Capturing Mist

The wispy mist floats

Fog fingers through the valley

Heaven blowing smoke


Air marries water

Leaves whisper melancholy

Mountains rise above.

Droplets sing, haze slips

Silently over the green

Defeating the sun

Tomorrow the gray

Has become just a skirmish

Sungold glow returns

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Capturing the mist

Is finding the diamond world

Reflecting the sky.

Eminent Domain: Valentine’s Day, Alex

Sunday, Feb. 14, 1988

Alex was sitting in his office on Sunday morning, not really waiting for Ross’ daily call, but yes, waiting for his call. He had papers in front of him, maps, and enlarged sections of the old road plan, but his brain was elsewhere. Only the fourth day in, and his powers of concentration were failing. Of course, here he was at his desk on Sunday at 8 AM. The others weren’t due in until nine, and Phyllis had asked politely and firmly for Sundays off. He’d said yes, with the caveat that if something was desperate she’d have to come in, and she had cheerfully agreed.

When the phone rang, he took his standard deep breath and answered. Ross’ voice was no longer jovial either. In the last phone call he had sounded just loud and brash. Brash was usually a cover for something else; Alex had wondered idly what it meant.

“…just wanted to keep you on top of things. Jonathan Lee, Esquire, and I are flying up with the helicopter tomorrow. While you guys are out enjoying yourselves on the carnival ride, we are meeting with Del’Olio. He’s going to sponsor this project in the House, and we have some coaching to do. Next week, on Monday the 22nd, we are going to have a public meeting about this project. It will likely be in the courthouse — your public meeting room isn’t big enough, and we don’t want SRO. People will be better behaved in a court room, don’t you think?”

Alex felt the warmth drain from his upper body. “What does that mean for us, Ross? What do you want from us at this meeting?”

“Well, you’ll all want to be there. It’ll put a local face on the project — you know — not a project designed by engineers from Philly. And you’ll just tell them that you’re working hard to keep everything fair and everyone happy.”

“Why do I have the feeling that we are being hung out to dry?” Alex asked.

Ross’ voice turned edgy. “Listen, Alex. I’m missing a vacation to St. Croix because of all this, and it had been planned for six months. My wife is not happy. My attorneys are not happy. The governor is not happy. You’re not happy. As far as I can tell, I’m the biggest happy suck in Pennsylvania these days, so don’t start whining to me. You’re getting paid well for this. I am not. We’ll talk more tomorrow, but start planning your comments to Clancey, because they’ll be ringing you up. See you tomorrow.” The phone clicked.

“Don’t hang up on me!” Alex shouted into the empty receiver as the dial tone buzzed in his ear.

___________________________

The engineers wandered in around nine o’clock, all looking as if they had gotten a good night’s sleep. Keith found Alex lying on the couch with his eyes wide open staring at the ceiling.

He looked up at the ceiling. “Nope, it doesn’t look good up there,” he said. He sank down in the recliner they had dragged in from Henry’s apartment yesterday. “What did the Horrible Head Honcho howl about this morning?”

“I’ll tell you when everyone gets here,” Alex said.

On cue, Dana and Henry walked in. “Okay, we’re here. Looks bad.” Henry said.

“I’ll come in tomorrow at eight o’clock and answer the call,” Keith said. “And…”

“You won’t have to — Ross and the attorney, Jonathan Lee, are flying up with the helicopter. They aren’t going with us — I guess that’s good, anyway — they are talking to Del’Olio while we fly. But the big news is that next Monday there is a public meeting at the courthouse about this project. We are all to be there —  you know, putting a local face on the project. I’m feeling like we’ll be at the table facing the crowd — well, no one said that, but…”

Everyone was silent.

“What no smart remarks from the peanut gallery?” Alex asked. And immediately he said, “Oh, guys, I’m sorry. Didn’t mean to…”

Dana interrupted him. “It’s fine. We aren’t offended. But we do need to know what it is we’re supposed to say. Are we supposed to have plans or something? In a week?”

“How many ways can we say ‘We’re working hard to keep everything fair and everyone happy’?” Alex said.

“We will try our best to be just and equitable with everyone,” Henry said with a self-satisfied smirk.

“We want your trust and we will work hard to be un-biased,” Keith said.

“We are working day and night on this and we welcome everyone’s input. Call us anytime,” Dana said.

