07 October, 2009

Passing in a small village.

I've just returned from a communal dinner at the village down the way. At the invitation of our recently bereaved older neighbor, we gathered to celebrate the life of her husband. Accent on celebrate, she underlined. There were perhaps eighty to ninety of us pulled up to refectory tables placed end to end in the deepening night. Our newly widowed neighbor had found a traditional band for the evening, and the champagne and wines were uncorked. We reminisced about our neighbor and friend. The mother and daughters who run and own the tiny supermarket had red eyes and noses. My heart and stomach seemed to be somewhere in my ankles. How would anyone ever be able to eat after this sad beginning? Everyone had brought food, mind you; the side tables groaned under the weight of our good will. My concern about our collective loss of appetite proved utterly groundless. I took my plate and dished up. What is it about death and eating?

The character of villages can vary enormously. Whether it is in the south or north, in the mountains or on the coast has a real impact on human relations. Here we are spread out upon the rolling land just enough so that we (generally) don't step upon one another's toes (as long as you don't involve the subject of hunting). The population density is such that people have recognizable identities, and histories that are wound into the warp and weft of the communal life. We took some time to remember our friend, we took some time to enjoy one another's presence. The flush-faced children chased one another from the dregs of the afternoon far into the school night. It may continue to sprinkle tomorrow--if we want to gather wild mushrooms this year we'll need the humidity.

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