Is anyone else out there as deeply disturbed by current events as I am right now? I know we’ve always had war in various places of the world, plus poor people shunted aside and ignored, plus victims of racism, homophobia, and violence to nature and humankind. But somehow, this year, these sad and bitter parts of human behavior feel like an iron cloak on my shoulders. I cannot even read about Syria anymore it is so upsetting, particularly after reading the luminous book, The Bread of Angels by Stephanie Soldana, which tells of the monastery outside of Damascus headed by an Italian priest who tried to stay neutral and provide sanctuary for both sides in the conflict. He has since had to leave the country.
Today I ran around the house, trying to find something that would make me feel not quite so like a blasted heath or the aftermath of a car crash. Called a friend. That kind of helped except she was decidedly needy at the time, and I was decidedly not in a place to nourish her. Walked the dog in the cold. Always good for a time, but somehow it wasn’t doing it for me. And straight gin at 2 in the afternoon simply isn’t an option.
Then, ex-hippie that I am, I ran out to the early winter garden (somehow rushing about when you feel terrible always seems to help), removed the mulch from the leeks and pulled them out, then found a few last carrots hiding under the leaves. They were huge and healthy looking, a bright, crisp orange. Inside I washed the veggies, chopped the leeks, and sliced the carrots, putting them into a big iron pot with sizzling olive oil. Then I added part of a sweet potato, a chopped apple, homemade chicken broth, balsamic vinegar, fresh thyme, a sprinkle of ginger, and lots of fresh black pepper.
Grinding up the pepper definitely made me feel better. I put on some Gregorian chant and listened to it as I stirred the soup. The black mood began to lift. And with it, I lifted my hands.
“I have no control over this, God. I cannot help the Syrians being killed in Damascus. I can’t help the Christians in Iraq. I can’t repair the European Union or help the enraged Greeks. But by God, I can make soup.”
Blessed John the 23rd, a man of great humility and joy who oversaw the Vatican II Council and opened the doors of the Catholic Church to the winds of modernity, used to pray in bed at night with these words: “Lord, it’s your Church, not mine. I did the best I can. I’m going to bed!”
This is a good attitude to have. It doesn’t take away our responsibility to vote, to help the poor and the needy. It just reminds us that ultimately, this is not in our hands. What is in my hands is making soup, bringing some to a vet friend who just had his mouth harpooned by a dentist, and feeding my “guys” at the end of a long work day.
It doesn’t always feel like much, but somehow I think it is “much.” We feed others. And they go out into the world to feed others. Imagine those hands cradled around a cup of hot homemade soup and I think we have a small glimpse of heaven — a concrete, earthy, nourishing heaven.