(a series in food & fiction by Kelly Ridenhour)
I did not know what to expect when I asked my shadow the question. I did not even know if it would work. It was the book that convinced me to try or that is my excuse. Truthfully, it was my longing for something unrealistic to be... not so unrealistic. If I did not work in a library where more books than I could ever possibly read surrounded me, I would never have found the book; the book that led me to the question. I couldn't help but wander long silent corridors and sweetly brush my fingertips along the spines of hardbound books. In lonely corridors I would break dust for the first time in decades. The pleasant dust, a crisp crust on fine crème brûlée. Inside a library, your mind wanders. It is suppose to wander. As an employee, the library's silence, the endless comfort of rows, the organization, it either becomes a meditation provoking thought or something that stirs chaos.
On the day I found the book, I felt its draw, like a beacon shinning out from the sea of muted books. It was a dusty gray color, the color of muted night sky. The book became a secret I harbored. I could see its history on the backside of the front cover. I always feel a little pity when I discover a book like this one. A book whose existence no one knows of or an existence long forgotten. The inside cover was white, virgin, no inked dates to mar its page. The book's knowledge was all mine and I felt its gratitude. This book was not the type of book the people in my community want me to read. It made the secret dangerous and intoxicating. It was called Nyx. It is a book dripping with modern magic and Greek mythology. I would take the secret out underneath the apple groves that dotted the Utah landscape and read listening to the sound of irrigation runnels. Everything would become still in those hours, so still I became part of the landscape. The deer treated me as they did the apple trees, a solid object, part of nature.
I read for days about gods and goddesses of Greek mythology and the way those concepts and ideas have translated into modern life. Something I never learned before, it did not exist in my world. I was astonished that the ancient Greeks believed in these gods. It was not the incredulousness of these gods but the impressiveness of the things Greeks did to show their affections and loyalty; the things they built! I could not help but feel cheated. How exciting would a world be when filled with mythical creatures, gods who shoot arrows of love, nymphs, goddesses... and a world with scandals between gods and mortals? Even if these gods and goddesses were not real, the attentiveness of the Greeks made them real. I began to wonder about the realities of my own world and the one God that I worship and if someone would discover a book about my beliefs and my God 2,500 years from now.
In Nyx the author discussed rituals and practices of the Greeks. There was one bit that stuck with me and my brain grew with questions. One question led me to my shadow. A shadow is not just one thing by itself; it is many things. It is light, it is dark, it is the ground, it is you, and it is air. The landscape in this combination is air. Air in Greek mythology is not necessarily one god. Air is the space where everything happens and it is the oldest of all gods, it is Khaos or as we know it, chaos. Shadow has been with everyone, at all times. It was there 2,500 years ago when the Greeks lived and it is here with you now. Think of all it has seen, all of the places it has been, all the space it has occupied and all the chaos that has passed through it. Filled with questions and too dark to read.
Despite what you believe, you know the powers of a full moon, or at least you are aware of the myth. If I told you the full moon produces a special kind of shadow would you believe me? No? You want to believe me don't you? That is how I feel when reading the book. I want to believe everything. Something so different from my world, something to pull me out and take me away. There is not one specific idea that convinced me I could ask my shadow any question I wanted under the strength of a full moon and in return, I would get an answer. It was more an accumulation of knowledge and feeling. Ideas put into practice. I felt my evenings in the apple grove grow more powerful as the moon waxed. I wanted to ask my shadow is magic is real, if myth was real.... and if it was there was it would be myth no longer, it would be chaos. My life as I know it turned on its side and my realities lost. I wanted that. On the night of the full moon I wandered into the apple grove, my shadow faithfully trailing me. I asked my question.
I won't tell you what happened. All I can tell you is that your realities are what you make them. I toss you my apple, I give you the chaos of asking questions.
I can't explain how much I love this salad. It is inspired from my favorite salad in a little greek restaurant near my parent's house. I love to eat it by itself or wrapped up in some flatbread. Or eaten with a side of flatbread & hummus. Make it your own. It may sound simple but, seriously, it doesn't need any pity :).
Recipe (1 large salad or several small salads)
Green cabbage - 1/4 head of cabbage on the generous side, shaved or slivered
Arugula - 2 big handfuls
Red onion - 1/4 onion, shaved or slivered
Kalamata olives - 6-8, the meat cut off the pits
Olive oil - 2TB
Garlic - 1 clove, small, minced (optional - I don't event do this all the time)
Lemon - juice of 1 lemon
Dill - 2Tb, fresh, chopped fine
Salt/pepper - to taste
Toss together all ingredients & kind of gently massage the greens with the juices & herbs. Eat right away... or it tastes even better after it sits in the fridge and the flavors infuse for 15-30mins or so. Enjoy.