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I sit here on the sofa and stare out the window at the spirea… A bee buzzes around the tip of a spirea branch and lights on the top leaf. I’m frustrated by my lack of energy. I’m frustrated that my brain feels like a sieve and that after about noon I can barely string six words together to form a coherent sentence. I’m frustrated that given this blessed hour of silence and aloneness, all I can do is sit on the sofa and stare at a bee on a leaf.

I think, I should write a blog post about that bee. But I have no idea what I would say beyond, “There was a bee on the spirea.” Who cares? Even I don’t care. It’s what the bee means that matters, and I have no idea what the bee means, how the bee is holiness in the midst of the ordinary.

 
Those words come from my book Cracking Up, and I can hear Father Robert Farrar Capon taking me to task. “The bee doesn’t have to mean anything!” he thunders. “The bee’s very bee-ness is enough! You—you—you secularist!

For Capon, author of The Supper of the Lamb, being is meaning. The fact of being—my being, your being, the being of a bee, or a leg of lamb—is cause for deep wonder and rejoicing. He spends an entire chapter of his book meditating on an onion. The beauty and aliveness and wonder and miracle of it! The reason you and I do not fall down in awe before a lowly onion is because we’ve never actually seen one. For most of us, an onion is merely the first thing you chop when you’re making pasta sauce or stuffing. For Capon, it’s a window into the wonder of existence. And so—a chapter devoted to seeing an onion. Its skin, its flesh, its central core, the root and shoot and life and juice of it.
The Supper Of The Lamb

Ostensibly, The Supper of the Lamb is a cookbook. There’s a great deal about cookery in here (Capon spends several pages waxing eloquent and opinionated about kitchen knives), and there are 90 pages of recipes at the back (in addition to the ones sprinkled throughout the first 200 pages), but saying this is a cookbook is like saying Moby Dick is a whale-hunting manual.

To Capon (may I call him Father Robert? He seems, if not a friend exactly, then a delightfully grumpy neighbor. Rather like Mr. Harrison in Anne of Avonlea, heartily opinionated and a little crispy but a kindred spirit nonetheless)—to Father Robert, my little complaint about the bee is heresy. A bee mean something indeed!

“Creation is God’s living room, the place where He sits down and relishes the exquisite taste of His decoration. Things, therefore, as things, are inseparable from God, as God. Separate the secular from the sacred, and the world becomes an idol shrouded in interpretations; creation becomes too meaningful to make love to.”

Mea culpa!

“Significance,” Father Robert continues, “consumes the world of the secularist.”

Father, forgive me; I have sinned. I am a secularist, obsessed with significance.

Supper Of The Lamb

But Father Robert is not done with me yet:

We have arrived at an untoastable condition. Turn your glass upside down for a moment. There are demons to be exorcised.

Omnes dil gentium demonia sunt; Dominus autem coelos fecit. Deliver us, O Lord, from religiosity and Godlessness alike, lest we wander in fakery or die of boredom. Restore to us Thyself as Giver and the secular as Thy gift. Let idols perish and con jobs cease. Give repentance and better minds to all pagans and secularists; in the meantime, of Thy mercy, keep them out of our cellars.

Amen. I smile weakly. I think I need a glass of wine. 

That’s the sanest thing you’ve said yet, Father Robert says. Wine cheers the heart, and your secular little heart, my dear, could use a little cheering. Under his breath, he mutters, Doesn’t know what the bee means. He hands me a glass. Wait here, he says. I’ll go down to the cellar.

Sheepishly, I stand with an empty wineglass in my hand. Barred from the cellar, I am in need of an exorcism. I have been brainwashed and am in need of a better mind. As much as I love real food (and I do: down with processed cheese food spread and factory-made bread!), I confess I haven’t bothered to look at it much.

Father Robert comes back up from the cellar, a bottle of Cinzano in his hands. “The habit of contemplation—” He uncorks the bottle. “The ability to sit down in front of something and care enough to let it speak for itself—” He pours the wine into my glass. “—cannot be acquired soon enough.”

I drink to that.

For all my attempts to live mindfully, attentive to the present moment, I have spiritualized all the soul out of that practice. What is attention if not to the thing before me? Live not so much in your mind that you neglect your body. Live not so much in the realm of the spirit that you fail to revel in the beauty of things, their color and texture, their veins and sinews.

I set down my wine glass and pick up a knife. On the counter beside a cutting board lies a pile of lacinato kale. I slice kale almost every evening of every winter of my life. It’s tedious and repetitive. Normally, I would become disconsolate and bemoan the dreariness of my existence, but Father Robert leans over my shoulder like an angel of beneficence. “Look!” he commands. I look.

