing home-cooked meals for others we learned not to speak up about it too much back then because the climate among “intelligent” women had little tolerance for “traditional” role tasks.
I am SO grateful for the range of options that opened up to my generation of women back then.
I am also SO grateful that I’ve matured beyond the extremes of that time. I am VERY aware there is MUCH yet to be done to protect the welfare of women. I simply don't feel that the privilege of creating shared, nurturing mealtimes is something to feel oppressed by.
The fact is that as of the year 2000 families gathering to eat together had dropped by 43%.
It has gotten worse since then. Having friends over for casual get-togethers had dropped by 35%. It has gotten worse since. (See my info-graphic here.)In the meantime, statistics for anxiety, depression and social isolation are skyrocketing.When my daughter went to college she was a rarity… many of her friends there had never had a home cooked meal. They thought she was a genius because she knew how to roast a chicken.
I’ve come to see the whole “cooking as drudgery” view as very much a first world problem. Gratitude served up on a platter is more palatable to me than political polemics. (We celebrate the "cooks don't clean up" rule here, and yes, I feel free to take a couple of nights off a week!) In this overly disconnected world, I find eating together a nourishing, creative luxury.
What wisdom does Mrs. Cloud speak to you?
Mrs. Cloud and the Eggplant Marrakesh
At the same time I was relieved to eat alone,
a huge, surprising, sighing kind of relief
filled me with hunger for blue cheese and bitter greens,
baguettes, figs—and people! Others. Not myself.
Friends I hadn’t seen in years, or someone new.
Really, I thought, anyone can come, what difference
does it make? The town is full of houses with welcome mats
and locked doors. What if I opened mine to you?
In my book of delights I found a recipe for eggplant
stuffed with rice and raisins, garlic, chick peas,
tomato and vermicelli. Serve with feta cheese,
the good book said. I halved the eggplants
and baked them flesh side down. I sautéed onions
with cumin and raisins as tears fell down my face
for every spiteful meal I’d made, slice and piece
and hurried bite I’d thrown in the garbage
after the kids and Mr. Cloud left me at the table,
in my seat at the foot, in the lull called the end of the meal.
When I prodded the flesh of the eggplant,
making a hollow, I saw I had succeeded;
it would receive what I had made.
And here were my friends like anybody
with their stories, their trouble and fear, their let-downs.
I would feed them a nourishing, delicious meal
and they would bring it to the others.
(This poem is part of a series: Mrs Cloud Meditations. Three Mrs Cloud poems were published in Stone Canoe, the SU journal of Arts and Ideas, where they won the Bea Gonzalez Prize for Poetry 2008)