Yesterday, I woke up to a dream of Stellar, young and bouncy, standing outside the south windows, wagging his tail, and as he did at that stage of his life, his whole body. He was ready for a walk. I recognized that moment as a possible dream, and a possible visitation. I chose to close my eyes and roll over, rather than get up and take him for a walk at 25ºF. I’m grateful for the dream, the sense of his presence, regardless of the ‘truth’ of whatever it ‘was.’
Tonight’s dinner was Gochugaru salmon with crispy rice. It was delicious, but would have been better, I think, with B&B pickles rather than dill. But I finished those at lunchtime on my favorite-ever new sandwich, open-faced Swiss-pickle on a sourdough bun. I have one leftover filet to enjoy with a different pickle. But, I have no one to give the salmon skin to: no one with whom to share Last Bite.
Last Bite is a ritual at Mirador, one that’s been going on since before Mirador existed. When I first found the Knobbyheaded Dog, I taught him not to beg by promising him Last Bite of anything, everything, I ever ate. Since that time more than thirty years ago, every one of my now dead dogs learned to lie down and wait patiently during human meals, with confidence that they would get Last Bite. Everyone who ever ate here, and paid attention, recognized Last Bite as an important component of being a good guest. You save your last bite for whatever dog or dogs are present at the meal, whether or not they live at Mirador. Sometimes there have been as many as seven or eight dogs here at the end of a meal, and each of them has gotten at least one Last Bite, which have always (almost) been distributed equally among all dogs present.
Last Bite is over, for now. Topaz has no interest in human food of any kind, even salmon. Who will eat the salmon skin? I know, I could, and it’s probably delicious, but I have cultural conditioning that compels me to set it aside for last bi–… oh. No one to give it to.
Oh well. It will feed the compost. The dish was a success despite that I misperceived the key spice. I have Gochujara paste, and when I saved the recipe I read the title wrong. I was caught off guard when I got ready to cook tonight; so I looked up a substitute for Gochugaru pepper flakes, and found that Aleppo pepper is roughly equivalent in flavor and heat, and I was grateful to have that on hand.
I’m grateful for another gem from “On Being,” Stephen Batchelor on the Art of Solitude. He said of having plenty of solitude, “I find that having that groundedness, that sort of a basic sense of being OK, of being at home with myself, is the foundation from which I can then, as it were, really communicate more authentically and more directly with others. I’m not concerned about what they think about me or what they are going to say or what they want, but I have a resource within myself that is my own deeply earned truth, if you like, or integrity.”
This interview really speaks to my current investigation of solitude, and why I love it. With no one else to consider, no one to save last bite for or get up early for, I’ve entered a deeper solitude than ever before. Lying on my back on the floor (as medically directed for cervical nerve impingement) looking at the ceiling, I pondered this novel feeling of being so physically alone, suddenly sensing that it is this very spaciousness that liberates me from the tangle of thoughts and emotions so often cloud my perceptions and interactions with others. I’m grateful to have made several deep, authentic connections over the course of this day, all via the miracle of technology, and all, I think, made possible by the inner peace I find in physical solitude.