the circle game


    I spent some time on my recipe blog today because I was cooking dinner for someone in our congregation who just had surgery and I realized I’ve not posted any new recipes recently or with any consistency. When I started blogging, recipes were part of the deal for me. In that spirit, I posted my Autumn Bisque recipe, a soup I concocted with what I could find in the walk-in refrigerator at work. The combination of ingredients sounds a bit strange, but it tastes great.

    Since I’m the lunch chef four days out of seven, making soup has become my job. I’m the one who’s there all afternoon to let the soup simmer to tastiness. Other than our clam chowder, we don’t have any set soups on the menu, which means we don’t have any set recipes either. I start with basics – bacon, onion, celery, and (sometimes) carrots – and then see what else grabs my attention as I stand in the walk-in. It’s cold enough to spur me to creativity; I can’t stand in there for long. I try to pay attention to what soup we’ve just had. I made meatball and mushroom soup before the bisque, so it was time for something with more vegetables. Since the bisque has cream in it, I’ll do something with broth or lentils or beans tomorrow (I saw some cannelloni beans and pintos in our dry storage).

    The metaphor of making something good out of what you have on hand isn’t lost on me these days, though I have to say it’s easier with soup than it is with life. Ginger and I are both getting to do things we love, as far as jobs go, and we are trying to figure out a recipe for finding the time we need together when we don’t share any days off. Her best chance at a day off, Friday is one of the two busiest days in most any restaurant. The other is Saturday, which is her second best chance at some free time. My days off, Tuesday and Thursday, are everyone else’s workday. We’re still in the process of figuring out how to make soup of it all.

    While she was at a meeting tonight, I put in some Joni Mitchell while I was cleaning up the kitchen. We bought her Hits CD on a trip some years back when we realized the rental car had a CD player. I washed dishes and sang along with tunes that have carried me across many years. When I heard one particular guitar intro, I stopped what I was doing. opened the window to let the early evening breeze sneak in, and stood there looking out as the day faded while she sang “The Circle Game”:

    Yesterday a child came out to wonder
    Caught a dragonfly inside a jar

    Fearful when the sky was full of thunder

    And tearful at the falling of a star

    Then the child moved ten times round the seasons
    Skated over ten clear frozen streams

    Words like when you’re older must appease him
    And promises of someday make his dreams

    And the seasons they go round and round
    And the painted ponies go up and down

    We’re captive on the carousel of time

    We can’t return we can only look

    Behind from where we came

    And go round and round and round

    In the circle game

    In fifty-odd days I will complete my fiftieth year on the planet and begin my fifty first time round the seasons. I remember in college religion classes, and then again in seminary, being told that the Judeo-Christian perspective of time was unique because it was linear rather than circular: history was going somewhere. So we sang, “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “Forward Through The Ages” (both to the same tune) knowing that we were headed for some sort of cosmic finish line. Somewhere in the middle of those discussions, I bought James Taylor’s wonderful album, JT. And he sang:

    The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time
    Any fool can do it

    There ain’t nothing to it

    Nobody knows how we got to

    The top of the hill

    But since we’re on our way down

    We might as well enjoy the ride

    The secret of love is in opening up your heart
    It’s okay to feel afraid
    But don’t let that stand in your way no

    ‘Cause anyone knows that love is the only road

    And since we’re only here for a while yeah
    Might as well show some style

    Give us a smile now

    Isn’t it a lovely ride
    Sliding down

    And gliding down

    Try not to try too hard

    It’s just a lovely ride

    Maybe seven weeks before my birthday is too early to start waxing philosophic, but Joni and James have been circling with me for a long time, so they encourage me to reflect. Most of our images of circling are not productive: planes circle waiting to land, going in circles means getting nothing done. In 1991, Sergei Krikalev, a Soviet cosmonaut, spent nearly 312 days in space circling the earth because the Soviet Union collapsed while he was in orbit and he had to wait up there until the new governments figured out who could get him down. But we do circle, over and over.

    But there’s more to circling than Clark Griswold saying, “There it is – Parliament, Big Ben” while trapped in a London roundabout. Just as our linear history is made up of one daily revolution after another, so are my years – and yours.

    I sang the last verse with Joni and changed one word.

    So the years spin by and now the boy is [fifty]
    Though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true

    There’ll be new dreams maybe better dreams and plenty
    Before the last revolving year is through

    And the seasons they go round and round
    And the painted ponies go up and down

    We’re captive on the carousel of time

    We can’t return we can only look

    Behind from where we came

    And go round and round and round
    In the circle game

    Even on hard days, it’s still a lovely ride.



    1. Indeed, it is. Your post brought tears to my eyes.

      Two of my favorites who have sung the seasons of my life over and over. I wore out my copy of JT and that was always my favorite song, though I never understood it at 16…

      Today, at 43, I get it….

      You blessed me today. I swear, one day I’m coming from Richmond to to New England just for soup…

    Leave a Reply