Saturday, December 22, 2012

Halved, Wholly

Summer kept its grip on the valley well into November, so that autumn was a mere mention before winter (such as it is) arrived in Phoenix. My finals wrapped up in time for a bit of Christmas busyness this week: some shopping, some baking, and best of all, apple butter. It's as close to a tradition as we have, something that comes with the cold weather and makes the house smell like heaven. I hope when I'm long gone my children will know that apple butter was my love language when I didn't know what else to say.

About four Granny Smiths, some Galas, a Fuji for good measure--all washed and ready for chopping. I'm a creature of habit by habit: I halve apples from pole to pole, then quarter, then eighth, before tossing them in the pot. But with my daughter in the kitchen I suddenly remembered the delight of an apple sliced across the equator, the hidden star, the realization that comes from knowing every apple you've ever seen had such a silent treasure. So I showed her. And there it was: delight, marveling, the dawning realization. It was all that I'd hoped. We kept a couple halves aside to use for printing on paper, but they dried out overnight and lost their smooth surface. The stars, however, became more pronounced, the rigid seed pockets holding their shape while the flesh drew back. The tiny pores that circle the star opened slightly, creating an effect like fireworks or exclamation marks.

There's so much beauty right in our grasp, yet we go on, oblivious. Not just oblivious to what's there, but confident that we know all there is to know. I'm not taking this story anywhere in particular, but it's starting to mirror where my faith is at these days. I don't want to give up what's familiar, but I need to see it in a new way. I know there's treasure inside. I know that it's sustaining. I know it's a language of love, that it nourishes and soothes. I want to see the star that points me to the beauty of the universe. I want more, but not more. My friend and mentor Herb Brokering once reminded me, "In a little is a bunch." I need to get back to that kind of thinking for a while and reclaim the true and simple.

As we turned back to cooking, my daughter kissed the apple halves she held before adding them to the rest. It was right and meet so to do. What is a sacrament, if not the holy placed in our hands?