I sat with an unpeeled orange in my lap looking out over the snowy hill. I could see the spot where we buried Lady Lucia, our oldest, loveliest corgi’s body (The Day Lucy Fell Into Shadow), the earth a little more scarred from the effort of digging a grave in the winter (Digging)
I suppose I could thank Lucy for giving me grief and the effect it’s had on my body. But I’m not thankful.
In grief, I frankly just don’t have the energy. And besides, I’d rather have my full sugarplum back and Lucy, too.
Don’t women always seem to have some sort of goofy love/hate relationships with their bodies and therefore, with food?
Some of us eat more when we’re upset, some of us eat less. I’m in the latter group. But this doesn’t mean I’m healthy or fit.
It means I have less energy to grieve and less desire to notice beauty that can pull me out. And you know grief, the way it folds in on itself and forces us into frantic activity without pleasure or ennui without hope.
It’s a killer for good dining, good conversation, good sex. As Virginia Woolf wrote, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” And I don’t just mean crazy healthy food, I think Woolf meant sustaining, delicious, smack your lips and tuck in food.
The best test I’ve landed on for the gauge of health and food is not my scale.
It’s not my sugarplum belly (which is rapidly losing it’s luscious curve, a happy and sad change, a sexy and yet not sexy alteration).
The best test is not my strength, though I’ve discovered the very sensual and pleasing feeling of working out in a gym in front of MIRRORS. Nothing quite so motivational as seeing muscles spring forth. But also kind of sick and self-conscious. How can you enjoy an activity when you’re constantly looking at yourself? Sort of like skyping, but fixating on the video of your face.
The best test for determining if me and food are having a healthy time of it is taste.
Can I enjoy this orange? Do I want to enjoy it? Can I eat what I want and stop when I’m done?
I peel it slowly letting the waxy rind cake my cuticles. Oranges make you work for them.
I dig out the mandarin colored jewels.
I split the pieces apart and let the juice run through my finger.
I taste it slowly, thinking of the coldness and high snow banks (27 inches fell last night) around me. I think of how I’d like to share a piece with Finn who sleeps and Dale who is working at the library today.
I taste each pocket of juice and notice that I’m not enjoying it as much at the end. It’s a dry orange actually.
But the first few pieces tasted like a waltz in my mouth.
I tasted it. I noticed it. I had space in my mouth and belly and soul to enjoy it.
Reminds me of a book I’m reading Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch, a pioneering work on sexuality and relationships (I recommend). Schnarch asks couples who come to him for sex therapy, “When was the last time you touched each other?”
He doesn’t mean something sexual, necessarily, here. He means feeling to touch, not feeling to turn someone on.
Like when I ran my fingers along my new silver necklace, feeling to touch the links and slinky movement.
Like when I rub my check against Finn’s rosy ones, feeling to touch the peachy warmth.
Like when I feel the delicate skin on the orange, gossamer bindings holding banks of juice in store for someone’s waiting mouth.
There’s a lot of sensuality in this world, if we have the stomach for it.
Feeling to touch.
Tasting to enjoy.
My tests for health in this life.