Tuesday, September 4, 2007

return to simplicity: food and music

What a Woche! It was our third actual week in the Small Red House (only 1.5 months after moving in!), and there was a long-not-seen cousin visiting before she left for a life in Japan. And there was the darling daughter, being her usual exuberant self. And the wedding. And we put together IKEA furniture and bought bookshelves out of a law school library. And you were there, and you, and you...

It was all we could do last night to just make a (very, very late) home-cooked meal of tofu-zucchini koftas and chappatis. After a bite or two, we looked up at each other and exhaled. There we were, at last, together in our house. We'd gotten through it all, even if we never got around to sweeping the floors.

The moment was made all the sweeter by our local public radio station, which was playing a special show of Doc Watson and Jean Ritchie. I recall many a childhood afternoon spent in the den, singing along with Hazel Dickens begging for "black waters, black waters / no more in my land," and here was Jean not only singing it herself, but talking about Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, the burnt swath of Appalachia lost to mountaintop removal, and the rally she attended at the UN recently, as an old lady. And her voice, like a coal-mine canary, Appalachian without shying from conventional prettiness, soulful without tearing at her own chest. So much like Doc's gentlemanly baritone, with its Carolina drawl and lack of pretension, latter-day Dixiephilic or otherwise. I got that catch in my throat like when I listen to Paul Robeson or Pete Seeger or Lotte Lenya or Johnny Cash. It's not because of any outstanding heroism on their part, per se, but because they are Big People. To hear their voices is like to walk beneath a centuries-old spruce: it dwarfs you with its majesty, humbles you with its tireless patience, and saddens you to think of its waning lifespan. These human beings possess enormous knowledge and love for mankind. Who in this world of record contracts and bohemian self-promoters will carry on when they go?

And so I put down my chappati, this small thing made with flour and hands, looked at the one I love, and sighed. What a joy is life in late summer!

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