Sunday, August 5, 2012

Books, Cookies and Emotions


I’ve finished another book and what else can one expect than a few words from me. As I type I debate whether or not to go for another snickerdoodle. The nuns left me four of the cinnamon cookies that taste like pure butter with a note saying “sorry, last leftovers I promise.” They should really get their act together. Will that cookie be my second or third of the day? The sun has set and the darkness begins to overtake the grounds. The cattle are no longer grazing outside my window. My Taize chants continue. They accompany me on my walks to and from prayer services. The French monks of Jerusalem join me in the garden. Now I am in my room, the second of my stay, listening to Taize once more. I realize I’ve listened to three sets throughout the day. Our Gregorian chant I am quickly picking up on in services. My cozy Taize ones. And the ones from the Monks at San Germain. This is getting out of control. Even worse is the fact that I was listening to some on Spotify, conveniently hooked up to my Facebook account to alert all 600 friends.


The book this time was Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl—a memoir in which the author goes through her life in recipes and adventures all related to food. Wonder why Mackenzie thought that would be a good birthday present… Though it wasn’t a particularly profound book (hey, I’ve been more into philosophy these days), it was still a great read—the first “light” book I have enjoyed in quite some time (which reminds me of Wanderlust…my last failed attempt). Call me a literature snob, but I’m not going to waste my time if the book does not make me more educated in some way or is not at least entertaining in a legitimate way. Tender at the Bone appealed to both my love of food and living through it. Best and simplest of all: it’s a real story about a real woman. And, like so many times before, as I reached the last few sentences while sitting in St. Josephs rocking chair wrapped in the quilt, I felt sorrowful. I had just lived through the new and odd life of a woman I will never meet. I had met her family, sat at her dinner table, stood behind her as she prepared a meal. And now it’s over. The beauty and tragedy of literature.

Hill of death. 

What never ceases to astound me is how many emotions can be felt in a day. Sleepiness in the morning on my way to Lauds. Coziness curling up in the morning sun with coffee and my then unfinished book. Respect and awe in mass and during Father’s homily on the kingdom of God. Satisfaction after clearing out weeds from our squash in the vegetable garden. Delight at my third meal of rice and sausage leftovers with cookies and honeydew. Liberation and passion for life biking around Shaw Island. Determination biking up a steep hill. Satisfaction with reaching it. Disheartenment realizing there were more. Sheer terror at going down “the infamous hill which caused the youth groups accident last year.” Relief for making it down the steep dirt and pebble decline. Exhaustion from an 8 mile bike ride. Comfort working with Mother Felicitas packaging and labeling the monastery’s famous spicy mustard. Hunger walking into Vespers. Peace sitting and praying in the chapel. Determination with chores. Success with my ham and grilled cheese concoction. Comfort in reading. Sorrow in finishing. Humility with such a beautiful day.