Kale is crinkly. Everyone knows that. But have you noticed the shades of green in a single leaf? Have you noticed its asymmetry? Have you noticed the way the central vein splinters into a thousand smaller ones, like the veins in the back of an old lady’s hands, feathering all through her skin, so many threads holding the stories of her life, her being, her glory?

Ah! Father Robert says, I have excited your sense of the gloriously unnecessary abundance in which we stand! I have succeeded.

***** 

In this paltry post I have only scratched the merest surface of Father Robert’s marvelous book. You simply must read it yourself, in its entirety. At at least three times. The riches of his thought are manifold. His humor is contagious, his wit delightful, and his sense of the holiness and wonder of life are gifts we all need to open again and again and again because it is so easy to become dulled to “the gloriously unnecessary abundance in which we stand.” I heartily commend his book to your reading pleasure: The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection by Robert Farrar Capon.

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K. C. Ireton / Posts / Blog
K.C. Ireton is the author of two books and the mother of four children. An avid reader, she believes that a day without books is a day without meaning or joy. She also likes food, especially when her husband prepares it. Vive le weekend!
  • Lori Harris
    http://loriharris.me/

    Kimberlee! I’ve never read you until now, and friend, may I tell you that you have a marvelous gift. I’ve also not read Capon’s book, but I want to after reading your take on it. It brings to mind Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, An Altar in the World, which was my favorite word this year.
    Yes, everything is sacred, most especially that which we eat and drink, and the only way to nourish our bodies well is to do wake up and see and smell and taste and feel and hear!
    Thank you for this post. You’ve brought a smile to my face.

    December 22nd, 2014 11:59
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    • Kimberlee Conway Ireton
      http://www.kimberleeconwayireton.net/

      Thank you, Lori. I’m pleased to meet you! I have not read Taylor’s book, but you’re the second person in three days to mention it, which is usually a sign that I’ll find myself reading it in the very near future. I hope you get ahold of Capon’s book. It’s hauling my eyelids up.

      December 23rd, 2014 0:00
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  • Kris Camealy
    http://kriscamealy.com/

    Kimberlee, I have now re-read this article multiple times and with each reading I continue to smile and sigh a happy sigh at your beautiful words and reflections here. I can’t wait to dig into this book and chat with you about it–you have given us a gift of your own, with this tremendous review. XO

    December 23rd, 2014 18:44
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    • Kimberlee Conway Ireton
      http://www.kimberleeconwayireton.net/

      Thanks, Kris. I’m so glad you like it. I made me smile and sigh happy sighs to write it 🙂 And I look forward to talking about the book with you next time we Skype. It’s so. dang. good. I’m going to have to read it again. And again.

      December 25th, 2014 6:55
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  • Traci Rhoades
    http://www.tracesoffaith.com/

    Shauna Niequist mentioned this book recently too. Much like yourself, when I hear of it more than a few times, it becomes a must read at that point! I’m a few pages in and am enjoying his style! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the book. Excellent.

    December 24th, 2014 14:27
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    • Kimberlee Conway Ireton
      http://www.kimberleeconwayireton.net/

      Father Robert’s book is excellent, isn’t it, Traci? He cracks me up. And makes me think. And calls me to repentance. All at the same time!

      December 25th, 2014 6:59
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  • Jody Ohlsen Collins
    Jody Ohlsen Collins

    I believe I’m guilty myself many times of trying to make something ‘be’ something…. I think we could all learn from the kale or the onion. Or from you 🙂 Your delightful voice is tantalizing (again) with the aroma of a new book.

    December 27th, 2014 16:18
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    • Kimberlee Conway Ireton
      http://www.kimberleeconwayireton.net/

      Thank you, Jody. I’ve never had my writing called “tantalizing” before. That one’s going in my Blue Day file 🙂

      January 2nd, 2015 23:03
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  • pastordt

    I have this book on my shelf, alongside all the ones about the parables which I have dogeared! I have not read the Supper book through, however. Time to remedy that, I think. Thanks, Kimberlee, for your usual grace and honesty.

    December 30th, 2014 17:32
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    • Kimberlee Conway Ireton
      http://www.kimberleeconwayireton.net/

      Thank you, Diana. I’m so glad you’re going to it! I keep rereading parts of it. It’s such a sanity saver, this book–keeps me looking at things and seeing them for the wonders they are.

      January 2nd, 2015 23:02
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