“That could be dangerous,” Alex laughed. “How about, we are local, just like you, and we want a non-partisan, legitimate plan to fix this dangerous road.”

“We sound like we’re running for office,” Dana said.

“We might be running for our lives,” Henry said. “They did fire DeBolt.”

“The key word to all of this is honorable. That’s what we have to be, and we have to come up with the best plan with the least damage.”

“What a way to spend Valentine’s Day,” Henry said.

“Let’s go get some breakfast,” Keith suggested.

“Can’t go anywhere public and talk about this,” Alex said. “Let’s go to my house and I’ll fix bacon and eggs for everyone. Just let me call Angie to warn her she’s about to be descended on.”

When he came back a few minutes later, Keith had found Roget’s Thesaurus on Phyllis’ desk, and they were looking up words for fair and happy.

“Angie didn’t answer,” Alex said. “She’s probably in the shower. Come on, we can all squeeze in my car, and maybe we’ll take a drive after we eat. Bring that thesaurus along…”

Eat Two Things

Supper, or dinner — no matter how many people are in your family, or how elegant or plain the fare, the evening meal is important in the life of your family.

Sociologists have long told us that. We get to converse with those we love most about our days and share laughter. Families bond over meals. The modern family that doesn’t sit down together for dinner loses out on an eating-together-relationship that can’t be replaced by other activities.

Yet how do we make time for cooking dinner when we work and get home tired and unorganized; or have to pick up the kids and take them to practice; or have evening meetings, classes, or homework; or…fill in the blank here.

Maybe our standards are just too high… Where is it written and how did it come to be that a good dinner includes salad, meat, potatoes, another vegetable, bread, and dessert? Restaurants who are trying to make money? Oh yes, throw in an appetizer there too. Few of us cook meals like that at home for family. And we shouldn’t. It’s wasteful; it’s too much food; and we’re all too fat anyway…But that’s the ideal, isn’t it? Little feasts as everyday dinners. More is better.

Lately I’ve been reading about the Rule of St. Benedict — medieval rules for monastery life. Not because I want to become a monk and not because I believe rules are inherently good for us, but because I’m interested in simplicity. I’ve been trying to simplify my life for at least five years now, and I’ve only partially succeeded. One of the intriguing rules of simplicity from the Benedictines is Eat Two Things. Bread and soup. Soup and salad. Rice and vegetables. Oatmeal and fruit. Cheese and fruit. Eggs and vegetable. Rice and beans. They are lovely duos, aren’t they? (Surely salad and dessert fits in here somewhere too?)

This intrigued me because I had just been considering the fact that when I made three things for dinner, I felt that I could call it a Nice Dinner. But just two? I was usually mildly guilty — as if I could have done better. Not that we were still hungry. We weren’t. But call it what you like — American society, Western food habits, Restaurant-itis, Foodie culture — two dishes didn’t look like a real meal to me. My go-to thoughts were not of gratitude, but guilt — that I didn’t make that salad, or those brownies, or the extra vegetable. And can I just say that we don’t usually go hungry at the cottage?

So for the rest of May, we will be trying this for our dinners. Two things. For the sake of intentional eating. Simplicity. Health. Gratitude.

*except for Saturday evening when we are having company for dinner and yes, we’re having appetizers, bread, salad, steaks, mushrooms, potatoes, and two desserts. Eight things. For hospitality’s sake…

**just in case you are interested, here are the appropriate words about food from the Rule: (notice the suggestion of vegetarianism for all but the weak and sick…and that indigestion is caused by excess…)
Making allowance for the infirmities of different persons, we believe that for the daily meal, both at the sixth and the ninth hour, two kinds of cooked food are sufficient at all meals; so that he who perchance cannot eat of one, may make his meal of the other. Let two kinds of cooked food, therefore, be sufficient for all the brethren. And if there be fruit or fresh vegetables, a third may be added….
If, however, the work hath been especially hard, it is left to the discretion and power of the Abbot to add something, if he think fit, barring above all things every excess, that a monk be not overtaken by indigestion. For nothing is so contrary to Christians as excess, as our Lord saith: “See that your hearts be not overcharged with surfeiting” (Lk 21:34).
Let the same quantity of food, however, not be served out to young children but less than to older ones, observing measure in all things.
But let all except the very weak and the sick abstain altogether from eating the flesh of four-footed animals.