there is a restaurant in my adopted hometown that is known primarily for its vast beer collection. i first tried a raspberry ale there and it was also the place that i was introduced to boursin cheese and a varied menu of burger toppings. now, some may roll their eyes at the prospect of a vegetarian caring about burger toppings, but as said vegetarian i am both particular about my toppings and appreciative that this restaurant chose to serve the better tasting gardenburger brand. but this is not the point. the point, or perhaps something a bit closer to the point has to do with a comment that a friend made last night while we were hanging out at a new neighborhood spot (in my new-temporary-might-be-semi-permanent town) and enjoying cold beers on a cool evening. the rain had brought the temperatures down considerably and the outdoor patio was teeming with a virtual cornucopia of locals, varying in shade, dress, language, posture, and, yes, drink. (i do love the city.) in front of me was a chilled stella in the “fancy glass” — the waiter tried to give me the ordinary glass, but if i was going to have a beer after not having had one in three or four years, i was damn sure gonna have no qualms about making my preference for the fancy glass known. i didn’t stop drinking beer for any specific reason other than i stopped liking the taste. truth be told, i’m not sure that i ever enjoyed the taste in the same way i appreciate and actively seek out the tastes and textures of other drinks. but last night, sitting under a large red umbrella, a cold beer seemed to fit the bill perfectly. my hands were unconsciously taking in the curve of the glass, the gold-colored rim, even the fine wrought iron lattice pattern of our table top on which the beer sat in between sips.
my friend was was describing his recent trip to france — magnifique indeed! — during which he visited the chartres cathedral, located a little south of paris. hearing chartres brought back memories of my own visit to the looming structure. i can’t remember now who had suggested we visit, but i’m glad that i followed the recommendation to find the “old english guy” who gives tours. for three hours this white haired man enchanted us with stories of chartres, making it plainly evident that he and it shared quite an intimate relationship. my friend noted that not only was he not overly impressed by the cathedral, but upon hearing a story about rodin’s fascination with the place — legend has it that rodin stood in front of chartres for days, not caring about the rain and forgoing food as he was mesmerized by this artifact of mortar and brick — this same friend wondered how realistic such a scenario was or ever could be. i took him to be asking a larger question — crudely put: have we all gotten so cool and presumptuous that we not only don’t take the time but that we do not care to linger slowly over something long enough for it to truly awe us.
i felt sheepish instantly. i realized that i maybe spend too much time in the land of wonderment. i think perhaps this is why i feel an extreme kinship with this henry james quote that i recall often: “the moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably world unto itself.” but have we gotten too cool to even try? can we not imagine the possibility of cranking the amp to 11? even if a sarcastic smile creeps across our face as we think it.
so in the spirit of seeking out more blades of grass, i am eagerly awaiting tonight’s premiere of the last harry potter film! i am bubbling over with excitement, in part because i discovered harry and his magic and fantastical friends when i was a graduate student. i grew up, academically speaking, with the language of spells and potions and fantasies of shipping myself off to a place like hogwarts where people got me. ironically, perhaps, looking closely at blades of grass, in various ways, has helped me to create a space where i finally am starting to feel like i might belong. and in the meantime i’ll just keep cranking the amp and see what happens…