Breakfast. Mornings with my father.
[This article was written while on a spiritual retreat at Holy Cross Monastery, in West Park, New York. It’s an exceedingly lovely environment in which to re-find one’s self. I highly recommend it to any of a spiritual bent.]
Here, at the monastery, breakfast falls under the swath of the Great Silence, which began at 8:30 the previous evening and extends until 8:30 each morning. Breakfast is to be eaten silently; no talking, making as little noise as possible. It’s amusing to watch people trying to crack a hard-boiled egg silently. To eat a bowl of granola, silently. To chew, silently. But still, we’re conscious, and we try, and that’s the significant part.
But I never appreciated breakfast with my father, when I was a boy, as much as I did this morning. On the mornings that breakfast was a bowl of cereal, coffee, toast – as it was most weekday mornings – he would not put milk on his cereal until everyone else had pretty much finished reaching for this and reaching for that. When the coast was clear, he would move the milk carton close to his cereal bowl, move the sugar bowl close as well, pause for just a second, and then apply the two to his cereal and begin eating.
The cereal was never swimming in milk. Just enough to give it some fluidity and – and this is most important – a bit of cohesiveness. As my father ate his cereal, you could see a line maintained across the width of the bowl, as the spoon made its methodical advance. And he did this “silently.” Not silently in a way that would call attention to itself, not even like the Great Silence of this place. But silently in a way that you wouldn’t even notice, until reflecting on it some 50 years later.
Today, when I am out walking the dog, and it’s time to clean up after her leavings, I pride myself on being the best poop-picker I know. It doesn’t matter whether it was a particularly good one, or less so… my goal, nearly always realized, is to leave no trace. Obviously sometimes this is not possible. But I think about it. I have a method, which I use; it brings good results, and makes me proud to be a responsible steward.
I am the best poop-picker I know. I know where I got it from.
My father was the best cereal-eater I know. I wonder where he got it from?