PERHAPS THE WORLD ENDS HERE
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.
– Joy Harjo –
One of several, this poem by past Poet Laureate of the United States, was a gift to its subscribers from the Poetry Foundation in celebration of American Thanksgiving. Today is the day after, the formal kick-off to the holiday season, and Black Friday, another American invention, where for the last many weeks social media has run rampant with ads boasting big savings on just about everything imaginable. Curious that what comes to my mind as I type is remembering within days of 9-11, then President Bush telling Americans to go shopping to deal with their unspeakable shock and yet to be processed, still processing, grief.
A couple of days ago I made an “artist’s date” with a friend before going out to lunch together. We visited the Alberta Council for the Ukrainian Arts, recently relocated on the edges of our downtown core – desperate for post-pandemic revitalization – due to the demolition of its previous home in a sweet, enlivening neighborhood strip mall. Home, too, for a cozy family friendly café; a corner store “famous” city-wide for its fried chicken; a chic furniture and home décor shop; the place to go for small appliance repairs and replacement parts; a Buddhist bookstore…the lifeblood of a community soon to be bled and bulldozed for urban “development.” Yes, I feel grief about this.
February 24, 2022. Nine months to the day of this American Thanksgiving. Then the day the world, as the people of Ukraine and beyond knew it, ended perhaps at their kitchen tables. Most certainly at their front doors.
Eating lunch at a café table with my friend, she of Ukrainian descent on her mother’s side, I remarked on the juxtaposition of these battered doors within the art centre’s maker space – women chatting as they embroidered, and stitched quilts, sewed at machines set for creating, surrounded by walls hung with colourful Ukrainian art. How symbolic of life: on one hand, its cycles of creation and destruction, on the other, how in the space of these nine unimaginable months, so much has filled in and taken over and away my attention from this invasion and its deepening catastrophic impacts now come winter. Taken over and away by a continuous barrage of catastrophe, terror, trauma, and grief.
Too, remembering the ethical conundrum of Thanksgiving in North America with its history of colonization, enslavement and displacement. A history of catastrophe, terror, trauma, and grief that persists.
So this post – post Thanksgiving and pre the advent of the holyday season with its cross cultural celebrations of light returning – is an invitation to pause…to remember…to return my attention…to imagine the tables where “we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.”
Much love and kindest regards, dear friends.