“I wish I had never been born,” she said. “What are we born for?” “For infinite happiness,” said the Spirit. “You can step out into it at any moment…” C S Lewis, The Great Divorce
My Aunt Tonia once said she was not like those fancy people who had fancy houses, who stacked winter blankets and throws up upon ottomans and bookcases, and made them look like artistic arrangements. She said she was just a plain person, sitting in her kitchen, eating oatmeal out of the pot with a spoon.
I found her confession entirely charming of course, and ever since then I have a new found appreciation for the simplicity of oatmeal, a warm kitchen in winter time, and the wooden spoons with which we sometimes nourish ourselves.
My aunt’s personality did to the art of engaging in oatmeal during the cold season, what the winter plaids and woolen knits of various hue did to make her neighbor’s house look like a spread in Better Homes and Gardens.
It was the simple beauty and goodness of my aunt that added flavor and interest to oatmeal, and one could imagine this heroine, with her intense motherly love, foregoing the more mundane disciplines. This, paradoxically, made her house into something at which even the neighbors would prefer to sit and chat, despite the occasional presence of my aunt’s very unartistic and messy piled up dishes, regardless of whether she realized it or not.
For my aunt had many battles to fight in her life, for herself and for her children, even after her children were grown, and no longer lived at home. She was a brave and joyous soldier woman to the end. Even when the cancer ultimately took her from us, everyone said the sheer intensity of her love for her family had extended her life by many years. Aunt Tonia lived her life with such a grace and a fullness of humanity, that she did not even stop to recognize how beautiful her heart and home had become to others, who watched her world from their own sanitized, less interesting, more anesthetized versions.
I remember as a child reading CS Lewis and being fascinated at the description of the more motherly talking animal characters packing flasks of wine, rough, crusty chunks of bread and bundles of cheese wrapped in twine, for young warriors to take with them on journey. These delicacies were inevitably sipped or eaten under shelter during storm, or savored with others along the way, with the appreciative grace worthy of the finest cuisine, as if so treasured (and so presented) those dining – suddenly became nobility.
As an adult I’ve admired the way authors of novels describe the food preparation and dining in certain stories, and how it adds so much reality and atmosphere to the plot. So much so, that I think we should all drink wine from our grandmother’s vintage crystal with bold disregard for the dust, take time to savor hot tea before a roaring fireplace, volunteer in a soup kitchen, or get sand in our hair and wet with sea spray, pulling lobster or crab in from the ocean.
This is really living, appreciating and sharing the gifts that God has given us, and the groundedness of those gifts. These gifts that we can see, feel, taste or touch, not only nourish us, but make us feel fully alive, and fully human. The greatest gift God gave us is this very humanity, so I believe, we should relish in it.
For isn’t our humanity the very nature and reality God came to share with us, and through which to give us hope on Christmas, during our very winter season, to make our happiness, lives, and love for one another eternal?
Perhaps this humility, or art of appreciation, is why God is said to be “groundedness” itself, the very Bread of everlasting life. And perhaps it is how eating from and sharing a simple bowl of oatmeal, can really be changed into…