I Chop Onions and Get Lost in Melancholy for a Moment

The last thing you hear on the audio version of this recording is someone saying into the microphone, while the crowd is going crazy, “The Blues Does Not Get Better Than That!” This is Part 2 of the Video of about 12 minutes of performance for a 70th Birthday Bash for John Mayall.

This was playing on Pandora while I chopped onions for a stew we were putting in the crock pot to cook all day yesterday. We had such a tremendous amount to accomplish, we didn’t want to end up without dinner because we’d worked right up until dinnertime. We were installing the new wood stove chimney, going up into the attic to cut a hole in the roof, and trying to keep little guys occupied while doing this.

Something happened to me as I had tears streaming down my face from the fumes of a very strong onion. In the living room, I could hear my 8-year old, Ben, reading to his 4-year old little brother. They were snuggled up on a chair reading “Andrew Henry’s Meadow,” which was a gift from one of Ben’s Preschool teachers. She saw it in a dollar bin at a used book store, and couldn’t resist getting it for him. It so describes my boys – it has these amazingly complex pen & ink drawings of Andrew Henry’s inventions and the things he likes to build.

My boys are builders, inventors, artists, and adventurers. In the story, Andrew Henry goes out and builds a village in the meadow for himself and a few other kids – each house is designed and built to highlight the interests and passions of each kid.

I am smitten by the sweetness of the moment, Ben reading an adventure story, Bean tucked in right beside him on the chair, sucking his thumb.

The first poem that I ever read by my now favorite poet, Billy Collins, is titled, “I Chop Some Parsley While Listening to Art Blakey’s Version of ‘Three Blind Mice’.” If you are not familiar with Billy Collins, if you have not been lost in any number of this man’s books for hours, you may be missing out on one of the best forms of meditation possible. Billy shows us how to look at something simple, be in that simple moment for all it’s worth, feel it, contemplate it, see the poignancy of it to the point that it can make us laugh and cry simultaneously, and forever after remember how that moment became something to treasure.

So, I’m crying along with cutting onions for a Ham Hock and Bean stew that will cook all day. I’m crying over the beauty of my children giggling and reading together in the next room. I’m crying over my husband’s love for us, and all he is doing to put this new stove in to keep us warm and save us money.

I’m crying over a situation I know very little about, a news story that I am trying to keep at a distance, because I am not strong enough to think of this tragedy. I only know the smallest details. Yesterday, I learned of a heart-breaking news story in New York, where a mother lost two of her children to violence, she came home to find them murdered.

Terrible things happen in the world. Sometimes I wish I didn’t see the tidbits of news stories as they drift before my vision. I immediately want to not know this story. I have purposely not read the article, because I know my heart would ache. I don’t even know this woman. But any mother who hears of this sort of thing, breaks down somewhere inside, in her heart, knowing that this kind of grief is not something she ever wants to experience first hand.

Knowing there is this deep sadness, this ache that will not go away, I cry along with the rest of the world over this story, while I chop onions. I give myself permission to cry for the mother, to ache along with her for a moment. It is a small offering of solidarity between mothers. I cannot be with her for the long road. I am not part of her world. I am part of my world, and as I cry along with the onions, I also grapple with my own deep gratitude, which too makes me cry.

There is something incredibly healing about cutting onions in preparation for a stew, while happiness and joy permeate my home. I know I cannot spend more time than this on sadness for a situation so far removed from me, and yet as close as my own heartbeat, the heartbeats of my family, so near and dear, so cherished and beautiful. As a mother, I wear my heart on my sleeve, I am torn between joy and brokenness at any given moment, because life is just that precious, and ever so terribly fragile.

I choose joy moment by moment, I choose the now, the here and the right in front of me. But, occasionally, it is good to chop onions and see the bigger picture of a world in need, a world in pain, and grieve with the grieving before going back to my own world and remembering to hug my children more often than any of us need a hug, just because. Just because I can.


5 thoughts on “I Chop Onions and Get Lost in Melancholy for a Moment

  1. On Friday morning, I left my house in tears after hearing this on the early news. Just heart wrenching. Your post was so thoughtful and true. As a New Yorker, we all were reeling and talking about this all day. I pray for the family and all those effected. I cannot fathom their pain. I pray for strength for them as well.

    1. There really is so little to say in comfort, but we all seem to feel it in some way.

  2. Just beautiful. I think everyone needs to stop and feel this sadness for a minute. Such horrible news really puts things (like stoves and sweet little boys) in perspective.

    1. Thank you, yes, that’s exactly it – perspective and a hunkering down to focus on the really important things. You be safe in that storm brewing near you!

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