Silent Night – A French Immersion Thanksgiving.
Uncommonly high temperatures plagued our Thanksgiving. This meant abandoning cozy sweaters for t-shirts and shorts, Chef B squeezing in a round of golf, and me putting my hands in the dirt.
When we added a second French Chef to the table, my caveat for the evening was “You guys better speak English!” I’ve found that people often move to their native tongue when they’re together and if your native tongue doesn’t wrap around their language, you’re hooped. As predicted, it was a French Immersion Thanksgiving; so much for dialogue.
Mostly, I speak “Menu French” so long as the conversation holds to cheese or sausage, I have a reasonable idea of what’s being said. After that, no idea. At first I sat in sulky silence; but champagne and foie gras always improves my humor and reminds me that life holds opportunities in each moment. Even in silence, there is wine.
Years ago I signed up for a Silent Thanksgiving weekend retreat. Our singular task was – silence – three whole days of it. The rules were simple: No talking. No phones. No music. No media. No TV. No Radio. No Print. In fact, no reading, but writing or drawing or any kind of silent self-expression was encouraged.
Big stacks of unlined paper sat on a table, beside them were mugs full of pencils and pens, brushes and crayons and surrounding us was one of the magnificent backdrops of beauty and miles of woodland trails, in the heart of the Rockies.
The purpose of this exercise was to allow the voice to be silent long enough to — LISTEN.
We began on a Friday at noon, the first three hours were frantic, I didn’t know what to do with myself. When I would make eye contact with someone I would automatically acknowledge them with a whispered “hello”, only to be hushed.
Saturday’s lunch was excruciating, some participants left. One was caught in his car listening to the news “But I need to know what’s going on in the world, it’s very important to my JOB!” He was reminded that he was on retreat and was assured that any life-altering news would be relayed to the group; dissatisfied he yelled and cursed and told everyone how important he was until he was asked to leave. Not everyone is comfortable with silence.
About 3pm that Saturday, walking in the bight, clean light of autumn – I hit a wall – a big, pillow-y, marshmallow-y wall of inner stillness. No racing thoughts, no demands on my time or space; just me and Mother Nature.
That calm was like a sigh from the soul, a “welcome home” feeling of being at peace with oneself.
Since that time, 25 years ago, I’ve found a way to have a day of silence, every year around Thanksgiving. It’s surprising how much verbal clutter one has in one’s life. A good way to clean it up; shut up for a while!
Last night I enjoyed the beauty of a language I’m (slowly) learning (one menu at a time), its melody, its harmonies, its lilts, overtones and contradictions. I found tiny breaks of comprehension but mostly I enjoyed being silent, in the company of two charming French men. My silent night also gave me ample time to communicate (intimately) with the wine. Plundered from the depths of his father’s cellar, Chef B spoiled us with a 20 year old bottle from a boutique vineyard in Burgundy. The Universe has spoken, through wine.
Tomorrow is my official “Silent Thanksgiving”. I’ll take a break from everything electronic that depletes and in its place I’ll spend the day with everything organic that nourishes.
This also marks a turning point for Food Gypsy, instead of our usual Tuesday/Thursday publishing schedule, next week we’re moving to a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule, practicing silence with (Mostly) Wordless Wednesdays.
Giving us the opportunity to more Fun Food Fridays plus more wine, more recipes… and a bit more SOUL FOOD.
That’s about all I have to say on the topic of silence.