There comes a time in life when you feel you have little, when things you once have had have broken, and you want to lean on them or reach for them, but they are not there, but still you lean and reach and fall and, if you do it right, you begin to stand up straight, and this feels like a plane finally catching some wind under its wing and ascending.
What can I say? I was asked by my web designer to write a blog for my restaurant, Portico. Something different, he said.
I told him, “You know, I think that if I write, it will not be about food, because my heart is elsewhere, meandering in different streams, and that will confuse people. Quite honestly, I am not thinking about food, but more about love, and the feeling of emptiness one can have in the pits of the stomach.”
“There it is,” he said. “You just mentioned the stomach, so it is at least tangentially about food.”
And, so, as is my style, I lay in my bed for a few weeks thinking of something to write about that would not embarrass me, that would, perhaps, make my restaurant famous.
Another friend, a poet, told me, “Tell stories about the famous chefs you have met in other countries and of the dishes they have taught you.”
“But I have not met famous chefs in other countries,” I said, blankly.
“It doesn’t matter, make it up. You are a writer. Sell your restaurant,” the poet said. “Just make sure that when you write poetry you never lie. It is the language of the heart.”
And, so, I returned to my bed, which was no longer my bed, which is another, longer story, and for a few weeks, I looked as calmly as I could, out the window in my state of sleeplessness, wanting desperately to return to sleep, but instead I made myself humble against my will and watched the trees outside my window turn green-black in the light before dawn, as the sky began to bruise, and then I heard the first chirpings of the birds, and I realized that the voices of the birds before dawn come from their nests, in a flightless state, where they sit and they, too, prepare for their day, waiting for the sun to rise, and for the beautiful workings of earth to begin as our little slice of place — Whidbey Island — slides itself beneath the glowing mantle of sun, and lifts itself in its daily prayer, and still I lay, like the bird in the nest, waiting, as the trees do too, preparing to grip the golden sun, and to reach skyward and downward, to the glittering sky and the darkened earth, as the symphony of birds tucked deep in the branches revealed their lonely cries.
One bird, one bird I began to love, spoke deeply of love, and when he spoke, his voice was so true, and the other birds became quiet, because he was insistent, and hurt, and he repeated the same line over and over, over and over, drilling his melodious cry into the darkened sky, where the air was still cool, and slightly moist, and he, too, was calling for his love, a love he yearned for so deeply. All the other birds became totally quiet in their reverence as he became quiet, and all waited for an answer, but there was none, and the lonely bird spoke once or twice more, and still there was silence, and I closed my eyes with him, and prayed into the silence that was like the calmest lake all around, and I could feel the lover bird sit down into the silence of his nest accepting that all things must change, and that sitting in silence is hard.
With my head on my pillow, and my eyes quiet and deep, I began to remember a past love that had come and then it had gone. “Other loves were easier to let go of than this love,” I thought.
“When a love is true, it finds a place to live within you, and when it goes away, it leaves a hollow place, where you must look, and if you can go there, to the place that your love could for you, you will find she has left you a dark and lonely kiss full of answers.”
And so, how funny is this thing we call life! For so many weeks I wracked my mind to find a story that would somehow glamorize me, lift my restaurant, nudge a little pie slicer under a juicy morsel of story that would assure my importance in this world. But when I finally took the time to open my mouth, in a state of surrender, it was, once again, my heart that wanted to speak, pleading with me, as always, not to be betrayed by a man who could not love.