One knife, two dogs, and the end of the world

I had fun in town yesterday. I trotted from shop to shop with a list, buying beautiful things for a friend, with her money. Too easy. I needed only a couple of items myself, chief of which was The Knife. The old Knife had snapped (cutting cheese, the culprit insisted). I was tempted by colourful sheathed Swedish models, and by ranks of gleaming chefs’ ware. But right at the counter, displayed like chewing gum or cigarettes for last-minute purchase was my knife: the neat red-handled, serrated Victorinox for $9. This little machine grips and dices onions without a tear being spilt; it carves through fruit, pumpkin, crusty bread, and flesh — it’s shaved the tip off my thumb already but so cleanly I didn’t notice until later.

I bought winter sheets, too. I let slip to the shop assistant that I meant to take them them straight home to bed. Surely not! Think who might have touched them, trailed their hands across the fibres. Think of where they might have been! I glanced at the bland cotton in its sturdy plastic wrapping. And anyway, did I know the secret of long-lived flannelette sheets? Add half a cup of white vinegar to the final rinse. Now you little hussy, go home and wash your linen.

I’m thinking I’ll get them on the bed today so we can enjoy two nights of fluffy heaven before nobody ever sleeps again. Yes, to the main business: that venerable 89-year-old American calmly and efficiently dispatching Earth and all its difficulties to oblivion on Saturday. (I occurs to me that, at his age, it’s no wonder he dreams and conjures portents of the end — he might well be transferring his personal mythology to the collective. Will he survive the 21st, even if the rest of us do?)

Possibly he’s doing the world a favour with his trumpet call. I think of the impressive film ‘Of Gods and Men’ that I saw in the weekend, where the residents of a small monastery in the Atlas mountains must decide whether to stay or flee under threat to their lives. Questions are concentrated to essentials, chief of which are, What drew us here, and to do what? Unanimously (though not without anguish) they conclude that the presence of danger alters nothing — and everything. It heightens their awareness of one another, of the present moment, of the beauty inherent in their daily lives and service.

Those are the pertinent questions, and the ones we’ve been discussing around here — as playfully as we can. I doubt we’re going to be let off so lightly as to have the world evaporate around us on Saturday. The preacher is tapping into our mutual great angst when we confront what we’ve done to this planet. We will reap what we’ve sown; we know that, although we can’t face all the horror all the time, or we’ll implode. But we can take care with this moment, and this person, and this small job and the next, doing what makes us glad, what gladdens the people and the air (and earth and water) about us. We can sow love. Then may the scope of our care be widened.

Okay, the dogs. They’re Elena’s and I brought them along because they make me laugh. When I stayed at her home in Jujuy, if they weren’t trying to fish me from the pool, these two clamoured to join me in my room where they would grab socks, shoes, undies to take into the garden. Or simply throw themselves all over the floor while I tried to dress or pack or tie my shoes. Head-butts and slobber-kisses.

Now, can I tie up knives, sheets, dogs and preachers of doom in a final line? Variously they cut, warm, humour and exhort. Sounds like the ingredients for a relationship. Shall I leave it at that?

Each of us in relationship to Life — we have to work it out.

10 responses to “One knife, two dogs, and the end of the world”

  1. Somehow your comment got lost here, Marylinn, and bah, I just tried to leave one on your blog and it foiled me but I was saying yes, me too, here under the table sucking my thumb today. There are ways to try and work it out, and ways to try and hide for a bit from the whole queasy mess.

  2. We do, indeed, have to work it out but between you and Melissa, I have been convinced that my chances are better with the red-handled, serrated Victorinox knife. So here we are, somewhere between the first and the last, just as we were yesterday, 25 years ago, and, one hopes, five minutes from now. It may be a brain defect but I do not understand taking pleasure in alarming people, pretending to have information that can’t be known. Today I will be grateful for my version of crazy. It doesn’t require public appearances or proclamations.

  3. Melissa, what a perfect story. I want to write it on my hands, or heart.

    Nails and hair — what talent! I’m going to try (hair anyway).

  4. Such a lovely, loquacious and many-toned post from you, Pen. I have JUST that knife!! I pare my nails, cut my hair, open mail and melons, cucumbers and rolls of quarters.

    Blessed dogs. They keep you living in the present, don’t they, with the joy and mischief and unconditional love. What a lot we can learn.

    I can only add an old story. Two monks were working in a row of corn. The young monk stood up and announced, “I live every day as if it were my last” and the older monk thought for a moment, and replied, “I live every day as though it were my first.” And at that point where the shadows of their two hoes cross to make an X is where we have to live.