Savoring A Fresh Catch: Dining on Solitude

I am dining alone.

Though the 34th Hawaii International Film Festival has drawn to a successful close, my partner has flown over to the ‘neighbor islands’ to assist with the shortened version of the festival that runs a few days on Big Island and Kauai. I’m at home with ‘the boys’, our two English Whippets, watching the rain and shifting patterns of clouds and light.

As is my style, I’m making a simple supper for myself that I will sit down to enjoy at the table. More often than not, our evening meal in Hawaii is some type of salad, either greens or vegetables, with a piece of non-farmed fish or organic chicken atop. Simple. Unfussy. In a humid realm where I’m nearly always hot and sticky, I loathe anything that heats up the kitchen with its damnable electric cooker. If it is chicken to top the meal, I’ll grill it outside; fish only takes a brief couple minutes of heat, which I can tolerate without turning grumpy.

I’m not a fan of salad greens that come in those clamshell plastic boxes or plastic bags, not only for the wastefulness of the packaging but because they are simply not fresh. They are days old and have traveled uncountable miles (especially here in the middle of the Pacific). My weakness, however, is the little wild arugula, often called ‘baby arugula’, though it is actually a different cultivar than standard arugula. The Italians call it rucola, the French know it as roquette, and the English call it ‘rocket’. Whatever the name, I’m mad for it after our years in Europe, and every so often in Hawaii, I simply have to buy some… even in pre-packed bag or box, because there’s no other way to get it here in the islands. Damnit.

Tonight, I’ve got a piece of local monchong, a deep water, line-caught fish, with firm, moist white flesh. (Non-locally, it’s sometimes called ‘bigscale’ or ‘sickle pomfret’). I’ve decided to pan sear it with a pat of butter and a dollop of sambal chile sauce, finished with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil. As the fish sizzles, the tantalizing aroma rises up, distinctly Asian, and stirs my hunger appreciatively.

Monchong atop wild rocket

When the monchong is just cooked through, I gently place it atop the freshly dressed ‘rocket’ on an old fashioned, French provincial, scalloped white plate and carry it to the dining room.

Seated at the table, the plate set upon a sky blue placemat, a well-worn linen alongside with a knife and fork turned downwards in French style, I give silent thanks for the fish and the greens, taking a moment just to admire the visual appeal and scents. Briefly, I wish I had a nice glass of food-friendly white wine to accompany it, but wine isn’t part of the extremely low-glycemic regime I’ve been following lately. Tragic, but I’ll survive.

I eat slowly, setting down my fork and knife in between each bite, savoring the texture of perfectly cooked, warm fish alongside the delicate stems of cool greens. On a semiconscious level, I’m assessing and appreciating the various flavors that compose each bite—the astringency of the greens, the pungency of the chile paste, a hint of salt, the toasted nutty earthiness of the sesame oil, the faintly sweet richness of butter—that nicely complement the monchong.

Alone, I’m seated at my usual spot at the head of the long, rectangular table. It holds eight comfortably. A solid remnant of our more social days of entertaining and dinner parties, it has traveled with our household from the mainland USA to England, to Spain, and back to Hawaii. In the quiet, empty house, the polished surface gleams wordlessly with memories of laughter, merry toasts, and far off locales, all held like dreams within its dark wood. Who knows. Perhaps at the year end holidays this good table will awaken once more to the warmth of friends gathered around, bright notes of animated conversation, the happy clink of forks on china, and crystal glasses kissing each other, effervescent with finely streaming bubbles of good Champagne.

Eating slowly, my breath is soft and easy. The dogs sprawl at my feet, and there’s an unhurried mood at play accompanied by a sense of gentle tranquility. I never watch television but I often enjoy listening to some easy music whilst I’m in the kitchen or seated at table. This evening I’m drawn to simply be in silence… savoring the quietude.

The lush green, tropical world that surrounds us here on the island has disappeared into shadows, a warm cloak of darkness drawn round the house, and sounds of the evening drift through the open windows. Crickets. Cars along the nearby highway. An occasional siren. Our neighbor’s kid calling his errant dog. Wind rustling gently in the great stand of towering bamboo just outside the dining room. A faint breeze moves over my skin, dancing through the open glass jalousies, commingling with the currents from the ceiling fan whirring slowly overhead.

My mind flashes briefly back to a sign I once saw in a shop window that read, “Grace isn’t a little prayer you say before receiving a meal. It’s a way to live.” So true.

With a bare foot, gently I rub the belly of one of the dogs beneath the table. Outside on the window, a gecko hunts insects drawn to the illuminated glass, his pale underside curled like a crescent moon. Meanwhile, atop the curtain rod in the dining room, a vivid green anole gecko with a ring of blue eyeshadow peers cautiously over the edge, considering gecko-snapping canines and human (non-gecko snapping) below.

It’s a simple, quiet meal. Typical of what I eat but even quieter than my normal routine, even when alone. Unhurried and unplugged. I’m choosing to spend the remainder of the evening this way, curled up with an interesting book. Listening to cricket song. A return to a quieter, unplugged life that nourishes the soul. Without consciously intending to, I’m practicing one of the Soul Skills outlined in The Bones and Breath, “Disconnect to Reconnect.”

Soul is timeless and elemental, fused seamlessly with bodymind and inseparable from spirit. As with every living thing in nature, its imperative is to grow, to connect, to embody its blueprint. Earthy, grounded, tactile, and terrestrial, soul is fed by the timeless, not the technological, and it moves with rhythms that we are quickly forgetting and losing.

To nourish the soul, slow down and disconnect from the wired world—even for just a small portion of the day. Turn off your phone (or leave it behind). If only for a short respite, pull out of the continuous stream of email and texts. Forego the Internet and television. Eschew the technological distractions and conveniences and come back to the pulsing, breathing bodysoul. Unplug.”

Soul Artists know that we must choose to disconnect from the demands and distractions of daily life. Whether in times of need or abundance, they strive to live gracefully, knowing that part of that grace is simply paying attention to the moment and what it offers. Soul Artists are ever looking to celebrate beauty where they encounter it (and as I repeatedly say, it is everywhere), to cultivate gratitude, and to savor the bounty of sensory, soul-nourishing treasures that continually surround us. And they consciously take time to unplug from the wired world, to move at ‘soul speed’ instead.

Gentle reader, once again, here’s hoping that you pause to admire the light streaming through the trees or window—or any sensory moment that calls you to disconnect from whatever held your attention, and turn instead toward what actually nourishes you. The messengers of Mystery and seduction are everywhere, and if you take some time to “Disconnect to Reconnect,” you will encounter them even more readily.

I wonder, if you knew this was your last day on earth, how would you live it differently, and what would you most want to savor?