Leaving my monthly meeting, I drove home under the full moon. As I left the city and began to drive through empty country roads with no street lights, the moon shone whitely down on the fields and hills, so that they looked as though they slept under a frosting of snow.
I sang various rough and ready versions of arias from La Traviata, which was still on my mind, cracking on the high notes, and missing the low ones entirely as I flew along the quiet roads . At the meditation group I’d been to, I sat next to two sisters, not twins, but so alike in spite of seven years between them, the youngest only twenty-one, that they could have been. Both beautiful, gentle and good. I was the oldest there by a good twenty years, and they were the youngest. It made me feel good just to look at them.
At the end of an hour’s driving under the moon, I walked to the edge of the cliff when I got home to watch the wide path of light across the sea. No sound but the susurrations of the waves licking against the rocks below. As I made my way down the path to the door, I eased a few ripe guavas off the over-hanging branches, and sucked their tangy sweetness, spitting out the pips.
And I awoke to the sound of the tuis, the black and turquoise song-birds with their white bow-tie bobbing at their throats, singing their sweet songs to each other in the trees around the house. In the warm winter sunshine I took my breakfast tray into the garden and sat on the garden seat, and watched and listened to six tuis in the pururi tree above me. They sucked the honey out of the pink flowers with their long curved beaks, and warbled love-songs to each other as they sprang from branch to branch.
The albertine rose which should only flower in spring is blooming riotously over the trellis arch, where it twines into the ivy and the perpetually flowering mutabilis rose. With blue ageratum sprawling around the garden beds, and deep pink cannas, pink daisies and purple pansies, the garden feels as flowery as though it’s summer instead of almost midwinter.
To have time to stand and stare like this is one of the great compensations for that stage of life when playing tennis is a distant memory, and climbing mountains a permanent impossibility.
When I was young I used to look at older people sitting in deck-chairs gazing out to sea, instead of racing along the beach, or plunging into the sea with shrieks of laughter. Poor old things I patronisingly thought to myself, life must be so boring. I know better now. They were probably enjoying themselves far more than I, savouring the little things in life that I was far too busy being busy to even to notice.
Some people call this mindfulness. In his book ‘Peace is Every Step’, Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh has a chapter called Present Moment, Wonderful Moment. And that’s how it seemed, sitting in the garden eating my toast and drinking my coffee this morning.
Food for Threadbare Gourmets means racking my brains for something quick and spoily to give my grand-daughter when she comes tomorrow to teach me how to use my computer ie, get into Facebook, and all the other wonders of social media.
Since we’re having roast chicken tonight, I’ll keep the breasts for lunch tomorrow. I’ll make a thick parsley sauce, almost emerald green with parsley, and flavoured with some of the chicken essences and some sliced mushrooms sautéed in butter. I’ll chop the chicken breasts into small chunks and stir into the sauce. I have some emergency puff pastry vol au vents in my store cupboard, and they’ll be filled with the chicken mixture and heated up. We’ll eat them with new potatoes and salad. A quick emergency pudding will be artisan ice-cream made by the chap down the road, with meringues – another store cupboard stand-bye for grand-children, all doused in a chocolate and cointreau sauce from a gourmet bottle given to me at Christmas. That should do it!
PS. The best way to have green green parsley is to plunge it into boiling water for a minute. When you take it out and chop it, it keeps its bright emerald colour.
And now some Food for Thought: A job is what we do for money; work is what we do for love. Mary Sarah Quinn