There's an update on my last post: Chris our neighbour went and checked the house and pipes: no leaks he says, and the pump room was warm, but the pump seems to have lost its prime. Now I've called Sandy Hamilton, the guy who knows all about plumbing, and he will get the pump primed and check the pipes, etc. I can't wait to be up at the farm seeing it emerge with its winter-faded colours,and with the warm hints of fresh life colouring the trees, especially the dark red of the scrub willows in the wet patches.
And on the general subject of neighbourliness, another gift came my way this week: My cousin Jennifer, who takes on technology with intentness and intelligence, and knows all about digital photography (if you've been to immersethrough.com you'll have seen her name mentioned with gratitude), has offered to drive to Toronto to help set up digital photo files and help generally get the digital photo library organised. I am so grateful! She arrives tomorrow. Wish her luck, please, because I tend to get impatient with the technology. I think the impatience is my way of dealing with feeling intimidated and out of my depth! I have promised my kids that I will be calm...
Heading into this next week, with its load of significance for western Christians and for Jews, I wonder at that weight of the yearly religious cycle. Some people are sustained or held together by it - by the certainty? the sense of identity and community? the continuity? Others are oppressed by the weight of organised religion, and the sense of received thought and the bigotry and entrenched ideas of good and evil, insiders and outsiders, that seem an inevitable part of religion, especially in the west.
Speaking of ritual and tradition, it's the time of year for Easter music. And this year Taffelmusik, the wonderful baroque orchestra that my friend Dina enticed me into subscribing to almost ten years ago, performed Bach's St Matthew's Passion. We heard it on Thursday evening, a stunning performance. There was the orchestra and then a small (nine only) group of singers that together call themselves Les Voix Baroques. Who needs a choir? we felt by the end, when such a wonderful balance is possible, and extraordinary suppleness too.
On another subject entirely: I finally sent in the last article I owed for the Oxford Companion to Southeast Asian Food: highlanders and forest peoples. It was difficult to do, for I am not used to working from anything but primary sources and my own experience. Books are useful to confirm or help explain, but I am not used to relying on other people's writing for basic information. But here I had to, for though I have spent a fair amount of time paying attention to local food and agriculture in various parts of southeast Asia, I still have huge gaps. The trick was to find an organisation that felt comfortable and clear, and then to feel confident enough about what I was saying. And the other trick was to make the entry readable rather than stiff and didactic. Roger Owen gave it a deft little edit, and now it's done and I am relieved! He and Sri Owen have taken on a huge task in editing the Companion. We are now all eager to see it published... I think in 2010.
Made crackers, and non-shmura (= not kosher for Passover) matzo with Dawnthebaker yesterday afternoon. They're all crisp now and ready to be delivered to good friends, for their First Night seder on Wednesday. Rolling out the doughs and cutting them into crackers, bending to the oven, to put them in and take them out - over and over, for crackers are repetitive labour - felt like bending to tradition.
So here I am (having turned in circles in this post) back at the subjects of tradition and continuity, though with a twist. These are far from traditional matzo as people think of them. We used whole Red Fife flour for one batch, spelt flour for another, a blend of barley and spelt for another, etc etc.. You get the idea. We even made a spectacular sweetened-with-maple-syrup version that is aromatic with ginger. Some will be offended by the novelty; others will enjoy exploring new possibilities for an ancient tradition. And that's the idea, right?