Throughout the New England winter, I return to this soup time and time again. I wash away the world and rush back to sweet solitude. A cold walk on a clear beach and a hot bowl of soup restores my peace. Maybe it's because I work part-time in a crisis center or because I'm an introvert or because I was a bit of a wild-child in my youth; whatever the reason, I need to be alone for long stretches of time. My mom used to call it my hibernation-mode.
Solitude is not something you hope for in the future, rather it's a deepening of the present. Unless you look for solitude in the present, you'll never find it. ~ Thomas Merton.
In my twenties, I worked at a hospital with a stable and sweet psychiatric nurse who gave me a birthday card that read, "Happiness is one way of being wise." She sensed I needed to know that. Years later, I read that the true revenge of our enemies, and our darkest demons, is to be deeply happy. As a twenty-something, I lived in Philadelphia. I would go out clubbing all night. Do people even do that anymore? I loved to dance. But it wasn't a particularly happy or mellow time. I was restless and roaming. I was searching for something more meaningful. I'm grateful for those early experiences and the many mistakes I made. I still love cities and urban music. But my life has evolved into something less chaotic and more fulfilling. I used to seek happiness in people, in possessions and in the wrong places. Now I know better. Now those old messages about happiness make sense to me.
Happiness is a beach sunset with windswept clouds. God is there. At dusk, the harbor horizon has white-steepled churches and warmly-lit cottages. From the pier, the barren trees look beautiful against the setting sun. I am at peace. When I come home from trekking around with my husband and beagle, a hot bowl of soup is just the thing to warm us up. From pho to fresh pea soup with coconut milk and lime, We slurp bowls of soup almost every day of the year.
I recently read this blog post that listed 65 ways people survived the great depression. They cooked soups with a mix of whatever vegetables they happened to have on hand or grow in their garden. Some said it was the best soup they had ever eaten.