Glorious weather and I hope it lasts over the weekend, because on Sunday I am travelling over five mountain passes to visit my friend Char in her new home. She has a backyard with peach trees, a deep well with a pump, tall palm trees, a vine bower (whatever that may be) surrounding an Edwardian homestead. Despite the excitement of owning a garden with a well, she is not happy there. But some people are not happy anywhere, and Char’s discontent leads her to move house every other year. She indulges in new houses the way some people take new meds or change husbands.
My housemate calls from a farm stall near the coast and asks if I want her to buy coriander, large brown mushrooms, parsnips, baby turnips, cherry tomatoes. Yes, I shout, just as the phone goes dead on me again. One of those ongoing problems in an area with poor reception. When we go over to vist Char I am going to take along an avocado-wasabi salad that friends either love or hate. It has toasted slivered almonds, tiny edumame beans, julienned carrots, coriander, rocket, avocado and a crazy but exciting wasabi dressing. Char is not a cook, so I shall also take along some freshly baked foccacio in case the meal is a non-event. It is unimaginable to me that food gives her no pleasure, that she can live on coffee, cigarettes and property listings.
From a new article by Michael Pollan in the New York Review of Books on food politics:
Ever the Italian, Petrini puts pleasure at the center of his politics, which might explain why Slow Food is not always taken as seriously as it deserves to be. For why shouldn’t pleasure figure in the politics of the food movement? Good food is potentially one of the most democratic pleasures a society can offer, and is one of those subjects, like sports, that people can talk about across lines of class, ethnicity, and race.
Our Cape winters are often mild, with sunny days and high blue skies, perfect for mountain hikes or camping trips or exploring the desert areas of the Kalahari or Karoo. Some hiking trails — the Fish River Canyon in Namibia for example — are only open during the winter months because the heat is too fierce during the summer. A group of us are planning to spend some time on a farm near Ceres for a few days, primarily so we can do birdwatching — raptors in abundance — and sleep out under the stars around a camp fire. In recovery it is still a source of amazement and joy to me that I am able to plan ahead and know I will be able to keep to those plans and show up on time, in my right mind. For years I shied away from commitments because I knew the drinking would get in the way, and the drinking came first.
Now I sit under an olive tree in the garden admiring malachite sunbirds, reading a (sadly very bad) biography on Jorge Luis Borges, drinking chamomile tea and revelling in pleasure. Thinking about the pleasure of continued freedom from that old regime of slavery and stuckness, the bleakness of my life under the lash of alcoholism.
And such pleasure, such freedom, is not to be taken lightly. I was moved to tears this morning reading the words of the elderly Iranian poet Simin Behbahani currently under house arrest despite her age and frailty. Hope shines through her determination to work for restorative justice, no matter what the cost:
My country, I will build you again, if need be, with bricks made from my life. I will build columns to support your roof, if need be, with my own bones. I will inhale again the perfume of flower favored by your youth. I will wash again the blood off your body with torrents of my tears.
Once more, the darkness will leave this house. And I will paint my poems blue with the color of our sky. The resurrector of old bones will grant me in his bounty a mountain’s splendor in his testing grounds. Old, I may be, but, given the chance, I will learn. I will begin a second youth alongside my progeny. I will recite the Hadith of love of country with such fervor as to make each word bear life. There still burns a fire in my breast to keep undiminished the warmth of kinship. I feel for my people.