Monday, April 26, 2010


At this time of year it feels like every day is filled to bursting with life and events, and takes up more space than a normal day, making the weeks huge too.

Full moon comes the day after tomorrow, so we have another day of waxing moon to do some early planting of lettuce and brassicas etc. (They say the waning moon is less good for planting, less encouraging for growth.) Perhaps it's the full moon, or maybe it's just the arrival of May, a breakpoint in the calendar, but whatever the reason, it feels as if these coming days are full of departures and arrivals and more departures. It's as if the planets are shifting in their orbits, or life is moving to its summer schedule.

We're ready for this change, after the early bursting forth of trees and blossom, tulips a rich red or yellow, daffodils nearly over, and trees in new sparkling leaf. The dark pink, nearly purple, blooms on the large ornamental plum trees at the university are just coming out, almost pompous in their statement of "look-at-me" glory. They're spectacular, but not heartwarming in the way that more delicate unfoldings can be.

When I've been out for my small morning jogs in the last few weeks I've noticed the sharp shadows of the tree skeletons on the road and sidewalks and greening grass. Now that clarity and structure have gone, blurred by leaves and blossoms, not to return until the last leaves have fallen in late November. These markers feel significant every year. Maybe that's why churches and religions of all kinds have such an attachment to the calendar of festivals, the ritual passing of each day of the year, each season of the underlying story. It's a way of marking time and committing to each day.

Our early ancestors must have marked the seasons and subseasons carefully, for sure. It's essential to survival in a pre-industrial situation, and it may yet be essential even to those of us living in modern post-industrial environments. But even if we don't NEED to tune in for our immediate practical survival, surely, in my attachment to these seasonal markers, to knowing the phases of the moon and being attentive to natural cycles, I'm connecting to some atavistic need for a sense of order, trying to find coherence in a chaotic world.

But back to the departures and arrivals schedule for a moment. We have friends leaving tonight for a wedding in Isanbul; another arriving tomorrow from Budapest after a vocanic ash delay. In the next week friends are heading variously to Merlefest (bluegrass etc music in North Carolina); Paris; Berlin; Shanghai; and Minnesota. Finally, looming large and happily, is Tashi's departure on Sunday for seven weeks away in Greece and Italy.

I am thrilled that he gets to have that out-on-the-road feeling of exhilaration mixed with a little anxiety. Yes it's a tired metaphor for life, but still a useful one. These days there may be email access in most places, and ATM's are where money comes from (rather than a tattered roll of AmEx travellers' cheques), and phoning internationally is easy, but still, an open-ended trip to places far away is a huge adventure. Tashi has had his head in the ancient world for a number of years now, though this year has been the most intensive, with courses in Ancient Greek and in Latin. So he has a long list of places he'd like to see and places he can already imagine.

When I went to Greece long long ago I was pretty ignorant of Greek mythology and history. (I still am, rather disgracefully so.) Instead I was curious about daily life, loved the olives and the fresh tomato and feta salads. The first salad I ate, near the Corinth Canal the evening of the day we got off the ferry at Patras, was stunning. There was souvlaki too, tender little pieces of lamb grilled over a simple open fire. No later salad or souvlaki on the trip could match the heart-stopping deliciousness of that first Greek meal eaten on Greek soil.

For Tashi, lamb and tomatoes and olives are foods to be avoided or navigated around, rather than relished. So I guess he'll be eating a lot of yogurt and bread... as he walks a lot of miles in antique shoes.

By the time he's back in eight weeks we'll be almost at the solstice and yet another full moon. Time enough to think of summer. For now it's the green of spring, the promise of tender asparagus and ramps (I stir-fried chopped ramps with some crisp local black kale the other day, a real spring-on-a-plate kind of dish that went beautifully with grilled pork sausage and grilled local lamb), that fills my imaginative horizon and puts a lightness in my step and a smile on my face.

Oh, and do remember to have a look at the moon, a long oval this evening, and soon to be roundly full, marking our time in our place.

A POSTSCRIPT: There's an article in ZesterDaily (do you know it? if not, have a look, a weekly online newspaper of good solid and interesting food journalism) by Robyn Eckhardt, with photos by Dave Hagerman, about the threat to Chiang Mai's Gat Luang, the amazing market, alive at all hours, in Chiang Mai. Anyone who has spent time living in Chiang Mai knows it and loves it; many people rely on it for their livelihood. On the first night of immersethrough, we head there to eat Kanom jiin, and then later we shop there in the daytime, always a knockout experience for people. Here's the link to Robyn's article:


globalgal said...

As I read about your morning jog, I could see Toronto in early Spring. I do miss it. I used to live in Kensington Market, but left 5 years ago for China. I love it when you write about food and your travels, but also smile when a wee bit of my old haunting grounds appears as well.

shayma said...

beautiful to read about this, as we are being pulled into winter. x shayma