Leaves from the bush from Paul accented by jonquils from the garden from Posy
Those were happy years. Jean was an extraordinarily considerate and attentive companion, always seeking to please me, and from him I received all of earth's gifts. I always had the privilege of the first violets he had gathered under the dry leaves, the first strawberries from the garden, the first cherries. For my bedside table, he brought the first roses, and to my plate the first March trout. And so, the man who owned nothing under the sun shone on those around him. Through the warmth he radiated, the gifts he lavished on everyone, Jean Carles dealt out happiness.
Emilie Carles, A Wild Herb Soup, Ch 22
Today is my birthday. A month or so ago Paul and I absolved each other of ever needing to provide birthday or Christmas gifts to each other, because a) neither of us really like or need standard gifts, and b) life is too short to worry about present-giving. Gift-giving is, on the whole, in my opinion, a trap and a snare, cynically manipulated by advertisers and turning love into a consumer commodity. Also, we are not really people who fuss about things. And yet, Paul is a master gift-giver. Flowers from the bush next to my bed, brown paper bags of dried figs and medjool dates because they are my favourite, email commands to go outside and look at the sunset or directions on how to spy the international space station. Views of parrots or the echidna, a picnic by the river, the gentle insistence that I sit on the couch and read a book while he cooks dinner.
Paul may have slightly violated our gift-giving resolution by presenting me with hand-made ceramic mugs on my birthday. His mum's partner is a ceramicist, and Paul has a number of his perfect tea mugs. I always take possession of Paul's favourite mug at his place. Now I have my own. I think maybe it was self-defence. Anyway, he is forgiven, this once.
Also, after he cooked me lunch he took me to his mum's farm, where they have just taken delivery of nine miniature donkeys. Including a baby. I fed them carrots and gave them cuddles. Best birthday present ever.
Like Jean Carles, Paul deals out happiness, and I am a bit lucky to be in the orbit of that sunshine.
As I think back on this autumn I am acutely aware of the bounty brought into my kitchen day after day from the garden, from foraging along roadsides, from friends and family. More than ever this year I have tried to rely on the gifts of the earth, and not to waste any of it. In truth, the earth has provided masses of food that I have not even been able to manage to collect, although it is there and free for the taking. I started a journey to see if I could live a little in the spaces between the commerce that demands a price for everything. I am beginning to discover that there is a lot of freedom in those spaces, a lot of places where all of earth's gifts are abundant, and where there are rather splendid humans who know that love and gifts do not come with a price tag..