Sunday in the Park
My season of sweets and treats may be coming to an end. Which is probably a really good thing. But, I confess, I loved the indulgences. Though there had been extra treats at a few holiday gatherings before Dec. 25, it was Christmas morning itself that started the rich shift. My neighbor arrived at my front door with his small Santa- believing son. Though it was just past nine, it was apparent they had been up for hours. They came bearing a warm, cinnamon, iced, pull-apart cake thing. His skinny wife had baked up another delicious gift.
Another neighbor dropped off powdery buttery cookies and, yet another, the best peanut brittle made. Period. My house started to groan with pleasure under the weight of the kindness and calories. The hand-dipped chocolate-covered dried (not ooey gooey syrupy) cherries from San Francisco I was given were perfect when they paired with the Spanish red wine that appeared. In fact, that was dinner one night. Another night the aforementioned peanut brittle was complimented by another gift, a local delicacy, High West rye whiskey. No other protein was needed.
On New Year’s Day, neighbors called midmorning and invited me to join them for brunch. Just a few friends, they said. And though I had worked until 2 a.m. and my jammies felt really, really like a second skin I never wanted to separate from, I so like these kind people, I threw on some sweater pants and wandered into the cul-de-sac. I found they had also invited a few folks from outside the ‘hood I just adore. This is another case, by the way, of a skinny baker. There was fruit and juices and coffees and teas, but this international family also laid out meats and cookies and yummy honeys and spread for breads. And we all moved around the room and the table, children and adults, with conversations frosted not with contrived resolutions but with some resolution of our own.
At my end of the table, the host pulled up a chair and, in response to someone else’s comment, this European Catholic man sighed and said, "You know I wish I had studied Buddhism." And I said, "Well, you can, you know. You could study all the world religions; it’s not too late." He looked at me and said quickly, "That’s so American of you." And I put down my teacup. I tried not to overreact. I was a guest in his warm, inviting home. So I chose my words carefully. "Um, what exactly do you mean by that?" And he looked at me in a kind of wistful way and said, "You Americans always find the possible. You think you can start over. Begin new careers. Learn things that, in Europe, we think you must be taught by masters. We think you must learn certain ways at certain times. You always prove that’s not so."
The man seated across from me, formerly from Great Britain, talked about his first years here near 30 years ago, being an illegal immigrant and borrowing money based on his confidence that he had a good business idea. "I never could have done that in Europe," he agreed. He now owns several highly successful businesses and he, too, credited that "Can Do" spirit of Americans for allowing him such good fortune.
My neighbor said that was what he had been talking about — did I see that? And I did, though I never really thought of it in terms of nationality before. I then added the component that had changed in my lifetime — that so many barriers had come down for women. And these European men nodded. One confessed that he was off to a photo shoot in New Zealand and the director had asked him if he minded if his assistant was a woman. And he laughed and said, Why would he? He is younger than me by a generation. Younger by just enough to see, after his adult lifetime in the United States, surrounded by strong, capable women, how archaic this comment was.
There was conversation too, about the creative nature of Americans, coupled with the fear that the current education system was stifling some of that creativity. I quoted Sir Ken Robinson (you can see his talk on TED.com) who says, "Creativity is as important as literacy." And we all agreed about needing to find more ways to encourage young people to embrace their inner genius. Whether that be as a baker, a photographer, a business person or an arts administrator.
It was a rich brunch. And the food wasn’t bad either. And while it may be time to get back to chicken and potatoes I hope the richness of that New Year’s Day conversation is a harbinger of other delicious gatherings with thinky people in the days and weeks and months ahead in 2010. I may not find them every day, but I’ll be on the lookout more often, starting this Sunday in the Park
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.
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