This week I've been asking myself what makes a person’s spirit feel bountiful, and what makes a person’s spirit feel depleted? How easily we slip between the sensations of fullness and emptiness.
Yesterday, the Austin Farmer’s Market won me over. Like a reward for every person who committed to pungent-flavored meals thickly composed of winter roots and greens, the spring vegetables showed up at vendor stalls. Without exaggeration, I purchased the healthiest looking carrots I have ever set eyes on. Nearly day-glow orange, they appear to be packed with nutrients and moisture.
As I was putting the goods away, I could not resist the temptation to eat one of the carrots. It was like a plate of warm brownies was sitting in front of me. That’s how strong the temptation felt. I rinsed the carrot and chomped into it without bothering to peel the outer skin.
Chris and I also ate at the market for the first time. We shared a plate of soft and fluffy whole wheat biscuits with white gravy and sausage and a plate of scrambled chorizo and duck eggs. We also asked for a side of locally made honey butter. The owners of Dai Due use almost entirely seasonal and locally produced food that has been grown with sustainable agricultural methods; they use homegrown herbs too. Guess what? You can taste the difference. You not only taste the difference, but you also build up an appetite for your meal. After placing and order, the chef stands behind the his stove and prepares everything to order. So for fifteen minutes, I soaked in this not-quite spring day and anticipated.
Anticipation, the mashing together of longing and frustration for desires yet to be met, is an extraordinary state; have you ever stopped to take notice in the midst of experiencing anticipation? Don't most of us spend every waking moment in anticipation?
As soon as we have occasion, I want to eat at one of Dai Due’s monthly supper club events. They select different outdoor locations, hire a band, and prepare a 4-10 course dinner with the freshest ingredients in an under-the-stars, Japanese-lantern-lit, picnic style setting. From the looks of it, the chef sets up an outdoor kitchen, so dinner guests get to take in the aroma of their meal as it's being prepared.
Everything about Dai Due Supper Club suggests bounty. Bursting yesterday: with adults, children, leashed, grinning dogs; orchids, herbs and cacti to take home and pot or root into the earth; raw Gulf shrimp, fresh fish, locally raised beef and hogs; prepared loaves of bread, hot coffee, pastries; artisan cheeses, cheddar and feta and fresh mozzarella; newly plucked turnips and carrots and sunflower sprouts; musicians pouring sound out into the air – this colorful life animated, crawling about like ants on a great anthill, the market itself could not have painted a more bountiful depiction of spirit.
Last weekend, a young woman in my MFA program, a poet, took her life. All week, I have thought about her. What unbearable suffering she must have felt in the face of her own abundance and the world’s abundance that can seem so unattainable at times. Doesn’t if feel sometimes as if we have such an intensely great deal to offer out to the world, yet we cannot find the paths by which to deliver our own harvest?
I did not know her well at all, though we started the program the same year. I remember that I was excited that we shared a birthday, but a friendship simply never blossomed. Here is what I observed about this poet: She exuded a kind heart. Her eyes had a spark that showed wonderment about the world and also suggested wry humor and a degree of skepticism. In photographs, she is captured with every animal imaginable. She laughs and nuzzles horses, holds turtles and yellow slugs in the palms of her hands; shoulders wild birds; in one, a family of squirrels is gathered around her, crawling on her lap and arms like she is Mary Poppins. The images show a human being at ease as an animal among animals, one living creature among many living creatures. What is not special? What about this girl’s demonstrable comfort and love is not bounty?
Her death has reminded me of my friend Marcie, of our phone conversations in 1998, when Marcie’s sister had taken her own life, and of a few years ago when Marcie also took her life. This poet's death has reminded me of my grief, and of my friend's heavy, incomprehensible suffering. Emptiness and fullness muddled together.
This young woman who, for a childish instant, I thought I would befriend because I have been so used to collecting January-birth friends, this poet, has reminded me of how we human beings have spirits that – all at once! – run dry with the sorrows that defeat us day by day and overflow with the profusion in our hearts, our very capacity to love. Inadvertently, we bear the weight of these opposing forces, the balance shifting back and forth over and over through time.
I had a similar feeling in the market yesterday. The changing of seasons was apparent.