“Why is it that when love becomes a devouring passion, we can no longer bring ourselves to eat?” – Malek Alloula
“I choose to be a figure in that light, / half-blotted by darkness, something moving / across that space, the color of stone / greeting the moon, yet more than stone: / a woman. I choose to walk here. And to draw this circle.” – Adrienne Rich
“She sat on the floor – that was her first impression of Sally – she sat on the floor…” – Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
- 1 tblsp. olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
- Handful of mushrooms, chopped
- 2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 1-2 cups cooked chickpeas
- 1 tsp. rosemary
- 1 tsp. thyme
- Salt and pepper
- 4-6 cups vegetable Broth
My father always told me: When you come down from the mountain, drink a bowl of salty broth.
Down below it’s hard to believe you were ever so high. Up there, above the clouds, the world falls away in jagged troughs. The air is thin and cold, but you are hot, burning from the climb.
Nothing below can touch you. You are godlike and infinitesimal, everything and dust.
Returning down below, you light up the stove and drop the salty cube into the water.
As it starts to rain, you put the water to your mouth, steam rising from the bowl like clouds, building over the peak that is, again, immortal. You, mortal, could not have survived the lightning, the storm. Down below you are small, but you are safe.
From the top of the castle, we could see the countryside, the village, the river, the sky. I told you it looked like Ireland. You were casting spells all over the green green grass and I was unaware. I had never been so green, and I thought maybe you were the rain that had made me so, maybe you were the clouds that made me greener by their gray menacing, opening up to nourish me, and nothing, not even the blue sky could disagree.
Back home, in the city, we chose each other instead of sleep. Days melted together and it seemed your spells had vanquished even the night.
You sat on the floor, that’s what I remember. You sat on the floor.
We dropped down to the lowest place, where we could see each other without the fear of falling. I had been delirious, you unbreakable, as I threw together first the vegetables, and then the beans, and then the salty, salty broth, sprinkling spices like the dust I imagined fairies must use, back in those emerald hills.
We sat below as the soup boiled on the stove, your eyes reflecting ancient stones, mine the soil of spring. Looking at each other this way, I forgot what my father had always taught me. I forgot everything, even my name, even the sun rising and falling and rising again, even the air, even my body.
Down below, in the deepest caverns beneath the heart, I felt the ancient stones reflected in your eyes, solid and immaterial, their weight and their emptiness, and everything caving in towards a central point of knowing, of knowing with my body what I could never say with words.
And even with the bowl to my lips, I could not eat.
You watched me, casting casting casting spells.
You took the bowl from me.
You brought the spoon to my lips, like a benediction.
I tried to explain to her that night, around the fire, the way it had felt to long for you. I took my hand to my belly, placed it where I had felt the earthen aching of your presence, the stones I had left behind, somewhere in those emerald hills.
She looked at me, her brown eyes alight with flame. And that’s when the burning began. Different this time. Deeper.
Hers was a darker magic.
I remember the first time I felt it with her. I remember the day I first knew, in that place of deepest knowing. But it was not stones that filled this place in me, but air. On our backs in a field of tall grass, at sunset, in the wooded hills of our shared home, there was nothing but her body and the air. So much air I thought I must be learning to breath for the first time, and the more I gorged myself on the sky, the more I felt that nothing, not even the earth where we lay, could hold us very long. In the absolute freedom of this weightlessness, we disappeared together to the highest places, stole away into the shadowless sky, and believed ourselves infinite.
Leaving the world this way, I forgot what my father had always taught me.
I did not come down.
I did not come down until the fall.
Between this earthen and this airy aching, there is this body I have always known. Its familiar curves, folds, hinges, surfaces of ever-changing skin, and that place, deep in the center, of empty and full.
If I listen closely enough, I can hear it speaking.
No magic spells, no impossible flights, only the close knowledge that exists at the center of things, the drawing in of everything I have ever loved, the vegetables, spices, salty broth, reunited over the fire, ascending, longing upwards, disappearing into cloud and sky.
The trick is knowing when to come back down. When to sit with a bowl of steaming broth in your hands, and drink.