Over dinner our family sometimes plays the tattoo game. It goes something like this: If you had to get a tattoo, which animal (or fruit or motorized vehicle…) would you choose and where on your body would you put it? The answers are sometimes surprising. Riley always tries to choose a bird no matter the category. John once chose a unicycle for his “motorized” vehicle, and that led to a half hour discussion on locomotion. But anyway, the kids like our strange amusement. It’s a pastime that saves us on days we’d otherwise easily fall into lamenting the ways the world feels terribly broken.
How the world is broken seems more evident in February, when the slant of light has changed, but not enough to signal spring. When it feels like it’s been winter long enough, and yet the storms keep on coming. What’s wanting is diversion enough to distract from another several weeks of slate skies and long underwear.
The other day I found the perfect thing on River Teeth‘s website. You can sign up to get a daily email from them — “28 days of Beautiful Things.” Each day you will receive an excerpt from Michelle Webster-Hein’s essay “Beautiful Things,” originally published in River Teeth in 2013. I was hooked after reading the idea for the project, but what really got me was the gorgeous photo of a beet, a vegetable I uniformly detested in youth but which now I cannot eat enough of.
Golden, Chioggia, Detroit Dark Red. Roasted, pickled, slawed. Nothing beats (ha) growing them. Feeling them release from the soil when they are ready to be harvested. Knowing that under the tough exterior awaits brilliant color, sweet earthy flavor. Fresh beets means eating the greens, too, steamed or sauteed in sesame oil or hidden inside chili or lasagna (don’t tell the kids).
I’m not usually very clever about where I’d put a tattoo — I almost always choose my arm, because it seems like if I’d gone through the journey of permanently inking myself, I’d want to be able to admire the art without having to use a mirror. The kids tell me that’s not the point. Tattoos are meant to be seen by others.
My obsession with body art doesn’t get much past our dinner game. When we play vegetable tattoo, a beet in any of its iterations is always my answer. It’s also the lone answer to another game we play — If you were marooned on a deserted island and could only have one food, what would it be? The beet. Of course. Though I would have trouble deciding which variety.
The miracle of a beet is the topic of “28 Days of Beautiful Things” first beautiful thing.
Today’s excerpt from Webster-Hein is an ode to dust — oddly dear to her, its silty presence on her belongings means she’s spent time doing what she loves instead of housekeeping.
Amen to that.