We revere and even hold dear an older, battled-scarred cutting board.
Its grooves and crosshatches are badges of honor of all we have tasted, and all that has carved us.
Even its wayward little oops-slivers of bareness here and there remind us of all the work we have done, all the practice we have logged, all the cutting time we have put into this test kitchen.
Even that ineffable perfume of thyme-time itself, embedded in the fibers of the wood, smells love-ly to us. It’s an olfactory comfort in this case, time. Smells like Home.
When I look at this little ‘70s bread board (which I actually use as an all-purpose platform, not just for big staff-of-life matters), I see so easily, and deeply appreciate, its faithful, hinter-hook hanging, always-right-there utility.
I see kindness on a cup hook, an extension of myself (that is not really an extension of my small self but is who I really am, of course), always within reach.
I admire it for exactly what it is—especially its age.
We do not extend this sort of fluid definition to our bodies, our hearts, or our minds.
These we generally find and judge to be: old, worn out, patchy, about-to-crack-any second, dried up, no longer level even by farmhouse counter standards.
We believe we're not end-grain enough to be sought after any longer.
We tell ourselves that old chestnut, that we're one centimeter short of a the coveted butcher-block stature.
We think and feel that, because we’re not made of the "material du jour,” we're less than—Olive wood
is so yesterday! Today it's bamboo! Tomorrow it could be teak!
Of course, the material we’re really made of is not the skin we’re in. But we forget this (if we’ve ever been fortunate to remember it) when things get choppy.
Let me butcher’s wax grand for a second and say that this, that the old body-image meat of the matter is quite true for most women, in the West, at this time.
In truth an against-the-feminine grain runs all the way through pretty much every modern society.
When I say feminine, I’m not talking about assigned "female parts”; I’m talking about feminine energy, which is not just old, it's ancient.
(In fact we all have the feminine within us and can tap into its fierce-nurturing, creative energy as a mise en place for ourselves, if not the world at large.)
But we in the West don’t equate age with wisdom or utility.
We just call it old and hang it up to dry.
But this, belief about age, turns out to be like the one pesky grain of rice that's overshot the countertop of awareness onto the floor—it’s only a thought, and only a feeling.
And both of these—thoughts and feelings--are, well, unending consumables in this life.
And then, after the rice-spill realization, there is the resounding thud, like a block of burl wood hitting the inside of a stainless sink, that we are not and can never be, physically, made of sustainable materials.
But this is a good thud for me. Because what can resonate then is that this is exactly what I’ve got, not something else.
This is the board I’ve got to play, in the body I’ve got, in the life I’ve got, lock, stock, Crate & Barrel.
So why is it that we let how it was, or what it might have been, consume us?
Me. I mean me, obviously.
Because, not to be bag-of-marrow-bones/contents of mind crass, but the body like the board is really just a longer-term kitchen consumable, and it needs care if it’s going to last (while it can).
As a proud “owner” of a 40
yo+ cutting board, I can tell you that I’ve not always taken that kind of care.
Though the body is, if we’re lucky, not a roll of paper towels-on-speed dial, or a jar of fast-gone chipotles, we’re bound by the laws of nature to go through it.
All of this is much easier to swallow, by the way, if you imagine Alan Watts in your kitchen as I often do, whisking up some matcha green tea and deviling your eggs with these truthiest of truths.
That’s because masters can be that spoonful of stevia that makes the medicine go down. That is also a truth.
But equally true is your own (universal) truth, pared away and pared away, and finally tasted for yourself as “new."
And, besides I remind myself, you don’t need to be new, Stacia.
You just need to be Now.
Back to the drawing and cutting board—over and over and over (and over) again.
Which is why a little beeswax, with its quiet, softening, and protective sheen like that mythical in-your-skin ease, can serve you well when applied now and again and again with self-compassion.
We could all benefit from a little beeswax ease, gently applied.
Pliny the Elder is an ancient author of all kinds of things you probably hear, say, and really do know deep down, all the time. Things you can borrow like a cup of sugar and make your own, such as: "Hope is the pillar [of salt] that holds up the world.
Judith Orloff is, well, Judith Orloff and no one else--soft-speaker, writer, intuitive doctor, empath, and bee-balm of love applier to all souls in her sphere. In her latest book, The Ecstasy of Surrender, of the surrender of aging she says, "What matters is that you must trust your gut," a reminder for which I am deeply grateful, and that how I find myself writing this at 11 am on a Tuesday.