"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Nectar


Hungry, I opened the fridge searching for some form of sugar-free satisfaction. Milk. I'd bought milk last week, organic whole milk, more on a whim than from any solid plan. And there it sat, forgotten and unopened, at the back of the shelf.

I don't drink milk. For most of my adult life I've avoided milk as an easy way to reduce my caloric intake, much in the same way I don't drink regular soda. The fact that I have not avoided certain other even more calorie-laden foods is beside the point for now.

My childhood home was a dairy. Milk, and everything about its production, was central to our existence. We cared for a herd of 30 - 40 Holsteins, milked them twice a day every single day, then bottled and delivered the rich, raw, unprocessed milk. When production was good we had an abundance of smooth, yellow-white nectar for the house.

I remember learning in Sunday School about manna and nectar, which God provided for the Israelites in the desert. In my mind manna was some sweet cross between popcorn and bread that was both crunchy and chewy. Nectar was a cross between milk and some exotic fruit juice.

That's how significant milk was to me, and how satisfying as a food.

We drank milk with every meal. In fact were not allowed to leave the table until plates were cleaned and glasses were emptied - starving children in foreign places and waste-not-want-not were invoked, as well as the promise of the standard punishment for disobedience (a two-inch belt applied with energy to bare bottoms).

Emptying glasses was only a problem during those times milk production was down. Too many cows dry and not producing at all, or new heifers not fully up to optimal production yet. Or maybe there was a new batch of customers which meant less or no surplus milk at all. Then we had to drink powdered milk. Horrible gloppy blue liquid, the powder never dissolving completely, tasting much like the soap used to teach us to mind the words that came out of our mouths. Three glasses a day.

So maybe I stopped drinking milk because I could, not just to save calories.

On the rare occasion over the years when I had access to raw milk, the green grass and sunshine flavor of it made me wonder why I didn't drink more. Then I'd read some article about the perils of dairy fat and remember. And any milk that is not whole milk tastes to me like powdered milk, which I cannot tolerate.

As I pulled the carton out of the fridge, all of those memories strolled through like a family of visiting ghosts. As with so many ghosts these days, I was more curious than frightened at their presence. I pulled down a goblet from the cupboard and enjoyed the satin flow of milk swirling gently to take on the soft curved shape of the glass.

I sniffed first, an old habit to check for spoilage, and found my head filled with nectar - earthy, sweet, primal. The first sip was snow cold and cream rich. It frolicked over my tongue, down my throat and settled into my stomach like a comforting hug. My body was so happy to welcome her old friend, I had to restrain myself from chugging the entire glass down. I would take enough to fill my mouth, savor its impact on tongue and roof and cheeks, then swallow and savor the sensation of my whole world being exactly right as the milk once again offered me solace I'd forgotten I needed.

The light is winning. The hungry ghosts of childhood grow dimmer while the pleasures of life produce a warm protective radiance. Some things - my brothers, a kinship with trees and birds, the simple pleasure of a glass of milk - have traveled the ribbon of years in solid reassuring companionship. Pleasures whose light kept the dark at bay long enough for me to survive and claim my own light.

photo from Flickr

24 comments:

Tamika: said...

Deb you have a lovely way with words. I love how the milk settled on your stomach like a comforting hug- beautiful. Frolicked over the tongue, a stunning visual.

Elenka said...

Just caught up on your last several posts. Loved the Brother stories. Loved the milk story. The sweat story made me wince.....Don't like to sweat, I don't care how hard you try to make it seem healthy!! :-)

M said...

You certainly have a gift for evoking those memories from our childhood. It's interesting that the more I read what you write, the easier it is for me to examine and enjoy my own past. Thank you for helping to bring light into my history, as well as yours.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Isn't it interesting what sparks memories? Thanks for sharing this!

Wanda said...

I'm with you on the nectar. By the way...whole, raw, organic milk is a health food.

Janna Qualman said...

Milk. It does a blog post good. This was beautiful, Deb.

Jessica said...

Wait, there's such a thing as sugar-free satisfaction?? LOL!

So, this post really intrigued me, writing-wise. So well done. You started with simple, easy to read sentences and drew me into your past. And then, when you drank the milk, your writing kind of erupted into this really rich, vivid experience.

Just awesome, Deb. :-)

FrecklesandDeb said...

Wonderful rekindling of memories once again, Deb. Whole milk -- a foreign substance in our house. Only 2% for us. Maybe that's why I never particularly liked it.
Deb

deb said...

"Some things - my brothers, a kinship with trees and birds, the simple pleasure of a glass of milk - have traveled the ribbon of years in solid reassuring companionship. Pleasures whose light kept the dark at bay long enough for me to survive and claim my own light."

Very nice, but I still can't stand milk:)

Carrie Wilson Link said...

First I laughed, " The fact that I have not avoided certain other even more calorie-laden foods is beside the point for now."

And then I cried, "The light is winning."

Beautiful writing and healing to behold!

Tabitha Bird said...

Lovely. It is amazing how the simplest of things often bring back the most important or potent memories.

JenWeprin said...

Beautiful writing! Your description of the milk's healing was amazing! And that's coming from someone who hates milk!! Well done Deb!

fullsoulahead.com said...

Wow! If we savored everything we put into our bodies the way you savored that glass of milk, how healthy, (and full)we would be!

kario said...

Has the National Dairy Council contacted you yet to be the head of their new ad campaign?

This is gorgeous!

She Writes said...

The light is winning. The hungry ghosts of childhood grow dimmer while the pleasures of life produce a warm protective radiance.

Ahhh!

JOY said...

Perfectly luscious refreshment - your descriptions and writing - a pitcher of hope. Gave me a milk mustache!

Kelly H-Y said...

What a beautiful memory.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

"all of those memories strolled through like a family of visiting ghosts."

Lovely line. I like the memory of the milk weaving through. The cows. I remember the first time I milked a cow. So excited. Probably not so for you after milking so many.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Not only are you getting the light you deserve, you're spreading it to others!

Speaking of light...you're beautiful story GREEN TEARS is showcased today in Rose & Thorn Journal's winter issue. Fabulous.

Hugs and keep on shinin'!

Pam said...

"...offered me solace I'd forgotten I'd needed". How wonderful when we can find this in small and inexpensive things.Once again Deb, I found great delight in what you have written.Thank you for sharing your experiences in a beautifully enlightening way.

Amber said...

"The hungry ghosts of childhood grow dimmer while the pleasures of life produce a warm protective radiance."--

love that.

Often feel it.

:)

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