Shared sacraments

Olive oil, vine-ripened tomatoes, mushrooms, yellow onions, and green onions sit on a cutting board, April 9, 2005 in Northport, Alabama. (Photo by Carmen K. Sisson/Cloudybright) (Carmen K. Sisson/Cloudybright)

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Northport, Alabama

After all of your kind words, I am a bit intimidated — and a lot humbled. Each of you, the ones who comment and the ones who lurk, save my life in ways I can never begin to explain. The fact that you come here each day to see my work, to read about my struggles and triumphs, never ceases to amaze me. I was looking for a place to belong. I thought I would find it in a newsroom. I never expected to find it in the words and images of total strangers.

Sometimes I think I owe you all so much more, that nothing I can give will ever be enough. Sometimes I worry that you will give up on me before the darkness lets me go. At 3 a.m. when I can’t sleep, it is good to have somewhere to lose myself, to find myself, to know that someone online will more than likely respond within the hour — all I have to do is reach out. If I am alone it is because I isolate myself.

You all have taught me that and so much more. Thank you. Even for the ones who do not comment, I know you are there and it means the world to me.

As for this image, I can’t think of many things that convey love, safety, and security better than a cutting board laden with fresh vegetables taken from the garden. There is something so basic, so real in cooking with someone you love, of sharing that space in the kitchen, sharing that space in their heart as you work together in silence, no words needed.

We spend our days mired in technology, trapped in a sterile world of pixels and data. It is easy to lose ourselves, to lose one another. Rarely do we take the time to stop, to experience this very moment in all its richness and beauty. And even as we try to grasp it, it is gone. Our food comes shrink-wrapped, pre-cooked, swathed in plastic and aluminum. And the more we consume, the more anemic we become — dead to life, dead to ourselves.

Practioners of Zen believe in the art of being fully and completely in the moment, whatever that moment might be. A simple meal is elevated to an art form when each stage is performed slowly, deliberately. The selection of the vegetables, running light fingertips across the textures — knobby, soft, smooth — respecting the misshapen, the damaged, the scarred as part of the process. Washing away the dirt, feeling the coldness of the water, restoring purity, removing the grime of daily life. Slicing each item carefully, with no hurry, knowing that there is time enough for everything and that the best things are the ones for which we take the time to wait.

There is something so profoundly comforting, so intimate, about cooking with another person, hands brushing occasionally as you co-mingle vegetables in the bowl, shoulders touching as you go about your individual tasks, separate but joined in a bond as unbreakable as time itself.

In his book of essays, Broken Vessels, Catholic writer Andre Dubus alludes to this sanctity, “She and I and the kitchen have become extraordinary: we are not simply eating; we are pausing in the march to perform an act together; we are in love; and the meal offered and received is a sacrament which says: I know you will die; I am sharing food with you; it is all I can do, and it is everything.”

And it is. It was. Always.

Music of the day: My Immortal by Evanescence (lyrics)


About the image

Olive oil, vine-ripened tomatoes, mushrooms, yellow onions, and green onions sit on a cutting board, April 9, 2005 in Northport, Alabama. (Photo by Carmen K. Sisson/Cloudybright)

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