Tag Archives: Family

Home Is

Home is people, not places. Home is joy and laughter and learning and love. In our homes we hold and care for one another, explore the world hand in hand, lift each other up. We can cry together because it means we can grow. We want to understand those around us and we work together to do whatever it is, whatever it takes.

When we’ve made a home, things matter. We, the human beings, matter. You, me, them, all of us, a family.

Home is an idea more than a physical environment. Home is together in security and in friendship. Friends are not born, they are made, and in homes we make choices. We can walk side by side, we can chase one another with glee. We can play. Look at the sunset, look at the trees. Feel the sand, the grass. What a world we can choose to build. What homes we can make.

Homes with an s.

And so they are, by necessity, but also because we dare. Because our hearts and minds grow larger as we live, and our connections to people near and far grow with time. When we are willing to live, to love, to be with others, we find homes. And in living, loving, being we share. We share hopes, dreams, anger, despair. For we are, all of us, mere travellers on this earth.

The idea of home is intrinsically tied with nature. Throughout history, we have navigated by stars, moss on trees, rock formations, sunlight, shadows, wind. Across time and space, people gather around the hearth. We find warmth and conversation around the fire, connection with others, connection with food. Where there is water, there are animals. With animals come people. People plant crops. Shelters are built. More people come. We create communities and in those communities, we make homes.

When all else fails us, the world itself is left.

Yet sometimes, we grow weary. We lose our way. We forget the signs or we search and search and can’t find them. And so we wander, wander in ceaseless patterns that we only recognize once we lie down to rest our minds. We stretch out our hands, pleading, but there’s no one around who sees us.

Yes, sometimes we work and work and are lost. I am searching but I can’t find you. Listening but I can’t hear you.

Breathe. And then.

In the morning, the fog clears. The mist lifts from the endless road, the path, the journey, the adventure. And isn’t it just?

There are mountains in the distance. They sing.

Welcome home.

Doi Inthanon National Park – Chiang Mai, Thailand – January 2018

5781

Tonight is Erev Rosh Hashanah, the eve of the Jewish new year. We are celebrating 5781 journeys around the sun. These are 5781 journeys of love and loss, peace and war, fear and joy, hopelessness and solace.

Perhaps it’s because we’ve had such a strange six months that I’m not feeling the familiar ache to be with my family that I usually experience around the High Holy Days. I felt that ache acutely for weeks and weeks and perhaps I’m just accustomed to it now. I think the unprecedented life we’ve all been living is what has actually left me quite calm about my plans to welcome the new year quietly and with reflection rather than attending socially distant religious services in a normally communal environment.

Given everything, it seems fitting to begin a new year taking explicit action at making the world a better place – the world needs it. This is why I decided to go to the blood bank right after school. The queue both inside and at the door indicated that I was not the only one feeling the need to act and it was heartening to be in the company of so many strangers.

As I walked slowly home from the bus stop, I felt the strength of my heartbeat and I felt it working hard. The world needs us to work hard – it will not heal on its own.

As this year flows into the next my wish is, as always, for peace. Peace among friends, among strangers, with the earth, water, and air. And my commitment is to take actions to achieve it. I welcome all to join me.

Shana tovah u’metukah.

Auckland, New Zealand – December 2018

Dancing in the Kitchen

This year, for the first time ever, I am not spending the summer with my family. In the past, much of this summertime has seen me with my mum playing together in the kitchen, but, unfortunately this cannot be. So for the moment, I’ve been sharing meals with friends and reflecting on times past.

I’ve written many times that if love is a verb, love requires action. This means behaving in ways that give love. We can show love in many ways, such as holding those who need holding, listening to those who are speaking, helping when help is needed, and giving of our time. Another way to show love, I deeply believe, is through cooking. A few years ago, my mum sewed me an apron embroidered with the words, “Love people. Cook them tasty food.” I think that sums it up.

In terms of cooking, there are two ways to show love: preparing food for others and preparing food with others.

In preparing food for others, the acts of chopping, slicing, dicing, washing, peeling, and whisking (to highlight just the tip of the iceberg) are not accidental – all are intentional. These acts require us to consider others and are the visible evidence of a desire to nourish, which is an act of care. Care in this context is a way to love.

Cooking for others may not involve the seeking of reciprocity. We prepare food that we think others will enjoy, and not with the purpose of raising ourselves in their eyes. So, when we sometimes cook for others in order to impress them, that is not an act of love. Preparing a meal for those in need, however, whether due to the demands that a joyous arrival of a newborn baby or the sorrow of a loss may bring, is something we do for those we care about – for those we love.

In such circumstances, when I cook for others out of love, my favorite meal to prepare is a hearty soup. (Admittedly, this is challenging in the tropics and I have modified my approach.) Soup is a meal that warms from the inside out and is filling, healthy, and tasty. It is simple to enjoy with no more than pepper and bread, and unpretentious with ingredients that are easy to find. There is love stirred into the soup pot.

In addition to showing love in the preparation of food for others, there is also cooking with others. When done with love, this can be analogous to an indoor version of running through the sprinkler on a hot day. It can be glorious or it can be a complete disaster (think thunderstorms and mud flung into eyes) but either way, if it is done with love, it ends in smiles and laughter.

Cooking with others is joyful and spirited. It is the creative interplay of working together, a fluid dynamic that involves trust and tolerance of another person. As my mum has said, “We dance the kitchen dance really well.” And yet, sometimes we get in each other’s way. This is when we take a step back and respect each other’s space, and this requires a significant degree of humility on our part, a willingness to simply let the other person be. We welcome their playfulness, their mistakes, and their laughter – because we do the same.

The kitchen dance, as I know it, is what I think walking hand in hand through the world might look like. It is beautiful and intricate in parts, yet it also requires the discipline to take on the responsibility that it brings. It is not simply preparing food but also caring for all parts of the journey; the sharpening and honing of knives, the clearing of counters, the washing of dishes, and the scrubbing of pots and pans, and finally, the clearing of the table. Together. Us. Rejoicing, frolicking.

A word of warning, however. It is important to recognise that there is a difference between two people working in a kitchen and combining food, and two people dancing in the kitchen and creating food. There is a synthesis of senses in the latter that may not exist in the former. There is a give-and-take between us as texture, taste, scent, and sight of the elements are explored. What I do now will influence the choices you make later. We bounce off and augment each other while incorporating individual creativity. Your taste and my taste guide the next element, the next move. We share as we explore, and in doing so laugh and love.

Playing in this way has led me to compose food that one would never find in recipe books. And in doing so I have found that not all of them merit repeating. But that isn’t what is important. What is meaningful, is that I have played with others in the kitchen and shared in the love that this brings. I will continue to cultivate and cherish those times and urge you and your loved ones to do the same.

Jean Talon Market – Montreal, Quebec