Back in the last century, a psychologist called Dr Winnicott coined the comforting phrase ‘A good – enough mother’ …. I looked back at yesterday, and thought, yes, I suppose it was a good enough day …
I woke to the sound of the sea smashing onto the rocks. Good, I thought. I love it when there’s a thundering sea running. Up early to take my husband for minor surgery, I went to the cliff edge to see the white foam breaking over the rocks, and looked out to the horizon. The sun was just rising, a flaming red band above the sea, fading to amber, and then to palest turquoise, the few clouds black in the pearly lightening sky. Still. Not a breath of wind in spite of the pounding waves.
I fed the birds and then drove into our nearest country town, and it was chill enough for rags of white mist to drape the hollows, and drift across the dips in the road. By the time we had reached the surgical centre, the sun was up and the burnt gold and brown fields were lying defenceless in the baking heat again. Animals lying heaped in scraps of precious shade …
Leaving the old chap to the anaesthetic and the knife, I searched for a cafe open at 7.30 to have some breakfast, and decided that Eggs Benedict would help to while away the two hours until I fetched him. But by the time I’d picked up the invalid and driven back home with my wonky liver making its grumpy presence known, I realised that Eggs Benedict that early in the day was not a good idea.
Later the morning soared into joy with a long phone call from eldest grandson, completing a double degree in arts and science at Uni. By the time we’d debated GM experimentation and the environment, knocked off Schopenhauer and his will to live, breezed through Nietzsche, explored his theory of the nature of pain, tried to define happiness a propos Nietzsche and his fulfilment of will, covered the architecture of Paris, categorised various behaviours as schizoid, narcissistic etc, explored Maslow’s concept of peak experiences, agreed on beauty, argued about the number of different species of birds, butterflies and animals, discussed his fitness regime and the nuances of rock climbing, I felt as though my brain had had its own peak experience and a mental workout as well.
I put down the phone smiling like a Cheshire cat. Nothing – not even a peak experience – beats talking to my grandchildren. Lunch was a breeze, as a neighbour had dropped in some hot savoury scones and cheese turnovers, so I didn’t have to cook. I replenished the bird’s various feeding bowls with wheat, and then tooled back into town to the surgeon for the invalid’s dressing to be changed, and various instructions for his care. At the chemist, picking up the prescriptions to administer, I was greeted warmly by another customer, a youngish woman in a huge multi-coloured caftan to disguise her weight, and only one arm. As her joyful goodness enveloped me, I felt ashamed of my livery grumpiness.
So I’m now not only cook, bottle-washer, car-washer, gardener, log- carrier, accountant, chauffeur but also nurse. Not, my friends tell me, the sort of cheeky flirty sort that they were in their young days, “ All the men in my ward fell in love with me,” giggled one still beautiful seventy- year- old on the phone…
Stopping at the village shop for milk on the way home I found a parcel waiting for me. It was ‘Carolina Cavalier’, the biography of James Johnston Pettigrew, the other General who led Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg. One of his descendants, a dear friend, had sent it, knowing my fascination for the Civil War.
Early to bed, too tired to start my new book – I just needed some mental knitting – so skipped happily through a Georgette Heyer. Before putting out the light, and opening the window wide so that the sound of the sea would fill the room and all the spaces of the night, I thought about that phrase, a good enough day… and remembered that old legend about the poor man who had a horse he treasured.
One day it disappeared, and all the villagers commiserated with him about his bad luck. But he brushed aside their sympathy saying it wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad. A few days later the horse re-appeared bringing with him a herd of wild horses. Everyone congratulated the old man on his good fortune, but he again brushed it off, saying it was neither good nor bad. His son began breaking in the horses, so that they could sell them, but one day he was thrown, and broke his leg.
More commiserating moans from the villagers, and once more the old man shrugged and refused to judge what had happened. While the son was laid up, the king levied a call on all young men to join the army to fight for their country. How lucky you are that your son can’t go, exclaimed the villagers. And the old man made no comment again. He never judged anything that happened, recognising that he actually never knew whether what happened was fortunate or unfortunate. Life just is.
So I looked back on another daily round filled with common tasks, which furnished all we ought to ask, in the words of the hymn, and there were unexpected gifts as well as the expected challenges. I don’t know what the hidden significance of any of it is… maybe one day I will. Maybe I will never know. Maybe I will know when I reach the other side. It was simply another good enough day. Neither good nor bad. The stuff of life.
Food for Threadbare Gourmets
I have people coming for dinner on Sunday. It started out as four of us, but visiting overseas mutual friends, means that we’re now eight. So I’ve decided to haul a small turkey out of the deep freeze. I’m also going to Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem in Auckland on Saturday night with my daughter, and a party afterwards, and know I won’t be as on the ball on Sunday as I’d like to be. So I cooked the pudding today and it will reheat perfectly. Because it’s a sort of Christmas turkey, I thought I’d do one Christmassy- type pudding, and one refresher – a lemon cream. The Christmassy option is apple crumble, the stewed apple mixed with Christmas mincemeat. It lifts apple crumble into another realm, especially with a little brandy added to the apple- mincemeat mixture, and the crumble a really rich one.
For the crumble – a big one – I used ten ounces of flour, and two of ground almonds, six ounces of butter and eight ounces of sugar, plus grated lemon rind. Mix the butter into the flour, add the rest of the ingredients, tip over the fruit in an ovenproof dish, and bake for forty minutes or so in a medium to hot oven. It will wait in the fridge, and re-heat on the day. I’ll serve it with crème fraiche.
Food for Thought
Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.
Eckhart Tolle born 1948 Influential teacher, philosopher, and best- selling author of spiritual books