Sunday, June 18, 2006

They Can't Take That Away From Me

You wouldn't be able to tell from my other cooking recently, but this weekend did not get off to a good start.

The truth is, Dear Readers, I discovered that someone had slipped into my house while I was mowing the lawn, and he stole my four most valuable (in monetary terms) pieces of jewelry and copies of the cards in my wallet (not the wallet itself).

You can imagine my reactions: utter disbelief, self-reproach for leaving the house open, gut-wrenching fear, determination to do whatever I could to prevent anything worse from happening (like identity theft), and relief that only things had been taken.

I slept very ill Friday night, as you might have guessed. But something amazing happened Saturday morning as I walked downtown to the farmers' market. Absorbed in seeing newly planted flower beds, inhaling the fragrance of lavender blossoms, hearing birdsong all around me, I experienced clarity and felt deep within me the truth of what I already knew:

My true treasures are not those lovely jewels that were given to me as I came of age, nor any other material possession. Dear though they may be, given by family and friends, but in the end, they're just things.

No, my true treasures are those qualities that no one can take from me: an appreciation of beauty, a sense of wonder and joy, security in knowing who I am, deep and abiding love for and from the people in my life, and profound gratitude for all of this.

Going to the market that morning was, perhaps, the most healing act I could have done, because it allowed me to step outside my own cares to see and hear other people and to appreciate the wondrous beauty of all they had to offer. On the one hand, what I find at the market is just food, meant to nourish the body. On the other hand, knowing that this food was raised and produced with care according to personal principles –- and that supporting these farmers means supporting the community, something beyond myself –- you can see that food truly nourishes the spirit as well as the body.

So tonight I decided to make a special, almost entirely local meal for myself to celebrate this newfound sense of freedom.

First, I made an enormous and lavish salad with mixed greens, strawberry halves, crushed walnuts, crumbled goat cheese (not local, alas), a chiffonade of fresh basil plus the few basil flowers from the pot on my windowsill, sliced spring onions, and a balsamic vinaigrette.

Yes, I ate all of that all by myself, and it was the best salad I have had in a very long time!

Then I tried a recipe from Local Flavors, recently given to me by Mr. Nice Guy's parents (he comes by it honestly), and braised asparagus in a light sauce with spring onions, garlic chives from my garden, and the Rhapsody wine that also accompanied dinner. At the end of cooking, I threw in a small handful of fresh peas as well as a few sprigs of fresh dill from my garden, and I served it all over polenta made with locally ground cornmeal.

I savored each and every bite (and sip), giving thanks for all the fine people who contributed to the making of this meal, for the light and life that went into all the foods, and for my ability to appreciate it all –- the smell, the taste, the sight, and the sensation.

It's not about the food. (Okay, it's not just about the food.) The true pleasure comes from a deeper awareness of and connection to the source of the food, recognizing that we are all woven together in life, that we are all interdependent, and that this is the source of our strength, not our weakness.

I do regret losing my jewelry, but I've let go of it, knowing that I still have the memories associated with those pieces -– and knowing that I possess more precious "jewels" than those, ones that can never be taken away.

And it's my hope that everyone, even this thief, has that same happy realization for themselves.


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