Saturday, May 29, 2010

The mystery of God touches us — or does not —in the smallest details: giving a strawberry, with love; receiving a touch, with love; sharing the snapdragon red of an autumn sunset, with love.
—Marion Woodman, Coming Home to Myself

Recently a friend sent me a beautiful poem, a reflection on wild strawberries in a cemeterty and it got me thinking about those luscious red fruits.

I am not talking about the ones we can now get year round in the plastic containers. I am talking about those beautiful Northwest berries—so fragile that you need to hold the green cardboard box with tenderness as you carry it to the car, so sweet that you hardly need any sugar but you put a little on them anyway so they make some juice.

I grew up in a meat and potatoes family that reflected my father’s North Dakota farming roots. In that family supper was not complete without bread and butter. It was the same in our family. The table was not set unless we had bread and margarine resting on their little plates.

My mother’s side of the family, going back three generations, is from Seattle. They usually ate in a meat and potatoes fashion as well except for once a year.

Sometime, usually around the end of June or first of July, whenever the strawberries were really ripe, mom would make biscuits the size of a dinner plate. Hot from the oven she split them open and put a huge pat of butter on the bottom half. Next she piled on sliced strawberries sweetened with just a little sugar. Then she plopped on freshly whipped cream flavored with just a little powered sugar and vanilla. Finally, the top of the biscuit was placed like a crown on top of all that and more strawberries and whipped cream were added to that. Then we ate dinner: that was dinner.

Once a year my sister and I stared incredulously at the biscuit, the pile of strawberries and the dripping whipped cream concoction simply unbelieving in our good luck to be born into this particular family.

Sometimes we had bacon on the side, a concession, I think, to my father who could not imagine a meal without protein.

So I’ve been thinking about this meal unlike any other we ate all year. I’ve been thinking about dry times in our lives when it seems like the same meat and potatoes meal will be our sustenance forever.

Agatha Christie has written: I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable. . .but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.

I think she might be talking about grace. . .the iris so deep blue-purple you want to dive into the yellow center and drown in its light; the soft chick-a-dee-dee-dee that falls on your ear like a forest Muzak; the buoyancy of prayers that lift us up in times of sorrow and grief; of unexpected moments of reconciliation in relationships that take our breath away.

This life we have been given—so precious, so tender—it is as if God offers us strawberry shortcake each moment of every day and our only task is to remember to eat with gratitude.

Laurie Rudel

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