11 March 2014
I have never been so anxious about dinner before in my life. I knew we had a lot to do to get ready from 5 – 6, but nothing seemed to be working. And I made an apricot crumble from scratch, with my own crumble recipe I scrounged from the internet, and then it wouldn’t brown. I think the oven was on too low, but I did exactly what Anja had written. I was so nervous I could have been sick. I almost didn’t even have a piece of the crumble. Almost.
There’s just so much to learn. I feel like I’ve only been cooking for three days. As in, ever. I know Andrew cooks a lot at home, but I used to bake, I make soups. I survive. But this… Cooking for more than 20 people, with that baseline number poised to double in a few weeks. Terrifying.
I almost put too much milk in the scones this morning too. At least those were a success at the tea break. At least we have a tea break every day. It calms the nerves, maybe. At least the custard was hot with the pudding, so it made up for the tepid crumble temperatures, maybe. I mean, it wasn’t that bad. But I think my nerves are fried.
My solution to this : stop freaking out. Just stop. Step back and realize that there is very little I could actually do to horrendously ruin a meal (oh my god, knock on wood) and that these people are astronomically forgiving. Three residents came into the Kitchen after dinner and helped us clean up all of the dishes, while we cleared away the leftovers, swept, sanitized. There is so much help here, and helpfulness. A few days ago, I thought I should always serve at least two other people water before pouring my own as a reminder of how much care is taken here to create community. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a place like that before, like this.
I went home on my afternoon break and wanted to write letters, to read books, to come back in early and write a letter to you here, but instead I slept. And when my alarm didn’t go off at 3:15, I slept more. I slept all the way until 4:20, thankfully waking up far in advance of when I needed to get back for the evening shift. I was slightly annoyed at this phone again, its unreliable nature. But I knew I needed the rest.
One day, every new skill turns into habit. It’s true, isn’t it? How a skill sinks down below the skin and sits in your bones, mans your limbs and commands the muscles? How it turns your body, just so, toward what is being achieved, and never expects it to fail. That expectation of failure… That is, again, me standing in front of myself.
Step back, breath out.
P.s. Wait. I’m not done. I was going to give you a Jane Kenyon poem two days ago, but I kept forgetting. And it fits in perfectly with your letter. I shouldn’t still be surprised, but I am.
March. Rain. Five days now.
Water gathers in flat places,
finds every space between stones.
The river peaks, fish lie
stunned on the muddy bottom.
After the crash in the Swiss
countryside, an arm
dangles from a tree. A tortoiseshell
comb parts the grass.
The bookmark is still in place.
This month I was five days late,
but now the blood comes in a rush.
Let everything fall where it will.
Someone unpacks a suitcase, thinks
of living without possessions.
I was thinking of how to explain this poem to Almut, the German volunteer who lives with us, whom I met on the bus from Craignure to Fionnphort, who spoke of wanting to minimalize her life to what is manageable. I was thinking how to take this poem apart. But then, maybe I wouldn’t have to explain anything to her. Maybe she would understand how all of these situations are being weighed equally against each other: the atrocity, the small griefs, the simple truths of weather. Maybe she knows this is how the world turns, and the only way to survive it is to let it all fall and to pick it all up, to bear each moment equally.
To love them all, in spite of what might come.