Don’t fear your own mistakes, I say to myself on a brittle summer morning, go out and make mistakes that may one day count for something.
The minestra soup, lighter than minestrone, is a ritual of transformation. Each vegetable sauted and simmered in order, gently, with respect — the onions, the new pink garlic, the carrots, celery, stalks of Swiss chard, courgettes, green beans, peeled tomatoes, canellini beans, broken fragments of pasta. The salty heel of Parmesan, the rolled basil leaves sliced in a chiffonade right at the end, the last flourish.
Outside the wagtails tweet one another to launch an assault on the spicy chlorophyll that is my newly planted basil. Brave seedlings in their small nondescript pots, soothed with fado from the Cape Verde islands. Plants love music, to them it is all music, the wind scraping the garage door, the trees shaking foliage like a green bedspread, the rain singing out loud on the hissing tarmac, Bach, Patti Smith, Stravinsky.
Lizards and tobacco-brown grass snakes skitter across gravel. My overgrown pup scans the skies, nose quivering. What does he see there that is missed by human perceptions?
A folder on the desk in my study, a scarred yellowwood desk with its patina of sweet oils. Like all of us, I try not to gnaw my heart to pieces. This is what Chris Hedges says in the page I downloaded and printed out for the folder:
They have put in place draconian state controls, including widespread internal surveillance, to silence our anemic left. They know how to direct the rage of the right wing toward the last pockets of the cultural, social and political establishment that cling to traditional liberal values, as well as toward the most vulnerable among us including Muslims, undocumented workers and homosexuals. They will make sure we consume ourselves.
Who will be spared?
I carry on with quiet rituals of transformation. Letters to prisoners, a bowl of minestra for an unwell friend, the replanting of basil seedlings. The work of hard, practical love. Earning a living the only way I know how. The getting of courage. Beeswax candles lit for a friend facing the unknown. A leafy green ritual for a friend with writer’s block. The watering of herbs, the grind of laundry, sponging down dusty tiles, picking up dog crap, letting the rose pierce my consciousness.
The baked earth thrumming beneath my feet, the grounded heartbeat deep down there that will go on after I have ceased to walk these paths, these gravel stretches lit by the flickering tongue of the lizard.
It is what it is. It will be what it will be.
And possibility creeps out from behind the shutter, lurks in the folder on my desk, in the small flame of candles.
By Adam Zagajewski
I watched the arctic landscape from above
and thought of nothing, lovely nothing.
I observed white canopies of clouds, vast
expanses where no wolf tracks could be found.
I thought about you and about the emptiness
that can promise one thing only: plenitude—
and that a certain sort of snowy wasteland
bursts from a surfeit of happiness.
As we drew closer to our landing,
the vulnerable earth emerged among the clouds,
comic gardens forgotten by their owners,
pale grass plagued by winter and the wind.
I put my book down and for an instant felt
a perfect balance between waking and dreams.
But when the plane touched concrete, then
assiduously circled the airport’s labryinth,
I once again knew nothing. The darkness
of daily wanderings resumed, the day’s sweet darkness,
the darkness of the voice that counts and measures,
remembers and forgets.
—translated by Clare Cavanagh