Please enjoy these blogposts, written between 2011 and 2015. Another blog is on the way.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Interlude: A Bowl of Raspberry Oatmeal

Carl Sagan once said something along these lines: If, after the resurrection, Jesus had ascended into heaven at the speed of light, he still wouldn't have cleared the galaxy.

Maybe that's the wrong metaphor for what happened to me this morning, but I'm going with it anyway.

For a long time I've been trying to see the big picture. You need a high perch to see what's happening to the earth as a whole, to wrap your mind around humanity's non-future, to consider what, if anything, you might try to do about it. That's why I traveled to the Yucatan. That's why I've visited certain websites way too often over the years. That's where I've been living, in a shaky house in a very tall tree that has nevertheless felt not tall enough.

How far up would I have to go? How tall would my tree need to be?

Since Wednesday night I've been hanging out at my niece's house. She's been in a Seattle hospital having surgery. Something needed to be taken out, and that something needed to be biopsied. It wasn't cancerous. Hallelujah. She'll be coming home in a day or two, and that's good because her three daughters miss her a LOT. They miss their father too, who's with my niece at the hospital.

This morning I asked the middle daughter, Harper, who is ten (I think) and has seemed to be the most rattled by her mother's absence, what she wanted for breakfast.

"I want blueberry oatmeal," she said, plain as day.

Since my niece and her husband adopted Harper--she was three at the time--her speech development has been slow. It's possible that she suffered some brain damage during her birth in China. Lately, though, she's been making fast progress. In any case, there was no mistaking "I want blueberry oatmeal."

I couldn't find any blueberries, but there was a bag of frozen raspberries in the freezer. "Is raspberry oatmeal okay?"

A grudging nod. She took a bowl out of the cupboard and placed it at the center of the kitchen island, which is where breakfast gets eaten in this very organized household.

I poured some raspberries into the bowl I'd put on the counter for my own breakfast, thawed them in the microwave, cooked the oatmeal on the stove, poured the oatmeal on top of the raspberries, and set the bowl in front of Harper.

She stared into the bowl, looking utterly appalled. Her younger sister. Hunter, said to me, "I think you were supposed to mix it together."

I handed Harper a spoon. "You can go ahead and mix it up."

She mixed it up and stared into the bowl some more.

Hunter, ever helpful, said, "Mom puts cinnamon on it."

I shook some cinnamon on Harper's oatmeal. Still she stared into the bowl. After a minute she pushed it away, stretched out an arm, and lay her head on it.

"Hannah," I said to the oldest sister, a teenager. "Help me out here."

Hannah said softly, "She's just being Harper."

And what did I do? I repeated those words loud enough for Harper to hear them. "She's just being Harper," I said--trying to figure out what was wrong, trying to reassure myself that it had nothing to do with me.

Harper, her head still down, started to cry. For a long minute none of the rest of us said anything, neither Hunter nor Hannah nor I.

"She doesn't like the bowl," Hunter finally suggested.

Then I saw right in front of me the bowl that Harper had chosen. I'd put her oatmeal in the one I'd chosen. I poured the oatmeal from my bowl into hers, and she ate it, all but the last bite, although the bowl wasn't the real problem.

When you're in a very tall tree, you can miss things, especially small things, things on the ground that require care. Being careful with small things is work worth doing in this terrifying, unprecedented time.

What does all this have to do with the Carl Sagan quote? Probably nothing. I've just always liked that quote.

Next time: A Shared Mayan Meal--What's On, and In, the Ground