A poster of Kuan Yin, the Buddhist goddess of compassion and mercy, hangs in my living room. She looks relaxed, at ease, overlooking the worldly chaos that we endure daily. “Relax,” she seems to radiate. Okay. I think I will.
The new year is always a pretty high time for me. This year, it all began with a Christmas tree. For the first time in, oh, say 30 years, I bought a small tree a few days before Christmas. It came with lights and, I have to say, was pretty cute. I decorated the artificial leaves with paper ornaments downloaded from the Internet and added a few more lights to brighten the room. It brought me great joy. Each morning, I plodded around in my red flannel nightgown feeling, well, relaxed.
Nice. No urgency, no panic. Could it be that making that last payment on my living room furniture could bring such calm? No. It was deeper than that. I had begun to take charge of my life in this strange world of recovery from CIDP in a more confident way.
Like the calming voice of a hypnotist, everything seemed to be repeating that word, and the word itself seemed to be swathed in a soft blue light. “Okay,” I thought.
One morning, I plugged in the tree and (using my new Roku television app!) found a virtual fireplace with Christmas music. Standing back and looking at the fireplace and the tree, I was once again struck by how relaxed I felt. I’ve had such rare moments of this kind of peace that I had to take it all in one moment at a time. I felt warm, cozy, and ready for 2016. How would I begin this year?
I emptied a pack of raw cranberries into a saucepan, added some sugar, and stood stirring and watching as the red berries began to bubble. There were three things that came to mind that would make this a year of relaxation: cooking, writing, and— crocheting. Crocheting? More about that later.
Cooking puts me in my happy place. It’s one of the few areas in my life where I am totally at ease, content. This explains why, when I lost my ability to feel with my hands or lift things, I panicked. The kitchen is my sacred space. And this is something I got from my parents and extended family, both men and women. In the kitchen, secrets were shared, hearts were healed, and great food was made. Perhaps this is why, when I think of the peaceful times in my family, it has to do with food.
The cranberries had boiled into a thick, sugary sauce. Yes, cooking would definitely contribute to a peaceful year. Then, I thought about writing. Ahh. Writing. It is no exaggeration to say that writing has saved my life. But my resolution is not about discipline; I can always use more discipline. It’s about staying in touch with that fire that kept me going in my journals when I thought everything was lost. It’s about using it to connect my personal history, my ancestry, and food.
Yum. I knew that I was gonna have a glorious holiday breakfast. The virtual fireplace was roaring, the choir was singing “Angels We Have Heard On High,” and the tree sparkled against the dawn.
I sliced a hunk of cranberry speckled cornbread and put it in the toaster oven to heat. Now, about this crochet madness. Really, Sala? Really?
When I was child living with six other people in a two bedroom apartment, my mother (very much a southern woman) ensured that my sister and I learn needlework, crochet, and a little sewing. While my sister seemed to take to sewing like a duck in water, I rebelled (my middle name). In my young adult years, however, I came back to crocheting. It seemed that even several straight rows, unrecognizable as anything usable, appeared to erase the passage of time. An added benefit was that sitting at a party with yarn and a crochet needle drew the guys to my corner like bees to honey. They considered me “deep.”
The cornbread was hot and I slathered it with my newly made cranberry sauce and butter. Nope. Watching my weight was not even in the list for the new year. Next were fried apples, heavily seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg, and dates for sweetener. Of course I cooked them in butter; I’m not stupid!
Standing over the stove and plating the food filled me with an inner sweetness matched only by the odors filling my apartment. Like a ghost, the smells slipped under the door and out into the building hallway. I’m sure that everyone on my floor knew I had cinnamon for breakfast.
This morning, post-New Year’s celebrations and all, I have the urge to crochet a wall hanging and frame it. I’ll let y’all know how that goes. Joy is the greatest gift we have, and for some outlandish reason, I feel that relaxed joy is the most important part of my resolution for 2016. Not weight loss; not changing my style; not a spreadsheet with tips about exercise. All this is important, but the most important is joy.
Relaxation and joy. That’s what I want for the new year. And that’s what I wish for you.
Sala, may I ask where you got this poster? I have been looking for a print of this statue and Google brought me to your post. Thanks!
Liz Bryant of Santa Fe NM
Hi Liz, Isn’t she lovely? I bought it from the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City, MO about 20 years ago. I don’t know if they still sell it. The statue is on display there. I hope you can get one. Sala
Sala, may I ask where you found this poster? I am trying to find a photo of this wonderful Guanyin of the Southern Sea from the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, and Google brought me to your post. Thanks,
Liz Bryant in Santa Fe NM
I bought the poster from the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City many years ago. I don’t know any other place to get it. Thanks for reading.
Oh I can taste the cranberries, the corn bread, the apples, the cinnamon!! What a beautiful, peaceful, nourishing image of warmth and self love. JUST like the Dereck Walcott poem. Wishing you a year of feasting, dear Sala – on joy, on love, on life xxx
Thank you, Sarah! Much love, Sala
Thank you, my dearest, for such a loving wish for us. Relaxation and joy. You’ve articulated exactly what I ache for but hadn’t quite put it to words. I’ll take your wish into my heart and hold it dear.
Oh! Even after speaking with you last night, I am moved again by your comments. Thank you, Dianne.
What a beautiful scene you conjure up here. Very relaxing. By the way, I have a small statue of Kuan Yin in a small garden outside my window. For some reason she always sets me at peace. Since she is just an inanimate piece of plaster or whatever she is made of, it is really amazing how she seems to radiate peace and compassion from somewhere inside.
Yes, isn’t Kuan Yin amazing? I love that she lives in your garden.