If, sitting at your meal you hear the song of a bird, what do you do? You may tap your chopstick rest, and perhaps he will answer and repeat his sweet song. If you tap a second time and there is only silence is the bird rejecting you or offering his song to another, flown from your window.
Perhaps you should tap again and hear the sweeter song of silence that echoes over the garden and zendo. On a distant limb the small songbird smiles.
I picked up a book off the shelf this morning one hundred haiku
it was like sitting down a word starved man, tired of searching for an always denied sustenance, and here laid out before me, a repast of the sweetest grapes, bits of sugar caressing a tongue grown used to the often bitterness of ill-considered prose.
As midday approached I knew that this was a meal to which I’d return.
Out here, he warned, you should always be on the lookout for snakes by day, not that they will go out of their way to attack you, but stray into their territory and the Western Diamondback will give you a quick lesson in awareness. They hide among the scrub sage and in the arroyos, but you still walk for this kind of beauty demands your attention regardless. And at night, he added, don’t stray too far for the coyotes wander freely looking for rabbits and small game, and though you would be too large a meal, you’d still be worth a taste. You are in their home, after all.
We remember the oddest moments of life, the tragedies, the occasional comedy, but mostly the unusual moments that etch themselves into memory in ways you would not have expected. Driving along the mostly deserted road, a moonless night, or nearly so, the Mesa cold and forbidding, not at all reminiscent of the birth to be celebrated by the world the next day, as it had for millennia. The movie was dark and heavy, the meal somewhat the same, dominating the conversation… THUD — a sudden shift left into the oncoming lane, no one, thankfully, oncoming, the door caved in, passengers’ bones checked, none broken, all badly shaken. In the beam of the flashlight, is an elk, sitting off the road, still much alive but shaken, and in the first light of morning, moved further into the scrub, and by afternoon, off into the foothills.
As the last of the wine glasses is put back on the shelf the Brut recorked and the dishes set in the tray to dry we take a slow walk after the meal hoping the arrabiatta sauce will be less angry, the pasta less weighty, when we arrive back home to the sofa and the purring cat distracting us from the beckoning of the bed.
The manatees hide just below the surface sticking up their heads every few minutes, for a breath or to thrill the tourists who watch intently, because it is a thing to do in this part of Florida in winter.
The restaurants in the harbor don’t mind, it draws a crowd and takes pressure off the kitchen, for people waiting for sea mammals do not grow impatient like those waiting for just burgers or an order of fried clams with a side of fries.
The manatees will never understand humans, why they queue up in the sun to eat animals, when the sea provides a free feast for herbivores if you are only willing to immerse yourself in the search for a meal.
It is stall after stall of tomates de Provence, choux wishing to be kale, peches, small and barely containing their juice. Courgettes beckon, pommes de terre call out their aerieal cousins, haricots quietly suggest a citron aussi. Walking along the boulevard a tourist obviously, without bags or cart, I get polite nods that say me ignoring you isn’t personal it’s merely financial, pardonnez-moi. Tonight in my dreams, I will with flash of Wusthoff, be in my kitchen pulling my morning’s purchases from my bag, the meal coming together before me, to the amazement of my wife and friends. “It’s nothing,” I will say, “juste le matin dans la marché de Nice, pour vous, simplement.