Just Splendid

Sitting at my desk, gazing out the window, I get the sense that I am looking at a photograph or a painting. The branches and leaves are absolutely still, as if frozen in a moment in time. Only when I see a bird or a ground squirrel streak across my field of vision is it apparent that my view is live. Except for those occasional movements, my view captures a still life; an image like a photograph taken one hundred years ago. When I contemplate what this same view might have looked like one hundred years ago, though, I see a completely different landscape. The forest was more dense then, I imagine. Animals that today avoid the prying eyes of humans probably would not have been so shy back then because they would have had fewer human encounters.

Wind is invisible, but its effects are plain to see in the forest. The invisible air that surrounds my view of the still life remains invisible when the wind blows. Though I understand that changes in air pressure causes the molecules of air to push against everything in their path, the concepts of wind and air pressure still amaze me. How can I see nothing pushing against the leaves, when I know there’s something out there causing the leaves to dance? And the leaves have, indeed, begun to dance, albeit only modestly. An occasional gust disturbs the quiet and stationary. Do the molecules of air that press against the leaves move to other parts of the forest, or do they simply stop moving and allow the forest to return to its statuesque state? These are the questions of a child, someone who has not yet been introduced to mundane explanations involving an understanding of science. My questions ignore my vague knowledge of atmospheric physics. Innocence and awe should not dissolve as we age. We should try to hold onto them for as long as we can; for a lifetime, if possible.


I listened to an intriguing program, The Splendid Table, on NPR yesterday afternoon. One of the guests on yesterday’s program, Priya Parker, is author of a book entitled The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters. Parker acknowledges the importance of hosts and hosting, but she spoke in greater depth about the value and importance of being a good guest, or “guesting.” She gave an example of how good “guesting” can make enormously important contributions to gatherings. She talked about a guest at a house-warming party who, with permission of the host, asked each of the guests to talk to the group about an aspect of the host’s new house that they found especially appealing. Parker explained that the conversation could only have been triggered successfully by a guest, not the host. And she noted that the guest’s prompt ensured that all guests were drawn into positive conversations. Finally, the positive comments about the new home helped confirm to the hosts that the guests appreciated the experience.

At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet.

~ Plato ~

When I lived in Dallas, I listened to The Splendid Table regularly. Its creator, Lynne Rosetto Kasper, was a superb host whose conversations about food and the culture surrounding food were, in my opinion, absolutely captivating. When we moved to Hot Springs Village, though, I lost track of the program. As far as I knew at the time, the local NPR station, KUAR, did not carry the program. And I did not bother seeking out the podcast; something made listening to the program in the car seem the only appropriate way to listen. Within the past few weeks, though, I’ve stumbled upon The Splendid Table—with a new host—Francis Lam, who replaced Lynne Rosetto Kasper—on KUAR. I am glad I did. The program is far more than a recipe-sharing program. It delves into the complexities and rewards of sharing at every stage of meals and food-related entertainment. From shopping to preparation to recipe histories to presentation to conversations and every other element relating to food and meals and social gathering. Though it has been a while since I was a regular listener, I think I will try to get back into the habit. I hope I enjoy the new host as much as I did the original one.


One of the definitions of platonic—the definition I believe is most commonly assumed when the word is used in conversation—is “purely spiritual; free from sensual desire, especially in a relationship between two persons of different sexes.” The antonym specified in Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition, is “physical.” I would have assumed “romantic” also would have been an antonym (possibly a better one), but I suppose Roget is better equipped than I to offer “official” information about the English language. At any rate, taken together, Roget allows one to confidently state that a platonic relationship is both free of sensual desire and is non-physical. But if one or both participants in a platonic relationship harbors hidden sensual desires for the other, does that negate the application of the term “platonic” to the relationship? What term might apply to a relationship that conceals, beneath the surface, sensual or romantic attraction? Last night, while watching The Crown, I wondered about the relationships between various members of the royal family and others. They might be platonic—the behavior of people involved seem to suggest platonic relationships—but glimpses into the emotions hidden from public view suggest otherwise. Then, again, I may be misreading the characters’ emotions. They may not harbor romantic or sensual feelings toward people who are “just friends.” If I were more attuned to the history of the royal family from the 1940s to the present, I might be sufficiently knowledgeable to understand what goes on between members of the royal family and those around them.  We’re only on season two of five and I may be getting tired of The Crown. But I may stick it out to the end, if for no other reason than to better understand the fictionalized royal family.


Church calls this morning. Time to shower, shave, and put on clothes I’d rather not wear. I have grown increasingly enamored of comfortable clothes; sweat pants, a sweat shirt, flip flops. That attire keeps me warm. Though it may not be as appealing, visually, as less casual attire, it is a wardrobe I treasure far more than black leather shoes, slacks, a button-down shirt, and a sports jacket. Fashion is equivalent to a torture chamber in a prison cell. I do not always feel this way, but it has become far more common in recent years. I long to escape the cell. If I can’t be naked, I’d rather wear soft, comfortable clothes. It matters not that the clothes may be stained with paint and/or worn thin from over-use. When I see others wearing the kind of clothes I like, I immediately take a liking to the people wearing them. We are, in one way or another, soul mates. Our taste in life and living is impeccable. Ach! I mentioned church. And so I shall move on to the next stage of the day.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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