Artwork by Anne Baxter Smith Copyright 2017
Something magical happens around the table. Stories are told, lives are celebrated, memories are made and shared. Babies learn to eat, lovers learn to trust, families learn to fight and forgive. So much happens at the table.
Six families live on our farm, and usually a few more waifs and strays needing safe harbor for a season. We gather around the table on Thursday nights to stay connected with each other’s lives. We take turns cooking, and when it is my week to cook, I secretly groan. This week was my turn, so I worked from home. In between emails, I cleaned the house and made two huge vats of soup while Craig carried in extra tables and chairs, sliced bread, and made a salad. It took effort to carve out the time to gather, effort to prepare the food. But when everyone left, I felt warm satisfaction inside. It was good to be together at the table.
The Vancouver area isn't known for its weather. It rains a lot on our little farm. But there are times in the summer when the weather clears, the sun emerges, and we experience the delight of a warm summer night. On those nights, we set up tables and eat in the orchard under the kindly presence of old apple trees. One such night a few summers ago, Ryde was leaving us. She had lived on Kingfisher Farm for a year during a time of transition. Vibrant, creative, dark thick hair often piled upon her head, Ryde loved to cook. When my daughter Johanna turned 16, she had prepared a lavish high tea feast for Johanna and her friends. A few months later, it was Johanna's turn to surprise Ryde. On Ryde's last Thursday night with us, Johanna strung lights in the orchards, picked huge bouquets of flowers for the table, and together we made the food. A clothesline was erected, and everyone created handmade cards for Ryde and pinned them to the line. When Ryde arrived, she was delighted.
Something magical happened that night. Stories flowed, laughter grew as kids climbed in the old cherry trees. We lingered after dessert. Someone brought out a guitar, another a hand drum. We began to sing, loudly and raucously at first, then quietly, soulfully. When the music fell away and silence filled the spaces between us, we still lingered, not wanting to break the table magic. My painting “At the Table” was inspired by this night.
This year we have had a lovely refugee family from Syria living on our farm. They are naturals when it comes to building community - quick to laugh, quick to share their joys and sorrows, eager to share their lives with us - so they too have joined us at the table. They've cooked Syrian feasts for us and in return sampled our humbler western fare. Each week, we hug, share smiles, hear about school, practice new languages, and sometimes wrestle with challenges. Each week, magic faithfully shows up at the table. These meals give us hope in these divided times. Simple things like neighborliness, friendship, food, and story-telling help us see beyond our differences and reclaim our common humanity. Perhaps what we need is not higher walls, nor vast armies, but simply bigger tables. Who might you invite to your table?