Have you ever had a craving undefined?
No matter what you do, nothing suits. Nothing soothes. And nothing satisfies.
I think it’s a hunger of the spirit that can only be fulfilled by an object, act, or experience—i.e., the proverbial snuggling with a good book and cup of tea, a romantic rainstorm playing in the back-ground—that carries associations of our best and happiest times.
Often, when I feel a need for solace and sustenance I crave a bowl of my mother’s pasta e fagioli or farina. I imagine her bending over a fragrant pot on the stove, stirring, the kitchen windows steaming, the sun sparkling, the birds singing, you get the picture…
It’s a simple image, and I’ve noticed that the older I get the more I crave simplicity. Abundant choices—and the longing for and delight in them—increasingly seem to be the purview of youth. While I want to walk as fast as I can away from what that portends for me, I must admit it appears to be connected to the balancing of life’s scales.
A child wants to collect, and keep, every shell on the beach. Adults pocket one—the prettiest, most unusual, most symbolic shell—as a memento. And in later years, it seems, one rests content with seashell memories of seagull breezy afternoons relaxing in the sand…
The past few years my parents have been in a constant state of shedding their seashells. They are always leaving my sisters and I with bags and boxes of possessions still too dear to discard, but a burden now to keep around. For taking care of stuff, we all know, is exhausting.
The monkish part of me (which has always taken up a lot of who I am) forever longs to discard, unburden, retire to stillness and contemplation. It’s not that I don’t enjoy enjoying life: the noise, doing productive work, witnessing the world’s spectacles. I do crave communion with my fellow creatures—sharing meals, laughter, and ideas—but I desire silence and time to reflect just as much. And I seldom feel the need to possess.
Right now, however, my desk is cluttered with symbols of my possessions: manuscripts to edit, bills, school papers, notices of forthcoming events. The months brim with activities, celebrations, and deadlines. These are the trinkets and spoils of daily life. But in this state, my cluttered desk and schedule can sometimes inhibit creativity.
And so, when I sit down to write I must begin by envisioning an empty desk…
Sometimes, when I am taking a breather from work, I lean back in my desk chair and imagine what they are serving for lunch in Heaven. Usually, it is soup and good bread. A steaming cup of glistening broth that brims with colorful vegetables, tender chicken chunks, and delicate dumplings, rice, or pasta.
The bread is the kind that you break apart with both hands. It’s dark and dense and soaks up the richly seasoned broth. And so abundant the hearty crumbs feed all the hungry doves and chubby cherubim hovering nearby.
For me, this is what life’s about. Putting everything you have in one enormous pot (we call it jumbot) and serving it forth—all around and seconds. When the bowl feels empty, it’s like an empty page. Which is never really empty because it holds sustaining memories and the comforting promise of many fulfilling retellings.
May you always drink life to the lees, and do so with a childlike zest!