Grace, and a Ball Bouncing

Heat waves and spring showers, snow in Portland and rain in Texas. Wind in the conifer branches at night, tossing the dark boughs restlessly, as currents swirl and shift in the air. On the steep hillsides, the wildflowers drink small sips of rain, and send up another flush of bloom. In the vegetable patch, tomatoes and basil, planted in the optimism of an early summer, shiver in the breeze. The parsley, however, does not mind. The flavor of bolting cilantro shifts subtly to a coriander tang. Kale blooms a buttery yellow. The early spring bulbs are mostly done blooming, but the bright gold of the fading daffodils is echoed in the striking flash or an oriole, suddenly lighting on the oak tree. Beneath the pale blooming sages and the colorful bulbs, a child might find eggs this morning, hidden in honor of or allusion to ancient rituals. Small hands clutch a harvest basket that carries sweetness and found surprises. Wet grass damps their ankles, beading raindrops make tiny rainbows that shatter as they fall from jostled branches.

While the children hunt eggs, spring unfolds in the woods around us. Golden-crowned sparrows sing their three note song, descending a stepladder of notes, over and over. A wrentit has a song like a ball bouncing, which Cornell describes thusly: "In males, this starts out as 3 to 5 pits followed by an accelerating trill; the ball bounces away." Sometimes the careful language we use to describe a simple thing becomes a poem in and of itself, because attention is itself a practice closely related to creative endeavors. An immersion of the senses, a heightened awareness of surroundings and sensation. This heightened awareness is useful to build connections in the brain, to make art, to hunt food and prey and even, by extension, Easter eggs. The children fine tune their senses, train the eye to seek out the oblong forms of hidden eggs nestled beneath the rosemary, in the tall grass, in the crook of tree branches. The wild birds hide their wild nests more carefully, but the chickens have mostly lost this instinct, except for that salty old red hen who occasionally disappears under the rose bush to set on a clutch of hidden eggs.

We have gathered eggs from the coop, cooked and dyed them, and hidden them for children to find. Others we have cooked and dyed for other purposes; this week's featured recipe for beet deviled eggs is a feast for eyes as well as the mouth. Easter is a welcome excuse to make this beautiful presentation, but really, it's simple enough that it's worth making at other times, too. There's no bad time to take such beauty in, to treat the senses to something meant to delight. There is a comfort in "brown foods", in the slow caramelization of onions or browned protein...but sometimes, as with this recipe, and the rhubarb syrup we posted a few weeks ago, there is medicine in such impossibly bright colors as these. What a way to take in a color, a dose of brilliant magenta that is surely a tonic for shaking off the winter blahs. We don't believe a thing can be "too pretty to eat"; the beauty is meant to be savored, and taken in, in accordance with its design. We remind ourselves of this, as we reach for another pink-stained ovoid offering.

The children are laughing in the yard, shrieking and running pell mell across the weedy, blooming garden, their song an irregular eruption that blends, somehow, with the more musical birdsong. A ball bounces away, another egg is found and added to the basket. Spring sap is rising, greening the trees along the river, swelling the blooms on the rose bushes, flushing the cheeks of children who are luckier than they know. We count their blessings for them, and for ourselves, numbering and cataloging them, lest they pass unnoticed.This morning. That particular shade of green. The forest alive with sound. The smell of a whole blooming hillside of manzanita. Grace, in whatever form it speaks to us.

By Jessica Tunis