I am too alone in the world, and yet not alone enough to make every moment holy.
It is a wonderful blessing to live in the middle of the city, especially as a single gal. Multiple grocery stores, coffee shops, libraries, parks, churches, restaurants and museums are within walking distance and this is all I really need to get by.
Oh yes, and there are people at every turn. Enough people that it is impossible to truly be alone unless I am actually in my apartment. Even then, Simba manages to awaken me to the fact we are not really in solitude with the parade of humans and dogs that stream by outside our window. Furthermore, it is quite impossible to be in complete silence with the sweet sounds of my neighbor and her daughter plucking chords on the guitar or practicing musical verses. You know, living life.
Whereas in the past I would have been more acutely aware and even bothered by these sounds, as of late I am becoming more accustomed the perpetual motion. it is possible that in part this is a general physical desensitization but honestly, it runs much deeper than can be explained away by a simple psychological response.
This kind of peace does not so much respond to the symphony but is in itself the symphony.
By no means have I conquered the noise of this world but when you find even a whisper of peace in your heart and begin to attune yourself to the beat of this heart, those screeching sounds which used to destroy the silence do much less to rattle you.
Yes, a closet hermit can do very well in the city. But the peace is not simple external, it is driven by God.
I find it very strange that I am paradoxically alone and yet completely surrounded. Rilke puts this so much better and is so fewer words but he seems to reference this feeling of being comfortable in solitude but not alone enough to let God completely penetrate the soul. It is so comforting that He is there but yet so frightening that He is so far.
Then again, maybe Rilke means that the world has abandoned him but not enough that he has reached the ranks of the saints, left completely in the wake of the world with only God to contemplate.
Regardless, I guess some more soul quieting is in order. I imagine instead of moaning that I have no time to be in a hut on top of an isolated mountain (with room service of course-ha!) there needs to be more time set aside for quiet prayer. Ok.
I don’t know much but I do know that in keeping with the quest for simplicity of soul I am trying to find healthy food that feeds the body but does not distract the soul. Clean food. Simple food. Nothing too heavy. This family dish came to mind after a long talk over tea with my financial guru friend R. She has a knack for wielding a food budget the way a ninja wields nunchucks.
I have been adding ceci beans for added protein and to stretch the dish further but my family’s original recipe is much simpler. Choose whichsoever makes you happy. Super simple, super delicious, super thrifty!
If you haven’t made it, please do and enjoy.
Swiss Chard and Potatoes w/ Tomato
(Bietole e Patate con Pomodori)
1 (or 2, two wouldn’t ruin it) bunch of swiss chard, washed well with woody stem parts removed
1 pound of potatoes (yukon gold works well), scrubbed
1 onion, chopped
1 can organic ceci beans (garbanzo) -optional
1 large 28 oz can of whole tomatoes in their juices (3 lbs of fresh Roma tomatoes, chopped, if in season)
1 tsp of salt
a few cranks of black pepper
grated pecorino romano to taste
hot pepper seeds to taste
olive oil for cooking
In a large pot, place scrubbed potatoes with the skin still on into a pot of cold water. Make sure water clears the potatoes by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil slowly. Boil potatoes for about 7-10 minutes if they are small to medium, 12-15 if they are on the larger side. Potatoes are ready when a forks can slide in and out with relative ease. Take potatoes out carefully with a slotted spoon and chop into large pieces.
In a dutch oven or large saute pan, saute the onion over medium heat in about a Tbsp of olive oil. Saute until the onion is soft and becoming translucent. Chop chard stems into small, 1/2 inch pieces and tear leaves roughly. Add to pan. Saute for about a minute. Add tomatoes, squeezing them between your fingers as you go. Add potatoes and ceci beans if you have them. Saute until greens and potatoes are soft and tomato juices are covering the vegetables. Season with red pepper seeds, black pepper and ample pecorino romano.
Enjoy in bowls with bread and extra romano.
Oh, and remember, in words better than I can give:
God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going.
No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.