A glorious lazy start to the weekend — woke up to the delicious smell of grilling bacon and percolating Kenyan coffee. The birds had quietened down and the house was filled with sunlight and silence.
When I came back from eating out in a local restaurant last night, I went into the back garden to scan the skies; a new moon is almost here, sometimes called the Dark Moon in Aquarius. This year it will coincide with a solar eclipse. At night the garden is deep in shadow and the scent of the ‘Black Knight’ buddleia with its panicles of deep purple blossom very strong and sweet.
Implicit in the Steps is the notion of attentiveness, sometimes called mindfulness. Listening out for the whisper of the divine, the wordlessness of God. It is about keeping quiet long enough to find stillness, the deep peace of the natural world. For most of my life my mind has been filled with empty noise, the clamouring ego, the sound and light pollution of our crazy society. Now the silence fills me at unexpected moments, within me and all around.
We went out to supper in a small local restaurant recently refurbished, simple whitewashed rooms with high ceilings and polished mahogany tables, the shimmer of reflective surfaces: mirrors, glass, silver and lit candles. Slow smoky jazz playing in the background. The owner/chef Neil came to sit with us, recommending the Moroccan lamb with preserved lemons, the oxtail, the crisp green salads and Caprese’s layering of ripe slices of tomato and buffalo-milk mozzarella, spiced with bright green basil leaves. The place was full of couples and groups of friends, everyone laughing and chatting.
Neil asked if I still do food reviews and the laughter bubbled up inside me. As a food critic I was the strangest creature. I would begin the meal filled with kindness because the glass of cabernet sauvignon was going to my head and everything would seem wonderful, delightful, heightened and promising. After a few glasses of wine, my palate would be numbed and dull but I would go on tasting and passing opinions. Lit up and talkative. Then the second bottle of wine would be empty, but there would be liqueurs to have with great sugary desserts. More of my own voice prattling away full of conviction and vehemence.
And afterwards I would go home and make notes of what I had eaten, scrawled spidery aides-memoires so that when I woke up the next morning something would be there to help my addled memory. But as I sat writing, a sodden bitterness would come over me: I would feel bloated and dyspeptic and highly critical of the food — it now seemed too rich, the portions too large, the melange of tastes discordant — too garlicky, to buttery, too much chilli, not enough lemon, too little mustard, too much whipped cream. I would condemn what I had praised so lavishly earlier. And when I woke hungover with indigestion the next morning, I would work out a compromise, trying to be fair and not blame my own excesses on the restaurant. Those endless juggling acts of the ambivalent alcoholic-in-hiding…
The longer I am sober, the less I am able to romance the drinking. All those ‘beaded bubbles winking at the brim’ were just illusions bursting as if pricked by a pin. Now Iam sometimes able to shut up and listen to the silence.