Friday, 11 February 2011

Chicken Pot Pies and Hedgehogs

After almost no sleep ...

I got up at 8:30 or so ... fell asleep at about 4:30 ... and begged off snow shoeing.

Then I made a chicken pot pie ... cooked chicken, chicken gravy, freshly cooked potatoes, carrots and onions under a tea biscuit crust.  It looks lovely but I am not overjoyed with the flavour.  I may pop Peter's portion in as an extra with the instructions to re-heat in the oven and apply spices liberally ... and eat as soon as he receives it.  Or I may play it safe and not damage my reputation by giving him any even as a gift!

I finished my first reading of The Elegance of the Hedgehog ... and now want to read it again soon ... savouring it.  But first I want to finish reading Eat, Pray, Love which I started last night.

Hedgehog is a story about two protagonists caught in the world where materialism reigns. One has given up on love; the other on life.  They hide their real identities and pretend to be dullards, but they are found out by a Japanese man with exquisite taste and no pretensions.  The book is about more than that simple plot line.  It is about life, beauty and transience and how they are linked.

I think I wrote in an earlier post that this book is really philosophy masquerading as fiction, and so what remains after this first reading is the ideas and insights which, like the spirits of the newly dead, hover around the body for a while after the light goes out..

Here are some of the quotes that stayed with me and made me think ...

"I was in the back room, euphoric, my eyes filling with tears, in the miraculous presence of Art."

"Why do two short, unexplained scenes, not driven by anything in the plot, arouse in us such a powerful emotion, containing the entire film between their ineffable parentheses?"

"True novelty is that which does not grow old. despite the passage of time."

"The contemplation of eternity within the very movement of life."

"If you forget the future, you lose the present."

"When movement has been banished from a nature that seeks its continuity, when it becomes renegade and remarkable by virtue of its very discontinuity, it attains the level of esthetic creation.  Because art is life, playing to other rhythms."

"... pity the poor in spirit who know neither the enchantment nor the beauty of language."

"Perhaps the Japanese have learned that you can only savor a pleasure when you know it is ephemeral and unique; armed with this knowledge, they are yet able to weave their lives."

"Birch trees/ teach me that I am nothing/And that I am deserving of life"

"I suddenly felt my spirit expand, for I was capable of grasping the utter beauty of the trees."

"For art is an emotion without desire."

"Eternity: for all its invisibility, we gaze at it."

"... beauty consists of its own passing, just as we reach for it.  it is the ephemeral configuration of things in the moment, when you can see both their beauty and their death .... does this mean that this is how we must live our lives? Constantly poised between beauty and death, between movement and its disappearance?  Maybe that is what being alive is all about: so we can track down those moments that are dying."

The last few words of the novel: "Don't worry, Renee.  I won't commit suicide and I won't burn a thing.  Because from now on, for you, I'll be searching for those moments of always within never.  Beauty in this world."

It is a book that made me want to escape the demands of the world, seek out the spare tranquility of a Zen garden, and meditate. 


Barbara Carlson said...

Your post makes me want to read it again, tomorrow, and then comment.

I am too full of Egypt right now. It seems a turning point in the world. As Obama said, "The arc of history has bent to justice once more." To be blasé about it --
as many seemed today, as I saw the news scroll its way across the TV screens in the World Exchange Plaza (and my mention of it to shopkeepers as I did my errands) -- seemed to me so Canadian, these citizens who may take their freedom so for granted as to have any wonder and excitement left for those who are experiencing it for the first time.

Oma said...

Yes, Barbara ... those of us who have been lucky enough to be born in democracies can hardly imagine what it means.

When I was in Malawi in 1993, the people were, for the first time in their lives, able to speak aloud about choice. They were leaving a time when people were imprisoned and tortured without trial for such terrible crimes as writing poetry about their tyrannical government ... and entering a time when multi-party elections would be permitted.

They told me that it was the first time in their lives that they felt free to express freely what they felt and believed politically. Before that summer they would sit mute for 6 hours ... afraid to trust their confreres.

It made a lasting impression on me.

Barbara Carlson said...

We were house guests of the South African consul diplomat who oversaw the first post-apartheid free election vote in New York City. He would come home that night having seen hundreds of black South African New Yorkers stand in line to cast their vote for the first time in their lives, weeping with joy. His eyes teared up as he told us.
We had known many South African diplomats & the terrific, progressive Ambassador for several years before this vote and had to go through scary picket lines to get into the embassy in Ottawa. Canadians told us were traitors for "consorting" with these bad government officials. But we knew they were trying to end apartheid and, in the end, we celebrated together.

Oma said...

I worked in Namibia for 6 months about 5 years after Namibians gained their independence from South Africa and came out from under the cloud of apartheid. I met very few white Namibians and South Africans, and most of those I met were, indeed, the bad guys, who resented the fact that blacks were now free to vote and speak and travel.

