A friend and I used to have a very particular ritual on Friday afternoons after our classes were all wrapped up for the day during our varsity years. We would mosey on down to the corner café to get our hands on a copy of the Mail & Guardian, pick up a six pack of Black Labels, and head back to his place. Once home, stretched out on the lawn outside, a chilled Label in hand, we would page through the newspaper to Lev David’s column so I could read it aloud, chuckling all the while. Thereafter we would swap sections and share bits and pieces that piqued our interest, sun shining and the beer a’flowing. I still think back on those days with nothing but fondness for good times.
And I have to say, it has me pondering…
It feels sometimes in this world of chasing Likes, chasing the next Big Thing, like everyone is always after the Stand-Out Moment. Look at me everybody, climbing to the pinnacle of this mountain! Look at me, out with my friends having the wildest party of our lives! Look at me, more madly in love than anyone has ever been! Look at me, slaying at my job, executive seat here I come! Look at me, hot-to-trot globetrotter on a mission to see it all!
And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing in and of itself… Celebrate those grander occasions by all occasion, with all of your heart! They’re glorious for sure. I feel you.
But personally, for me, it’s so often those littler, less obtrusive moments, seemingly completely insignificant or mundane that are sometimes the sweetest and most tender… And there can be an utterly enchanting quality to those everyday rituals, if we only take the time to notice.
Given my oh-so-very-English background where dinner time was often simply a perfunctory affair, when I first visited the home of my dear friend, Renata, the experience was one that was entirely new to me. And I was enthralled, to say the least. Here, food was lovingly prepared by the entire family, and each character had a role to play.
Renata’s father is exactly what one would expect of an Italian papa bear, warm and generous to a fault with a naughty twinkle in his eyes and a wicked sense of humour. Her artistic mother of Afrikaans heritage is seldom without an apron, either tending to the herbs in the garden or perusing decor magazines for DIY tips for her home, a calm maternal force in this otherwise boisterous household.
Her father would grate the parmesan, while Renata and her mother perfected the robust pasta sauce. Her younger brother meanwhile would be tempering dark chocolate for the delectable after-dinner cherries. When one of them was not busy with a task, they would join me at the table in the kitchen for an aperitif, nibbling on the spread of glossy olives and especially sourced slithers of salami that had been laid out.
It all left an indelible imprint on me. And these days, I always think of them when I find myself in the kitchen, applying myself to the art of cooking from the heart, or in a restaurant, delighting in even that first crack of a spoon on the top of a soft boiled egg or perfect crème brûlée.
And when I find myself washing up dishes, I think of all the years spent at my grandparent’s where my grandfather would clean up after a meal with an almost saintly dedication… Or the way in which my mom, an artist, cares immaculately for her brushes, and my father, a chef, for his knives. There is pride to be taken in caring for the tools that serve you so very generously day in and day out, a ritualistic sacrament even in keeping of the home a sacred space for ourselves and those with whom we lovingly share our space. Slowly, but surely, I have come to see in all things and in all actions, the potential for gratitude and sanctity. No matter how small. There is, to me, a kind of quiet unspoken beauty in domesticity. One that soothes me and brings me back to myself after a day’s work. Maybe that’s just me.
I remember still today, as if it was yesterday, the walk to work in my early twenties. I remember my senses revelling in the journey. I would walk past a laundromat, in the cold of winter, as the warm air would envelop me in the scent of fabric softener. Further along I would be welcomed by the comforting waft of baking bread from the German-owned bakery and finally the intoxicating aromas from the longstanding coffee shop roasting their beans from everywhere and elsewhere. I guess you could say this was my way of stopping to smell the roses. With no one there to witness the exquisite joy this brought me but myself. The universe showing me that it is infinitely kind and lovely beyond measure. In so many ways.
And in so many ways I wish and urge one and all… Go forth, and live big and bold and bright and beautifully! Climb that mountain! See the world! Whatever your heart desires… Whatever fuels your fire. But never forget that those littler kindlings of the heart can be equally rewarding… And once in a while, where you can, find yourself stopping to smell those roses. In a cup of tea. In a lasagne lovingly made from scratch. In the crisp sheets of a warm bed. In a book that rendered you to tears. In a song that reminded you of a lost love. In the first bud of a fledgling plant. In a home you get to call all your own.
In the everyday.
Each and every day.