The fire crackled in Peg’s carpeted living room. I sipped white wine from a fluted glass and tears ran down Doug’s bearded face as he recited a poem by Rilke. It might have been from Letters to a Young Poet.
I knew the words by Rilke were seminal in that black night more than a decade ago and I knew what double entendre was. But I was not a weaver then and I did not understand the delicacy of the fabric I wrapped around my shoulders.
When the sun rose over the Shenandoahs, I took my steaming coffee made from what I hoped was the clear brisk river-water near Goshen and sat on the deck as the hills arched up and over my view. It seemed as if the pink sunrise met the tops of the frost-dusted hills.
Inside, Peg was frying eggs or pancakes. Her children announced their wakefulness one by one in the low-roofed kitchen, where mismatched mugs ran along a shelf just under the eaves.
We wrote of love then and of moments but we were chasing words more than meanings.
It is more than ten years later. Doug no longer wears a beard. I am the mother of three. I am alone but not lonely and I understand this quest far better than then.
A year ago, a very familiar person sent me a Rilke quote in the dark of another night. It was May and it was warming but not quite summer. He could see through the tunnel to the other side of the mountain when I only heard the crunch of gravel on my path.
“For one human being to love another:
that is the most difficult of all our tasks,
the ultimate, the last test of proof,
the work for which all other work
is but preparation.” ~ R.M. Rilke
When I was younger, I ate Oysters Rockefeller with my father at white-clothed restaurant tables. In France, we ate escargot dripping in butter. I was ingesting adventure and the unique connection of a father and a daughter. It was the butter I tasted, or the creamy spinach, not the soft smooth character in each bite.
I have lived three or four lives by now. Finally, I have tasted the gritty salt of the sea, enjoyed the smooth swallow of a delicacy on my tongue, understood the quest for what it is.
I no longer need to mask the flavors. I gain the truest connection by peeling away layers, eliminating sauces. I don’t need to mask the gem at the center of my plate for I am enjoying it as it is, in all its briny essence, one delicious moment at a time.