They made the assumption that, because my skin was also white, I would agree with their racist views.

As a result, they said remarkably awful things about their black countrymen and women.

It was the first time I had heard anyone speak openly about his belief that blacks were genetically inferior to whites. They spoke about (and in front of) black people as if they were of some lower species.

But I also met two white women ... one who did the books for the Teachers' Union ... the other ... one of my students, a teacher in a rural school ... who showed me that not all South African and Namibian whites fit their stereotype either.

Thanks for the reminder that what lies hidden beneath the surface can be surprisingly decent.

Barbara Carlson said...

One thought about Hedgehogs:

Attention to the moment enriches Life no end. But, surely there must be some preparation for your future so you can keep living to attend each moment. The trick is to pay deep attention to paying bills and driving carefully. Very hard to do.

"If you forget the future, you lose the present."

Huh. I don't know...I try to forget the future to GAIN the present. I live too much in the future -- what if thoughts. Even spending years with drag queens couldn't break me of that -- they do try to believe that actions have no consequences, but their lives are a mess, if momentarily hilarious and spontaneous.

Barbara Carlson said...

Back to Egypt:

"Egyptians have inspired us, and they've done so by putting the lie to the idea that justice is best gained through violence. For in Egypt, it was the moral force of non-violence - not terrorism, not mindless killing - but non-violence, moral force that bent the arc of history toward justice once more."
President Barack Obama

Oma said...

On Obama's words ... yes ... and it was more than just the peaceful nature of the young Egyptians in the square ... I wonder what would have happened if the police and army had come down on them like gang busters ... and I really wonder what Israel will do now that this situation may be seen as putting their natural gas etc. in jeopardy.

The Middle East is frighteningly reliant on might rather than right.

Oma said...

On Past, Present and Future ...

It was the 12 year old narrator who said that we lose the present if we forget the future.

The rest of that follows:

" ... tomorrow always ends up becoming today .... we mustn't forget .... We have to live with the certainty that we'll get old and that it won't look nice or be good or feel happy. And tell ourselves that it's now that matters: to build something, now, at any price, using all our strength. Always remember that there's a retirement home waiting somewhere and so we have to surpass ourselves every day, make every day undying. Climb our own personal Everest and do it in such a way that every step is a little bit of eternity. That's what the future is for: to build the present, with real plans, made by living people."

Me? I find it hard to stay in the present because I look both backward and ahead ... it is on;t when I have a paint brush or a computer keyboard in my hands that I seem to be able to stay in the here and now.

Barbara Carlson said...

Thanks for the back story. The quote now makes more sense.

And as for might over right -- The Swedes believe in the "last days" two mighty armies, Darkness and Light will wage a terrible battle, and Darkness will win. I'm a Swede so I'm pretty pessimistic overall. But yesterday, a battle was won, perhaps not the war. It may have small effects but important ones. Some dictator will pause, ever so shortly, in his torture plans and perhaps a person will be spared. We can only hope.

Oma said...

I hope you are right ... and I hope that Israel will pay attention to the world attention these young peaceniks received ... and that the other Middle Eastern despots will act intelligently out of awareness and concern for their own fragile holds on power in their countries.

Power corrupts ... absolute power corrupts absolutely ... ad all that ... but maybe ... just maybe ... in this era of instant communication ... those young Egyptian peaceniks ... like the young Americans who wielded flowers and other peace symbols instead of guns during the Vietnam war protests ... will make a difference.

Maybe this is just the first battle of a very different war.

Barbara Carlson said...

There is a different quality to the air today. Perhaps there has been a paradigm shift of consciousness. Perhaps even the hatred of Israel by many Egyptians will be softened if they can transfer a sense of empathy for other people/religions who just want to live their lives in peace.

Barbara Carlson said...

With the apartment and my mouth still redolent of delicious meat loaf -- thanks to your recipe -- I will tell you how I changed the recipe slightly.
I used 1.2 lbs of ground beef + .8 of ground pork.
I used a cut-up bagel for bread (which had sesame and poppy seeds on it).
The sauce was half wine vinegar & half apple cider vinegar in the form of a delicious drink called
Apple Cider Vinegar All Natural Drink -- Concord Grape + Acai -- by BRAGG. Very tangy. Apparently one needs ACV to absorb B12 which is a great mood elevator among other things like nerve repair.

I put cut up red potatoes around the loaf in the pan and cooked the whole thing for 1-3/4 hour.

Otherwise I followed your recipe to the letter.
Oh and I served it with corn kernels (from a can which were surprisingly good).
Thanks again!
John was so inspired by my effort and the resulting energy boost, he want to wash the car while I posted this.