Meandering Mind with Punctuational Affliction

Notre-Dame de Paris burned yesterday. As I viewed television images of Parisians and others singing while the iconic building burned, I thought of the immeasurable number of people who must have worked to build the structure over a two hundred year period. Who were those people and what did they think of the edifice as it rose from the ground? How was it that, between the years 1220 and 1250, laborers and craftsmen were able to construct two towers that exceeded 225 feet in height? They had no electricity and no power tools. I wonder whether anyone died while working to build the cathedral during the two hundred years of construction? I suspect so. And, if so, I wonder how (or whether) those people were honored?

Listening to the news last night, I caught just a bit of a report that at least one firefighter was injured battling the catastrophic blaze. But the news was, mostly, about the building itself and the staggering loss to the city of Paris. I saw an image this morning of the front page of Le Parisien, featuring a photo taken as the cathedral’s tower fell; the paper’s headline read Notre-Dame Des Larmes, “Our Lady of Tears.”


Until I learned of yesterday’s fire, I was looking forward to an outing today, organized by UUVC, to visit Heifer International Ranch. I will go, but my sullen mood isn’t well-suited to enjoyment. Maybe that will change. The ranch is a 1200-acre learning center that focuses on ways sustainable agriculture and food systems can combat hunger and poverty and can help in community development. I was looking forward to going. But now, thinking about how nine hours of fire can essentially destroy the results of two hundred years of blood, sweat, and tears (followed by eight hundred years, or more, of maturation), I’m not as enthusiastic. I suspect my mind will change when I get there. There will be about twelve of us. We’ll carpool from the east gate to the ranch, about an hour away. I’m surprised that I am not the only person who is going without a spouse; at least three others won’t be accompanied by their spouses. My spouse opted not to participate; she has something else on her agenda, though even if she didn’t I doubt she would have signed on to the visit. I’ve heard good things about Heifer International. I hope to be uplifted and impressed by what I see.


Next week, I will lead two “congregational conversations” about the recently-completed long range plan for our church. I participated, as a member of the committee responsible for developing the plan, in the process. We began last October and, after eight weeks of meeting on Saturday mornings for a couple of hours, now the plan is complete. We began the process with a full-day conversation, guided by a UU consultant, about the direction the congregation wants to head. The following eight meetings used the output from that initial gathering to craft the plan. After the two congregational congregations, we will present the plan to the membership for adoption.

The current committee chair asked me to lead the conversations for two reasons, I think. First, she has a condition the impacts her voice that makes it difficult for people to understand her. Second, I think she wants me to get a higher profile, inasmuch as I will become the chair in July. I haven’t been involved in high-profile presentations in quite some time, so this will be interesting. Maybe. Or maybe people will either fall asleep or will engage in open revolt. Time will tell.


I’m able to enjoy spicy food again, though that enjoyment comes with more pain than it once did. But the pain, now, is tolerable. Yesterday, I helped my wife finish off the remaining jar of Trader Joe’s Harissa Salsa that my niece brought us during a recent visit. We hope to replenish our supply soon so I can continue, gradually, to train my esophagus to gratefully accept highly-spiced foods again. I’m almost ready to open a bottle of Mrs. Renfro’s habanero salsa and give it a try; but I’m not quite there yet. Another few days, maybe. The pain remains, but I’m getting used to it. Maybe that’s my new normal; acceptable degrees of pain, over and above the “hurts so good” level I used to experience when I enjoyed heat-laden sauces and salsas.

Speaking of food (as I am wont to do), we bought a large skin-on salmon filet a few days ago. I’ve been thinking of preparing Gravlax con Cilantro y Tequila, a dish I made a year or two (or three) ago. The recipe came, I think, from Pati Jinich and her Mexican Table cookbook. I know I liked it. It only uses two tablespoons of silver tequila (early in the process), so it’s truly not a “boozy” dish. It takes about 3 days for the fish to absorb the flavors and, I guess, “cook” in a salt and spice rub. It tastes wonderful. At least I think so.

Yesterday, for breakfast, I prepared a poached egg for myself (my wife wasn’t in the mood for food). Not a fake poached egg, mind you; a real one. The kind cooked in a gently swirling pan of hot water. I haven’t poached eggs that way in a long, long time. It’s a bit of a pain in the ass, but I think it would become less so with regular practice. And I like real poached eggs much better than the kind we normally eat. We have an egg poacher that steams eggs as this sit in little metal cups suspended an inch or two about the boiling water. It’s not bad, but it’s an entirely different, and better, experience from the old-fashioned process.


I suppose it’s time for me to make breakfast this morning. Maybe I’ll make a breakfast BOT sandwich, AKA a bacon, onion, and tomato sandwich. If I had any avocados, I’d go for a BOAT, but I am avocado-less this morning, a truly sad state. I suppose I could make a BOLT, since we do have a lettuce-like mix in the fridge; you know, three different kinds of non-iceberg lettuce, along with arugula and such. I personally happen to like iceberg lettuce (it’s the crunchiness I find appealing), but my wife has never found it appealing. Because I can’t imagine eating an entire head of iceberg lettuce myself (and it would wilt badly if I kept it around for the better part of a week), I simply don’t buy the stuff. Except, of course, when I make the rare “wedge” salad. (I don’t know why I’ve gotten in the habit of using quotation marks when they’re really not needed; I think it’s a punctuational affliction.)

About John Swinburn

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