Recently while on the phone with me my sister said, it’s a “whistle while you work kinda day.” She was ready to get off the phone now that her battery had sunk dangerously low, sentencing her to a cord’s length range of motion. Chatting was no longer a “whistle” conducive to work with many of her duties out of reach, so we said our goodbyes.
There are times when the work isn’t favorable for whistling either. For instance, when it’s too much, it’ll take the whistle right out of me. Personally, even if I really love what I am doing, if I’m always ‘yoked’ to a task, eventually I feel a hostage.
Working in kitchens for much of my adult life now, I cherish the days that feel like this scene from Snow White, when there’s a communal hum of motion and cheer. It’s why I love catering big parties, Mondays at Alice’s, and loved cooking at a busy restaurant in the Berkshires pre-COVID; I feel a part of the party, the joy and excitement---it’s a buzz I lust after.
Of course this high has a peak. As was my experience at the restaurant, when the last guests had left, the drudgery of mopping the floor at 11 pm after working for 12+ hours crept in. My body would collapse in the car seat for the first time all day to drive home and questions like “why do I even do this?” arose on cue.
Cooking can bring me into my body, juggling the aromas, textures, flavors and just as easily compel me to leave it, when my feet start to ache and shoulders slouch at the prospect of just a few more hours. Economic reasons for this truth aside (the food industry is a mess of hardworking underpaid people operating on the slimmest margins), for some of us with choice in the matter, it’s all the potential good fun and magic that can beguile us into believing long days of standing, stirring, lifting, and washing will be worth it. Most of the time it is, but sometimes it costs me, at minimum, my whistle.
Yesterday was imbolc, marking the return of the light, when it starts feeling right to begin planning for spring, newness, and growth. Traditionally people have bonfires and light candles to welcome back the sun. Gardeners place seed orders, make planting calendars, and cooks wade through their remaining pantry stashes with new intention and creative vigor, making space for spring. It’s inspiring a different kind of clearing in myself, evaluating the habits that rob me of my whistle so I can really let winter hold me in its promised simplicity these last couple months.
With this spirit of moderation, I am going to dial back my writing a bit, mostly to make room for a burly class I am taking this semester. I’ll still send out a weekly announcement with the menu, and perhaps share a poem or joke. Monthly I’ll send out something longer form. I’m really in love with writing to you all and touched that you’ve been reading. If you’ve gotten this far, I can only assume. With that, here’s a poem for you to kick off this new cycle of light:
It Was Early
by Mary Oliver
It was early, which has always been my hour to begin looking at the world
and of course, even in the darkness, to begin listening into it,
especially under the pines where the owl lives and sometimes calls out
as I walk by, as he did on this morning. So many gifts!
What do they mean? In the marshes where the pink light was just arriving
the mink with his bristle tail was stalking the soft-eared mice,
and in the pines the cones were heavy, each one ordained to open.
Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.
Little mink, let me watch you.
Little mice, run and run.
Dear pine cone, let me hold you as you open.
From from EVIDENCE and DEVOTIONS
Carly lives and eats from a hilltop in Cummington, Massachsuetts and part time in Schenectady, NY.