Petals (and filled yeasted-savory-crepes)

It’s petal-falling season in our town. On cherry-tree-lined streets the slightest of breezes will send delicate pink and white petals all around you in a soft warm tizzy. The petals from the cherry tree in our yard swirl into our open door, persistent, and end up somehow in every room, even in rooms we don’t use, like small worries or memories from a dream. Every year I think of the same thing: The Exile’s Letter by Ezra Pound (or by Li Po and translated from the Chinese by Ezra Pound). It’s foolish to have a favorite poem, of course, but this one has been in my head for years, indelibly, since I first read it. (I know Ezra Pound was a fascist, I understand that, and it does complicate my love for the poem). To be honest, though the whole poem is strange and beautiful, it’s the end that I really love:

And if you ask how I regret that parting?	
It is like the flowers falling at spring’s end,	
                    confused, whirled in a tangle.	
What is the use of talking! And there is no end of talking—	        
There is no end of things in the heart.	
 
I call in the boy,	
Have him sit on his knees to write and seal this,	
And I send it a thousand miles, thinking.

The language and the imagery, though simple, are both so pretty, and the feeling is of such longing and regret. And I love the construction “And I send it a thousand miles, thinking.” I don’t know if there’s a name for it, but I think anything would be beautiful written like this. “I scrubbed the toilet, remembering.” or “I left for work, wondering.” Love it. But it’s this, it’s this: “What is the use of talking! And there is no end of talking—There is no end of things in the heart.” It kills me.

And as I was thinking about this poem, I remembered another poem that is similarly lodged in my brain for decades, I Know a Man, by Robert Creeley:

As I sd to my   
friend, because I am   
always talking,—John, I

sd, which was not his   
name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what

can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddamn big car,

drive, he sd, for   
christ’s sake, look   
out where yr going.

Perfection. So much spoken in so few words.

And then there’s Diary of a Country Priest, the film by Robert Bresson. It’s foolish to have a favorite film, of course, but this one spoke to me as few films have. I’ve written about it before, so allow me to quote myself:

His solemnity and his honesty raise him above the petty bickering of his parishioners. He doesn’t bother to defend himself from their accusations, because his understanding is on a completely different level. When he realizes this he says, beautifully, “I’d discovered with something bordering on joy that I had nothing to say.” I love that. The film is full of unexpectedly beautiful statements like this. His “old master” an odd sort of priest who appears throughout the film, follows a stream of advice with the words, “And now, work. Do little things from day to day while you wait. Little things don’t seem like much, but they bring peace.”

And I wonder what it is about these poems and films that they’re with me all the time. Why am I so drawn to examinations of talking and not talking? I love to talk, I love to discuss, and banter, and disagree, and agree, and connect, and despair of never connecting, and learn, and share a joke, and share things I love–songs and movies and books, and learn about those things that somebody else loves. I talk too much, there’s no doubt about that, and talking is strangely addictive, once I start, it’s hard for me to stop. It’s been a strange year for a talker. Sometimes I feel like a fizzy bottle of pop that’s been unwisely shaken.

But I’m also profoundly fond of silence, and aware that all that is most important transcends words. In a world of constant noise and bickering and shouting for attention, it’s sometimes a joy to remember the weight of silence.

And I hit publish on the post, thinking.

Here’s Jordi Savall with one of my favorite wordless pieces of music. The chaconne from Antoine Forqueray’s Pieces de Viole.

I had the idea of making savory crepes, but of frying them with the filling right inside, rather than making the crepes and filling them after. I also made a yeasted batter, which makes the crepe a little more substantial, almost like a flatbread in some ways. These turned out really good. I made some with spinach and ricotta and shallots and garlic and herbs for David and myself, and one without spinach for Isaac, who has now decided he only likes it in saag paneer, for the time-being. You could really fill it with anything you like, though. I’d thought about roasted mushrooms and sharp cheddar, or you could do roasted peppers and feta and olives. Whatever strikes your fancy! The cheese helps to hold it together, but if you’re vegan you could substitute mushy legumes. And if you’re vegan leave out the egg and use warm water instead of milk.

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Yeasted cornmeal crepe

IMG_0572.jpg“I’m not worried!”

“You’re mom, Mom.” said Isaac.

“It’s like you have a dog with you at all times you have to worry about.” Said Malcolm.

“An imaginary worry dog!” I cried, loving the idea. (Our very real dog and actual perpetual source of worry had been left home for this trip.)

Isaac said, “Mom always has to worry because she’s always with Clio or us, for her to not worry she’d have to go on a walk all by herself.”

Last time I wrote it was blizzarding, and now it’s snowing pale petals and golden sycamore seeds. After a slow start, we’ve had a rare spate of perfect spring days, and the boys and I are going on an adventure. Usually David is their man for adventures and I drive the getaway car. But David is too tall for this adventure, and though it’s my lack-of-height that gets me invited, I’m still honored that they want me along. They discovered a special secret place and they want to show it to me. Am I going through a list of possible dangers in my head? Of course I am. Malcolm assures me, “Really, mom, the hazards are few.”

It’s a pair of tunnels that run off the canal under the path on the other-side-of-the-canal to a strange sort of pond in the-secret-passage. It’s a new place they’ve discovered under a familiar place. An unknown hollow under ground we’ve walked hundreds of times. The entrance is a strangely pretty concrete ditch, and the tunnels themselves are dull concrete and lined with a trough of dark boggy mud. But there are small seedlings growing in the muck, spindly and skinny and stretched towards the light. And the light on the other side of the tunnel is spring distilled–glowing and green. To me the tunnels could lead to a magical world, and to the boys they’re  a good place to hide in a post-apocalyptic world-at-war scenario. Which tells you all you need to know about how children’s literature has changed in the last few decades.

They show me how to walk with your feet on either side of the tunnel walls, so that you don’t fall in the bog; they point out impressive spider webs above our heads; they adorn the walls with their own graffiti tag in white crayon. They cut away the thorn bushes from the far entrances of the tunnels so we can stand on the edge of the pond, and they’re sad that it’s filmed with gasoline. People think they’re so powerful, Malcolm says, but they make garbage and coca cola and guns. Malcolm wants to stay for hours and eat sandwiches perched over black mud and garlanded with spider webs. But I’m ready to go home.

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While we’re walking home I worry about worrying too much and worry about the boys knowing that I worry too much. Popular knowledge dictates that we should emulate the good old days, when parents stayed indoors smoking and day-drinking while their children ran wild on train tracks and super-highways and incurred character-building injuries. But surely, as in all things, there has to be a balance. I don’t lock my boys indoors; they’re not terrified of the world. They’re curious and adventurous and scared of most scary things and scared of a few not-very-threatening things, like everyone else on the planet. They roam our town. That very day they went back to sit in the tunnel and watch birds and spy on people walking on the path above. They sat until the thrill wore off and a savage goose chased them away, then they went for a ramble in the secret passage. They were gone a while. The fact that they knew I worried made me worry less. They came home safe and told us stories.

And isn’t that how it should be? We walk the path together or we walk the path alone, we explore the secret places all around the path. We’re never free of worry because we’re never free of love. We know there’s someone glad to see us when we get home, waiting to hear our stories.

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These were a sort of cross between a flatbread and a crepe. Easy and fun to make, and very tasty. Everybody liked them. We ate them like pita bread, with croquettes, lettuce, tomatoes and sauce inside. And the next day Malcolm wrapped them around scrambled eggs.

 

Here’s Tunnels by Johnny Flynn

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