It’s 5:15 in the morning. My alarm just went off, but I was up at 4… and at 2.
Since coming home from the wedding, Emily and I decided that for the first few months of 2017, all we wanted in the world was to be boring. No sudden moves. No job changes and hunts. No weddings, no big events, no nothing. For just a few months, all we wanted to do was wake up, go to work, come home, maybe eat out every now and again, and catch our breath after the last year and a half.
Things keep changing though, and the world comes knocking.
Since I was a kid, I loved folk stories and legends. One of my favorites was a story about the Magic Ring of Solomon. In short, the famous Biblical king seeks to humble an overly-proud servant of his by giving him an impossible quest: finding a magic ring that will make a happy man sad and a sad man happy. The legendarily wise king is astonished when the servant returns, claiming to have succeeded. The ring is a plain silver band, with the Hebrew for “This too shall pass” engraved on it. Immediately, the king realizes all his riches and success will one day be ashes, but that a man NOT fortunate enough to be king would take the message as a promise of good things to come.
According to the legend, Solomon rewards his servant handsomely, takes the “magic” ring, and it gives him balance and wisdom the rest of his life.
We do not all have magic rings.
We do not all realize how things can-and must- change.
We do not all know that nothing lasts forever.
I promised myself long ago that this blog would not get political- and I plan to keep to that promise. We are in a time of upheaval. There are those who would say we always have been, but don’t really pay attention.
So maybe this blog can be like Solomon’s ring- not everything to everyone, but SOMETHING to everyone, maybe everything to someone.
If nothing else, I offer a counter cliche to “things change.”
More than once, I felt burned out.
More than once, I wanted to rip my hair out and scream in frustration.
More than once, I collapsed in a sobbing heap and just wanted to pull the earth over me.
More than once, it really goddamn sucked.
Baking and cooking (though mostly cooking recently, as baking is my job.) The meditative prep and emotional lift of good flavors and smells- and feeding someone else- can’t fail to ground me in some universal truth: that all people eat, and being one who feeds them is a gift. Back at the casino, I told my friend Karen that when life gets really frustrating, I find myself looking forward to going to work because that’s where I know there are things under my control. I remember her chuckling and nodding and saying, “That’s absolutely it… and no one else will ever understand it.”
Warm Society. As I write this, I am sitting at the bar of the Liquor Store on Belmont in SE Portland. The bartenders and kitchen staff know me here. No one is really bothering or talking to me- and sometimes that’s how I like it. All the better to write. It’s a splendid thing to, every now and then, be wrapped in the ambivalent embrace of the public and carry on my day as a spectator to theirs. Perhaps they feel the same way about mine.
Books. I read and reread my favorites, the ones that inspire and make me smile. Certain stories wrap me in their lessons and words, reminding me that there is still hope in the world. There are always heroes, and who knows where they will come from- but when I read these books, I feel for a moment that I can be one.
Exercise. It does more than keep me healthy, it makes me feel ALIVE. It forces my body out of torpor, and so forces my brain to quell whatever it is that’s bothering me for the time being. With the sun on my face, weight in my hands, and sweat pouring, my mind can move in different directions. All of my best ideas come to me when I am exercising- it’s one of the few times I can go completely, perfectly blank.