Tart with fennel, tomatoes, olives, and many cheeses. And hereing.

The hereness of dusk in the hereness of my bedroom.

The other day Isaac asked me how to spell “hearing.” Because he and I never give each other a straight answer, I told him h-e-r-e-ing. The more I think about it the more I like the word, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I woke up in the middle of the night recently and felt perplexed. I thought about all of the places people live, all over the world. I imagined you could cut away the sides or tops of houses and apartment buildings and tenements and you could see the people inside, living their lives. I hoped they were being kind to each other and their children and their dogs, but I middle-of-the-night feared that many were not. I was bewildered by the thought that I could be anywhere, but I am here, in the same small city I’ve lived in for 20 years.

It bears repeating: it’s been an odd odd year. We were all stuck in the same place, our own space, our here. We were relentlessly here, relentlessly hereing. I think (and write) so much about time passing, about marking it and being aware of it. It’s mildly discombobulating to think about space and place as well. And small wonder that after a year of hereing we’re imagining other places and visiting them in our dreams.

All of this hereing conjured the phrase “hereness of dusk,” which has been in my mind ever since. It is, of course, from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, and is from one of the most beautiful passages of literature I have ever read.

…as though even here in the filtering dusk, here beneath the deep indigo sky, here, alive with looping swifts and darting moths, here in the hereness of the night not yet lighted by the moon that looms blood-red behind the chapel like a fallen sun, its radiance shedding not upon the here-dusk of twittering bats, nor on the there-night of cricket and whippoorwill, but focused short-rayed upon our place of convergence;

…And my mind rushing for relief away from the spring dusk and flower scents, away from the time-scene of the crucifixion to the time-mood of the birth; from spring-dusk and vespers to the high, clear, lucid moon of winter and snow glinting upon the dwarfed pines where instead of the bells, the organ and the trombone choir speak carols to the distances drifted with snow,… But in the hereness of dusk I am moving toward the doomlike bells through the flowered air, beneath the rising moon.

The narrator knows he is in trouble, that he’s about to be expelled from college, and he imagines himself in another place and another time. But he’s almost painfully (though beautifully) aware of the space and time he is moving through. In these dreamlike moments, the here becomes the now, the space becomes the time. He is occupying, moving through, taking up space in the dusk. He is hereing. It bears repeating, “In the hereness of dusk I am moving toward the doomlike bells through the flowered air, beneath the rising moon.”

From the sublime to the tasty. This is what I made us for my birthday meal. I love love love fennel and it’s not universally adored by the family, but I took the excuse of birthday brattiness to go heavy on the fennel in this one. Fennel, tomatoes, and olives, with herbs from the garden is a perfect combination to me. They are all strong, assertive flavors, but they work beautifully together. I also used several kinds of cheese. The parmesan and cheddar I grated so they blended right in, but the fresh mozzarella and goat cheese I just roughly crumbled, so that you encounter them in pleasant pockets of soft cheesiness throughout the tart.

Here’s Stand by REM. Think about the place that you live, wonder why you haven’t before.

And Places and Spaces by Donald Byrd.

Recipe after the jump!

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