I summed up the pages of books read in 2019. A rather disappointing 10,689 pages. I wasn’t surprised. I hadn’t prioritized reading last year. While I still racked in 30 titles, I chose scrolling over page turning. There are seasons for reading and retreat and seasons for trying to re-enter the world.
I chose the later.
The first weekend of the new year, I picked titles to download on my Kindle – light books to lift the spirit.
This week, I consumed Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love and Food by Ann Hood. Her series of essays based on food and the comfort in brings in all seasons of life was a page turner and delightful, and to my surprise, was laced with grief. She lost a daughter at the age of five, went through a divorce, had to recreate and remember someone dear who never grew into size six shoes.
“Dang it,” I thought, “wasn’t this supposed to be a light read?”
On the pages were permission to use food as comfort, to create something out of nothing, and sit and chew and swallow in sad remembrance.
Turn the page and still another essay was about the simplicity of tomatoes and the multitude of ways we can use the fruit to celebrate – soak them in vodka, mash into sauce, cover meat and simmer into something else all together.
Hood integrates her sadness into her studies with food and then uses words and morsels to comfort herself. Her exercises also brought comfort to me.
And later, on a bright Saturday afternoon, I accepted an invitation to see Little Women and walked out of the sun into a dark theater. The seat squeaked as I sat down, my feet crunching on kernels left by the guest before me.
An intended afternoon escape, the movie mixed dark and light, and creativity and giving and loss so beautifully, I started to vibrate.
As the movie danced back and forth from past to present, I knew what was coming. (Spoiler Alert) How could I have forgotten that Beth is going to die?
Jo lays on the twin mattress next to her fading sister and pleads, “Fight for us Bethie. Stay here and fight.” I heard stories of something similar although the words for us were different.
“Don’t go. Don’t go. Don’t go.”
In the dark theater, it seemed once again that I can’t escape it. The truth of mortality, the thread of loss weaving us all together in some cluster of something. I see my stitches – what’s still unclear is the mess they are creating when I pull my own threads in line with those of others.
In stories, in movie theaters, in recipes calling us to mix salt and soda and sugar and sweet. It’s here. This grief. I can’t escape it.
I work on writing to you, dear readers, stories and experience of the beauty our world has to offer and each week I will my fingers and my spirits to speak of lighter things. I’m trying to focus my view on only the good and in doing so the dark seeps, waiting to be tickled and seen.
For awhile, I felt sorry.
For now, I feel it’s the only way I know how.
To nod to it’s being here and still search for the good God promises will follow, or perhaps has been here all along.
In the ink of Hood’s writing were woven stories of love and compassion and longing and recovery. The magic of melting cheese and butter in an omelet made by someone you love. Grandmother’s recipes and the gift of giving tiny tastes to tiny mouths.
And in Gerwig’s Little Women, I was awed by the costumes, the light, the magic of sisterly bonds and the beautiful choice of choosing ambition and creativity over love and recognizing the ache for the people we want to be with us forever.
The beauty is so mixed, I can no longer separate the good and the hurt. It’s all there. Wherever I go.
Please stay with me. Please continue to read. For this is my world, your world, ours. And in it are beautiful things to be seen.
The feel of a warm decaf latte in cold hands at tea time, the crunch of pop corn kernels drizzled in butter, the creative things people choose to put out into the world. Our connectedness. Our hurting. The mixture of love and light and darkness and our aching.
Don’t go. Don’t go. Stay here with me. What beautiful things we can find.