I got chosen to be an audience-participant at a local production of “The Putnam County Spelling Bee” last night, and the director asked me if I had any hobbies. My mind ran through several places of employment, and then went blank. “Uh….. hobbies… .” Then I changed the question in my own mind to “what do you do that makes you happy?” and answered “I play the djembe in drum circles,” spelling “djembe” for her (because it was a play about a spelling bee).
It troubled me that I didn’t have an obvious and easily stated answer to that question. A good drum circle is hard to find, so that doesn’t happen very often. I can crochet a mean granny-square, and am half way decent at Resident Evil 5, but I wouldn’t call them hobbies. Was I that lame? Or work addicted? Thankfully, the previous blog posting reminded me that I frequently bike ridiculous amounts of miles, for mostly obscure reasons. That’s a hobby. Whew – saved from lame. Still… both biking and drumming require leaving home. What about an “in-house hobby”? Does decadent couch lounging with dog, cat, spouse and very silly pajamas count? If so, I proclaim it my favorite hobby of all time as I never ever tire of it, it totally makes me happy, and I’m not half bad at it.
I was trying to reach that very destination today, but there was a mountain of chores in the way. Late afternoon found me at the cutting board, dicing carrots and listing to music. It was time to make the weekly “Sunday soup”, a staple in our house because we get home so late on most week-nights. Warming up a bowl of soup is the fastest way to the couch, dog, cat, spouse and silly pajamas, but my previous career as a cook left me a soup-snob. Hence, home made soups or no soups at all.
Sometimes I make a pot of soup while listening to a particular artist. “Van Morrison soup” is a particular favorite (but not the stuff you hear on the radio, it has to be his more esoteric spiritual stuff). Seems like the angst-ridden musicians produce the best soup – something about how the minor chords and existential lyrics infuse the chopping and sauteing.
“This is the real hobby, right here” I thought, “I’ve been doing it forever, I’m good at it, and it makes me happy”. Plus, I often think it counts as a meditation. A consistently sized dice – whether carrots or celery or onions – is a precise work. The feel of the knife as it rocks back and forth, the rhythmic beat of the chopping against the background of music and bubbling broth, these never fail to plant me firmly in the hallowed-here-and-now. There is a Zen saying, “Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water.” It is speaking of the place where “every day” and “holy” overlap. I chop vegetables and carry broth every Sunday. “Every day” and “holy” overlap in a big old pot, and our bodies and spirits are fed from the contents. Plus it makes the house smell great for the whole week.
I’m not sure when I’ll next be asked what my hobbies are, but I hope I remember to say “I make soup on Sundays”. Sometimes, the obvious escapes me.