Once, before there was Desmond or Lucy or Danny, before there was a gluten-free flour business or a James Beard award or the New York Times, before there was a food memoir and two published cookbooks and a third one coming out soon, before there was Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or Periscope (have you tried this thing? Oh, this could be fun.) — before any of the gifts and dins that came after — there was this site. Ten years ago this spring, I sat down to type, to hear the click of my fingers on the keyboard and watch the little black letters emerge onto white screen. I had been so sick, so bloody awful sick for months, and pretty darned sick for years before that. Now, for the first time, I felt alive in my body. I danced and did yoga and strode through the Ballard farmers’ market in a grinning daze of happiness.
But mostly I sat down to write.
Writing made sense to me. Staring at a blank white paper, then pressing a pen down in a rush of thoughts and tangled adjectives? It’s how I lived. Years before my diagnosis, I wrote a personal journal, buds of red or purple words strewn across thick white paper in a black bound book. (There are boxes of those pebbled black sketchbooks, sealed shut, in our garage right now.) By the time I was diagnosed with celiac and started this site, I had moved past that solipsistic daily practice of writing out my thoughts and feelings for myself. (Oh, so many feelings!) By 2005, I wanted to tell stories.
So I did.
I started writing online about the way my body felt — bursting into bloom after years of lying dormant. I wrote about kayaking Lake Union and discovering the taste of sauteed amaranth leaves and eating at Café Flora in Madison Valley after months of thinking I’d never eat in a restaurant again. Joyful and bold, shorthand sometimes and verbose in others, that writing surged out of me. I didn’t think anyone was going to read those pieces. Even though I wrote the first few month of entries here as though I was writing letters to friends — and really, I still do — I was shocked the first time someone left a comment. Who is this person?
Soon those comments came in cloudbursts then a steady stream. I had been parched before. Writing is a solitary act. Suddenly, there was community.
The other night, as we sat around the dinner table eating pork chops and mushrooms, our daughter looked down at her plate and stopped talking for a moment. She had just been singing about something that had happened at school that afternoon, so her silence confused me.
“You okay, kiddo?” I said, reaching out to pat her hand.
She nodded, then started talking about a friend of hers. She and this other little one have been the dearest of friends, joined at the hip, so madly in love with each other that they told everyone they knew for months that they are getting married someday. But lately, there have been fewer playdates, a bit less time together. They still climb trees and swing and make up imaginary games. But there has been a bit of…lessening. We asked Lu what was wrong.
She talked about her friend’s cautious nature, the way she clings to the side of the pool instead of swimming, the way she admonishes Lu when she’s doing something her friend thinks is risky. We talked for a bit, explained that it’s in her friend’s nature to be more guarded. Could she still love her friend, even though they are so different? Yes, of course, she expressed.
And then she said this, sighing: “I just love the world. My friend is more scared of the world than she loves it. I don’t know how to convince her to love it more.”
Sometimes that kid blows me away.
I’ve been thinking about that conversation ever since. How much Lu — and Danny and I — love the world. It’s in Lu’s nature to be ebullient, fearless, and in love with everyone she meets. It’s how she entered this world, I believe. And I just love her wish: to teach her friend to love the world more than fear it.
I’ve also been thinking about a talk I heard a few weeks ago, given by a rabbi visiting our Unitarian fellowship. She told a creation story, that the creator was so full of light that the entire universe was full. Breath held, an empty space formed. And that space was filled with our world and humans, made up of shards of light from the creator. Our job is to reunite what has been broken. To collect the shards of light. To gather the sparks and return them to creation. We all choose to gather light in whatever way fits us. There’s plenty of brokenness to go around, after all.
But it’s that brokenness, that fear of the world, that seems to dominate media, social and otherwise. We dwell on horrible stories. Celebrity gossip — my goodness, what a waste of time. And I feel like most of us must elbow our way to find a place in this world, with SEO rewards and more money and shiniest hair, because we forget we’re just supposed to be collecting light.
Oh goodness, I should say something funny. This has all grown a little deep. But this is where I’m standing today, hands open, just looking for shards to grab.
Here are some stories that moved me this week. Maybe they’ll work for you too.