Choosing to walk in beauty involves every dimension of living: your posture, your attire, your decor, your attitude, and your manner of living. But none of these important areas depend upon a great expenditure of money or time; they merely require the mindfulness that evolves into good habits. Today I want to concentrate on food.
If you’ve read Isak Dinesen’s short story, Babbette’s Feast, or seen the movie based upon it, you already understand something about the importance of good food, well prepared, and artfully presented. If you haven’t, watch a download of the movie at home this weekend.
Pay attention to every detail, for this is a story of people changing their attitudes, not a fast moving thriller. Only by noticing the details or clues and putting them together, does one catch the full impact of the story.
In fact, every detail is so important that many viewers could see it two or three times before understanding the insights Dinesen offers. Most Americans probably first approach it as a quaint, Victorian story about a peculiar village of overly pious people. Yet, there is a bad habit that both the fictional Danes and today’s Americans share. — Each group misses the importance of beautiful food that is chosen and prepared with care, then presented attractively in a setting that encourages conversation.
The Danish villagers feared that giving too much attention to physical pleasure would draw them away from God’s love. They saw God as a stern taskmaster and viewed holiness as paying very strict attention to the tasks He assigned, not the virtues He espoused. Without emphasizing those virtues, through the years the believers began quarreling over petty matters until every meeting was marred by merciless accusations that were never forgiven.
While Americans readily succumb to the very sensual pleasures their fictional counterparts most detested, they sacrifice good family meals and pleasant conversations on the altar of efficiency and convenience. Too many meals every week come from the drive through track at a nearby fast food place and are consumed in the car. Or if at home, gathered around the table, parents and children alike play with their smart phones instead of communicating with each other. Often the television is on to further distract family members from actually glimpsing the problems that each other faces. Consequently, they begin quarreling over petty matters until every day is marred by merciless accusations that are never forgiven.
The villagers learned love and forgiveness at one glorious banquet the likes of which they had never imagined even existed. The bad habits of American families will take longer to change, but at much less cost.
Stay tuned for easy suggestions to add more love and beauty to your evening meal.
Copyright 2017 by Kaye Fairweather
Once upon a time beauty bloomed inside Effie’s mind as she planned the best design for the edging that would trim the sheets and pillowcases needed to complete her dowry. She often hurried to finish the farm chores to allow time to complete a few extra inches of lace before bedtime. After each harvest, she eagerly counted out her coins, hoping on the next trip to town to buy more linen to make hand towels and napkins to monogram during the winter.
All was finished and packed away in a separate wooden trunk by the time she climbed into the family’s wagon to be driven to Simmons College for her teaching degree. When things got tough at school, she comforted herself with daydreams about using the beautiful things carefully folded and waiting in her hope chest. After graduation, she moved to the territory of New Mexico to start her new life as a single woman teaching school in what became Lea County. Every month, she bought a few pieces of delicate, hand painted fine china to add to her dowry. And she kept it all under lock and key for safety’s sake.
After she married, they decided to build only a very small frame house to live in temporarily because they were living as simply as possible while getting the sheep ranch and small farm started. All of these precious linens and good china would be used in the new house – the real house they would build after proving the claim and after they had more money. But right now, they were just getting by.
Especially with growing children though, every year the nice house seemed to be further and further down the road. Occasionally Effie would open the trunk to look again at the lovely things they would use some day and show them to her three girls, provided they washed their hands before touching any of the treasures. Their big eyes drank in the glory of delicate hand painted tea cups and they begged to use them right now – today.
But cautious Effie always said, “No, not until we build the new house; these things are just too nice to use here. But then, we’ll use them every day and especially when we have company come over for dinner.”
But one Sunday, when the oldest girl was eight and the youngest a toddler, before the new house was built, they returned home after church to a smoldering pile of ashes. No one knows how the fire started or even when. They were grateful that the wind had not spread it to the corrals, so none of the livestock was lost. The windmill was still pumping water from under the ground, but no one had been there to use it to put out the fire.
Of course none of them had ever gotten to use the beautiful things that had been made with such generosity and such anticipation of the delight of sharing beauty with the people you love most of all.
* * * *
Share whatever beautiful things you have with everyone you love while both are still with you. Each of us needs all the beauty we can get from mundane tools neatly arranged to a marvelous view of our own back yard to a table set neatly in a quiet house to encourage conversation during the shared meal. Thus we build real memories instead of trying to live in air castles.
Copyright 2017 by Kaye Fairweather
“I have an idea that the only thing which makes it possible to regard this world we live in without disgust is the beauty which now and then men create out of the chaos.
The pictures they paint, the music they compose, the books they write, and the lives they lead. Of all these the richest in beauty is the beautiful life.
That is the perfect work of art.”
W. Somerset Maugham