One of the nice things about contributing to Dew on the Grass is that when other people share their experiences those experiences sometimes mirror your own, throwing new light on a situation or behaviour, in a very helpful way. When our friend Chris Yeomans wrote her piece on the theme of “Every Morning”, two weeks ago, in which she shares her morning routine of eating breakfast, gazing at her bookcase filled with beautiful cookery books, the quandary of finding time to actually use them and the teaching that arises from that dilemma, I noticed some similarities and differences with my own morning routine and also noted my reactions to what she had written, as I read it.
The first thing that struck me was the photograph of her bookcase. Many of the cookery books are ones that I use on a daily basis – Hugh Fearnley Whitingstall’s Veg every day’ and ‘Even More Veg’; Helmsley and Helmsley; The Hairy Bikers.; The Green Roasting Tin – It felt good somehow that we had both invested in the works of these chefs, there was a feeling of camaraderie and togetherness. It gave me an approving glow.
I was also struck by the neatness of her bookcase. I looked at mine – not so neat! A little whisper of self-judgement floats by. I must tidy it immediately but of course, I don’t.
And then both the skill and wisdom of her writing began to hit home and I could see other parallels to my own morning routine and life in general, but from a different perspective.
Every morning, when I come in from taking my grandson to school, I make a cup of coffee and get my head around the day ahead. Some mornings have medical appointments for my husband in them; some are dedicated to chores around the house and garden; once a week I have lesson planning to do for the two after-school students that I teach, and all will have some time dedicated to meal planning, which involves the use of my cookery books. I like to sync the meals with my veg box that arrives, each Tuesday morning, from an organic farm that I use, and find the cookery books invaluable.
I notice Chris doesn’t do this and I wonder if my ritual and, some may say, obsession with healthy eating and attachment to my cookery books, to the point that many are now falling apart, is in some way spiritually unhealthy.
But I notice something else, too. Chris acknowledges in herself that the books represent an ideal to a perfect lifestyle that involves a beautiful and productive kitchen garden, great cookery skills and an aspiration to a more ‘mindful, peaceful, focussed life’ and that is my aspiration too!
My house, my garden, and my bookshelf are rarely in perfect order and I often find myself playing a game of ‘catch-up’ to try and get them that way. And, in the pursuit of perfection, there is that slightly uncomfortable breathlessness of always living one step (or more) ahead, in a future created in the mind, where everything is ‘alright now’, unlike the present, which ‘isn’t’.
My Marigold Engevita is still in date, my cookery books are daily used, but the koan is still the same. I too need to work on compassionate acceptance of myself and the life I have; letting go of ideals, in the process. Thank you, friend, for that teaching.