here's a toast to the simple joy of dining at the french bistro. soft yellow walls, the room resonant with chatter, forks and plates randomly clink in the bus tubs carried back and forth through the dining room. the late afternoon sunlight sets the tone for a perfectly simple, lingering occasion with one of the most interesting people i have ever had the pleasure to know. hootie wildermuth, (susan o'day, or in the sacred circle, dude). wordsmith, secret agent, extraordinary thinker, loving mother, exceptional friend.
it's hard to explain what happens when hootie is in your ear. it is an energy vortex of words and images; a free flowing rivulet of topics trickle, grow and take their own direction in the stream of dreamy consciousness. there is a story and there is a moment in time that will warm your heart a million times over. you will remember the words and and each thoughtful pause, so perfectly timed in a soft, natural way. hootie has magic all around her.
and so we start on the street. finishing her thin cigarette, i am happy just to see her standing in the door way. i stop in front of where she is; it is real life and i am here now. we hug sweetly. seated at the table, i get up and and put my face closely next to hers again; i smell her perfume and relish the way in which the scent mingles perfectly with her skin and hair. i cherish that brief second and tuck it away in my secret memento of things that mean the most.
so much to say about dinner with hootie, and her new gift from annie, which accompanied her in the mystical bag. katie's little girl gifted this small stuffed animal to hootie. of course it was not as it appears in the photo. originally with yellow fur and pink ears and nose, hootie needed a more realistic version, and thus dipped the furry animal in a cup of coffee and blackened the nose with a marker. "so much more real, don't you think, vel?" that night at the bistro, he became a real little pet dubbed moki, a sweet italian boy guinea pig. hootie recounts how she forgot about his being, and came apon him one morning, sitting on the edge of the bathroom sink. shreiking in horror, she thought he was a real house pest. and then she remembered. her own deliberate creation, he certainly looked real. we laugh hard and long. a story teller extraoordinaire, that hootie. she sweeps her hand across her bangs. her eyes, azure blue, are framed by perfect brows. she hides these things we love most, in complete self-consciousness, like a young child running away from all attention. she covers up her laughter, but it is the irresistible moment we love. beauty and irreverence, irish spirit and british wit, loving, sarcastic, too damn smart it makes you weary and just a bit weak with love. this makes my heart joyful, and i am so comforted to know she is in the world.
we take her favorite table and begin a winding, spontaneous conversation. gifts in bags, books in purses, photos, love letters, malka, big joe, bryn, photos of the boys and the bohemian mother, so many book marks hidden in the pages. amazing poetry from regular kate, a simple correspondence from her life long love. hootie asked me to read each to her, and just like that, we were nowhere else but in front of each other, and in the portals of each line on the page. i was beside her in the labyrinth of her life. i know how lucky it was to be right there, with the people she loves, sharing the wounds, reading the bliss on every page, in each word.
for the meal, we decide on a simple green salad with perfect french vinaigrette, and the mussel soup. heavenly. silky and light, a sensual bouquet of saffron, wine, shallots, cream and perfect, fresh moules. crusty bread, butter, an extra spoon. we sopped up the warm liquid with glee and unexpected delight. truly amazing and perfect. steak frites for the entree. thinly pounded, herbaceous notes flavored the meat, and a pile of potatoes to dip into our bernaise. too much, but still we chewed and savored. each course delicious in conversation, and sometimes pure quiet. we carried on with modest gluttony like a bon voyage meal without the sadness of departure. we hoisted up, as hootie would say.
our meal, like the poetry and pictures, became a series of mesmerizing moments that spoke to the simplicity of love and making. held tightly by our gangly roots, it seems we are grounded in the history and making of us. same and different, each of us, in this family of life. we are the uncommon garden varieties, and each family's food is born from the distinct memories of love and giving, in a multitude of expressions. it is astounding to think of this community of nurturing, so much alike and yet so unique. the very thought of it takes my breath away.
we cried and talked and laughed. moki sat high on the water bottle, the organic tinted chaperon of our pioneer dinner date. all seemed as it should be, perfectly imperfect, and it occurred to me in those very moments that i could be happy again. the server cleaned up the crumbs from the table, and emily joined us for a catch-up supper of mussels. susan and i sipped espresso, wishing for lemon zests, and wondered aloud about the shyness of our server from lyon. we were a happy table, ready to move on. we walked in the rain, shopped for books and shoes and traversed the universe in the span of three hours. we laughed a lot. mostly at ourselves.
i am grateful beyond words for my dinner with hootie. i felt tapped in to a brief but powerful transfusion of the life blood we all crave. the simplicity of friendship and the lust for life as we lovingly accept it was back in my veins, pumping to my heart, holding on. restoration of the good old regular, as hootie would say. i know exactly what she means.
it is a dinner we should all have now and then. together, and just for the hell of it. i am truly thankful for the richness that graces my path in the people like hootie wildermuth. i am humbled and so well fed. take the moment right in front of you. it is yours. that is what i learn, each time i choose to see the love all around me in this garden of life. i am grateful for the magic that still exists.
with much love xoxoxox