Sunday in the Park
April 24, 2009
In the word "intimate" we have come to expect descriptions of lacy lingerie or apparel. Perhaps of moments between lovers. Or worse yet, products on television to enhance personal pleasure.
But "intimate" in its pure form is something else. Something quiet, revealed, genuine and slightly raw. It is the heart of the matter, that which is intimate. I don’t know about the Latin meaning or lost translation. This is my own.
And this week, being far, far, far away from my home, I have been present for some exquisite intimate moments. One came at some time point just past dawn when the birds at the refuge outside my room started a cacophony of greetings to me to wake up and join them. So, with teacup in hand, I made my way to my tiny deck overlooking the pond. Swimming toward me were two Canada geese. They stopped and climbed up on an island — made from rushes, it appeared — and they seemed to be preening just for me. But before long I noticed something moving around their feet, shadowy images at first. I came to make out two, then three, then I don’t know how many little fuzzy babies weaving between the adults. It might be difficult to translate, but the morning was so still and there was no other witness. I felt I had shared such a private thing, well, there was great intimacy in the moment.
Later that day I drove deep into red-rock canyons where you are dizzied by the intensity of the colors and the otherworldly shapes that nature has carved out. At this time of year they are outlined by lush spring-green trees leafing out. In one such space, I just stood between canyon walls and felt the warmth reflecting from the rock cliffs and the quiet that had stilled the world but not the creek or the birds. There were no other humans then either, but it was an incredibly intimate moment just the same.
The Boulder Mountain Lodge is such a serene base camp. Here, in the middle of the middle of the middle of nowhere, is one of my favorite places on the planet. Because here is home to the famed Hell’s Backbone Grill, named for a rock formation, not a motorcycle group. The sweetness of the food grown and prepared here is, each day, an intimate exchange between server and served. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the efforts of two women, Jenn and Blake, who persevered against, really, all odds to create more than a place to eat, but a way of life. They have created employee housing in a friendly open house with private rooms. They purchased land a few years back and now they have a farm of their own where they grow about half of what they serve in the restaurant.
The rest they purchase from their neighbors. If you are a reader or even a movie lover, you might remember Laura Esquivel’s book, "Like Water For Chocolate," that delicious intimate read where the food was cooked in such a way as to transmit the emotions the cook intended and those ingesting the food were sent into passionate expressions or conversations of forgiveness or just tears at the beauty of it all. That book was what critics like to call magical realism. Here’s what I know firsthand, that there can be that kind of magic in food if there is that kind of intention in both the chef and the people serving. I have been witness to that too this week. A participant, even.
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One moment came after breakfast one day when the women asked if I wanted to see their homes and then the farm. Those are gifts of friendship I never take lightly and I was honored to be brought in. Jenn lives in a funky log-cabin home with a great light upstairs and a homey great room downstairs. There are touches of laughter in her decorating style. The farm is on several acres and includes a swimming hole that has become a place of reflection and recreation for "The Helles," as they call their circle. There is a straw-bale greenhouse with mud walls and rows and rows of root vegetables and herbs already starting to push through the dirt. Blake’s house is an old two-story farmhouse with wooden floors built right along a creek with heirloom fruit trees and the most beautiful chickens I have ever seen. Honestly. She has names for them all and they strut and scratch and produce eggs in pastel colors.
On this day her sister-in-law drops by along with her nephew, a tow-headed boy in worn overalls and bare feet. We have been gathering fresh eggs and one cracks in Blake’s hand and she asks her nephew if he would like it scrambled up and he is gleeful at the prospect. So right there she scrambles the egg and puts it on a plate and sits with him on an old church pew to eat and be present with him. She does all this in way that is mindful and playful. And though it is just an egg and an aunt, the boy and I both know it is a moment of genuine intimacy.
So I look away.
To be continued …
Teri Orr is the director of the Park City Performing Arts Foundation that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts and the Big Stars Bright Nights Summer Concert Series at Deer Valley. She is also a former editor of The Park Record.