You Want To Learn Arabic and Japanese

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. There are plenty of lives and whole towns destroyed or about to be. We are not wise, and not very often kind. And much can never be redeemed. Still life has some possibility left. Perhaps this is its way of fighting back, that sometimes something happened better than all the riches or power in the world. It could be anything, but very likely you notice it in the instant when love begins. Anyway, that’s often the case. Anyway, whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

Mary Oliver “Don’t Hesitate”

At a potluck in Western Canada, we could talk politics but restrain ourselves. Though before dinner, we bemoan the outcast state of health and education in the province. The public presence of White Supremacy. And the catastrophic weather elsewhere. Deadly hurricanes gather and let off steam in the Atlantic. Six thousand missing in the Bahamas: that much grief as unfathomable as the turquoise sea around Abaco Island.

When your friend’s sister’s za’atar made with thyme from Lebanon is baked in your oven on flatbread, you cannot tear yourself away. Her homemade creamy hummus has identical focusing effects.

With similar generosity, friends from Tokyo bring a large round tray of plump sushi.

And you try to act inconspicuous while you down the remaining delights.

Your French is still passable and a long-time friend from Brittany passes her delicate lettuce salad. Enthusiastically, it disappears.

After you finish the last green leaf, the Korean spice-rubbed chicken thighs you barbecued with roasted vegetables and anise all vanish into thin air.

Later you will share the chocolate mousse cake intended for a well-loved absent friend. (And your beloved daughter who sleeps across the Rocky Mountains.)

You push back your chair and rise up with others who move in unison to gather dishes.

You rinse.

(Running water writes a poem.)

Crumbs on the table are wiped clean.

The front porch light switches off.

Only laughter and conversation remain.

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