Ducks, Cities, Memories

by Mark Bitterman

I quasi-legally took a job restoring a chateau in the South of France for reasons I only vaguely understood at the time. I wasn’t qualified for any kind of carpentry work, much less being put in charge of restoring a structure whose foundations were dug under Roman rule. Work visa? What’s a work visa? My French vocabulary didn’t then include words like puits à eau and serre joint and gyrobroyeur.  I didn’t know a single living soul within 500 miles.

South wing of chateau and its chickens near Revel France

Thick fog would roll up the valley and pour through the open windows of the salon where I was re-laying parquet floors. Playing Bach fugues at a deafening level, the gentle static of the old record between songs. Magical. Life now is inconceivable without that part of my heart still tied to the warm floor of the coop where I sat administering medicine to 50 cuddly and highly conversational Barbary ducks.

New York. Tokyo. Portland. We yearn for these places terribly. Missing the people there feels like a kind of mourning. The streets we cannot now enjoy feel desolate in our memories. These places--where we have visited or lived or been born--can be such an essential part of life that without them we feel somehow diminished. 

This pandemic-enforced distancing from the world around has helped us to feel more keenly how connected we are to people and place. It’s a beautiful thing, a sad thing, a blessing, and a restless disturbance at the back of our minds. 

So, let’s conjure the full force of those cities in our minds and bodies, put a little pep into our reflections, and sling some seriously playful salt in the last days of this seriously hard year.  Alone or with loved-ones, cooking and eating something meaningful and delicious is an opportunity to hot merely celebrate our history in the cities we love, it's a way to continue living it!

Here are some fresh takes on salting life to it's fullest>>  Below are my mom's drawings of The Meadow in Portland, New York, and Tokyo. 

The Meadow salt chocolate bitters flowers in Portland, New York, and Tokyo

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