On Windows and Beets
These are photos of my living space taken on a cloudy day. I love cloudy days, mostly because this apartment is a slave to sunlight. I don’t even have an air conditioner, so the experience is very much like living in an oven. But that’s a side point – I want you to notice the objects in the photos. Most of the objects you see don’t speak much about me. Rather, the dust and eclectic clutter better speaks of my housemate, Nina.
What can I say about my housemate?
One experience stands out as my primary evocation of her:
Our kitchen, on the top floor of an apartment building on Carroll Street, faces the brazen setting sun in the evening. Our kitchen window, maliciously placed at just the right angle, acts as the threshold to God’s Throne blinding all with heavenly light. And despite the Divine Light, we are subjected to the heat of Hell – the burning afternoon sun.
On a particular, sunny evening, she was slicing a beet for her juicer.
But before I tell you about that beet, let me tell you about her juicing.
As I tossed about, unable to sleep in the living room (which is my bedroom), I would hear her slicing cucumbers at midnight for her juicer and weep. She’d try to stifle her sobs but it was no use for my paper wall (which is literally made of paper). But she was not crying from anguish – She was weeping with joy, because the cucumbers smelled so wonderful and taste so fresh and were perfect gifts to juice – and that the juicer, though machine, was equally heavenly, turning solid food into luscious water. It was an electric well of life – a portable, chrome-plated fountain of youth.
Nina is thankful for everything, bordering a manic degree. This thankfulness blossoms from the innocent eyes with which she views the world – a childlike reverence – an ecstatic curiosity. An adult, who encounters everyday experiences and excites little to no curiosity are probably not as thankful for cucumbers as Nina is. Being around her has nurtured my thankfulness and curiosity.
But wait, before I get back to the beet she was cutting I want to tell you about how her father was in Dresden a night or two before the Allies bombed the city. In his fear that the museum would suffer great loss from collateral damage, he raided it and took with him a boxful of ancient Egyptian jewelry.
Many years later, when Nina was growing up in the U.S., her brother and her would hide in the attic and play dress-up with a box of priceless, antique egyptian jewelry.
Her father gave most of it away, and Nina did too.
All she has left are some beads, stones, a gold ring, and a bronze ring.
So, on a particularly sunny, hot, late afternoon/early evening, she was cutting a beet for her juicer.
“Isn’t this beet the most beautiful thing you ever saw? Isn’t it wonderful? I can’t believe that such a thing exists!” she chuckles.
She lifted it to the window letting the sun illuminate it’s deep, sanguine hue. It seemed as if the whole kitchen had flooded with a holy, red aurora.
And then, in her own succinct illumination she said, “it’s like eating light,” and took a bite.