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QUINTESSENCE

Awake in the World


STARS
I'm awake; I am in the world -
I expect
no further assurance.
No protection, no promise.

Solace of the night sky,
the hardly moving
face of the clock."
- from "Stars," Louise Gluck, The Seven Ages, 2001

The winter snow has forced a slow down in the Northwest. Drawing the hours into long, quiet interludes. There is the work of winter - shoveling, getting down to the store, warming and scraping cars - and there is the rest of winter. The splendid, empty hours of snowbound retreat. Afternoons by the fire, reading as the snow piles in fat flakes on the head of the garden sculptures.

At last I am cracking open the collected stack of books by the chair. Heavens, I've read three now. "A Walk on the Beach," by Joan Anderson; "Why We Make Mistakes," by a journalist whose name I've quite forgotten (could that be only coincidental?); and the biggest of the three, former President George W. Bush's memoir, "Decision Points." The last book, an historical memoir, is fascinating in its detail. But also laugh out loud funny, and surprisingly candid in a guarded world. I see in these vignettes of a challenging presidency the many ways our political system twists well-intentioned policies; how power struggles polarize the public and caricature the good and decent leaders we send to Washington; and above all, the ways in which an alarmist invasive media robs our national debate of an encompassing mission of humanity. One thing is clear: our leaders endeavor far harder than we give them credit for in the struggle to make good and just decisions. This memoir is a true surprise to me. My friend commented, looking at me heft the tome through the airport, "Never judge a Bush by its cover."

Turkey soup is on the agenda. And leftover stuffing - the kind my son makes with cranberries and slivered almonds, sausage and porcini mushrooms. The sweet potato souffle, made with Vermont maple syrup. And bits of pies, dolloped with whipped cream spiced with Bourbon-Madagascar vanilla. Later tonight, ice skating at the outdoor rink.

I am thankful. For my beloved family, my great and fabulous friends. As I look out the frosted window, cradling Earl Grey tea, I am grateful to be awake in the world. I laugh at the Scottie in his dapper brown fleece jacket nosing around in the snow drifts. He looks up, his beard and eyebrows sparkle with ice. Under the thin Aspen the quail sit squashed back to back, fat as hens.

Even now, there are berries on the trees.


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