the best season

Ten thousand flowers in spring,
the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer,
snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t crowded with unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.

-Wu-Men

Mid-February and it’s good to come back to one of my favorite poems. It has been a mild winter and the groundhog saw its shadow. C’mon Spring! Yet I have no doubt that at least one ginormous snow storm will sock us in by the end of March.

Worry and fear are often the unnecessary things to crowd the mind, whether next month or this coming week, which is yet another winter vacation with no school. We have plans for a few days and we’ll just have to wing it for the others.

This past week I’ve mostly been focused on a freelance writing assignment on the history of school segregation in NJ: the lasting legacy of redlining and other racist housing policies from the Great Depression; the demographic changes since the Great Migration of Black Southerners escaping Jim Crow for industrial jobs in the North during and after the First World War, up to the past twenty years in which both the Latinx and Asian population has doubled.

Last night N came to hang out with V for a few hours. N is a former home therapist, now occasional helper/companion (there’s no perfect word to replace ‘babysitter’ when you get too old for that).

We go out for pho, the perfect Winter food. I don’t eat out much and when I do am not big on photographing my meal – too eager to dig in rather than frame a perfect image for my non-existent Insta followers. But every so often something is so beautiful or satisfying I need to memorialize it,

Still, there’s so much a photo can’t capture: the smell of Thai basil leaves being torn and thrown into the steaming bowl or the taste of hot broth with fresh squeezed lime and a dollop of hot sauce or the huge quantity of rice noodles and bean sprouts that require chopsticks along with a spoon to eat it all. Pho is traditionally made with several cuts of beef, but most restaurants have chicken, seafood or even vegetarian versions.

The Vietnamese place is in a little shopping center that also has a Philippine restaurant, a Chinese bakery, and an Asian market where I buy rice paper wraps for summer rolls, five spice powder, miso, and extra firm tofu, items that would be hard to find in a supermarket or that would cost twice as much in the ‘ethnic’ section of Whole Foods of Shoprite.

It’s hard to understand how anyone can be anti-immigrant given how much immigrants have always contributed to our economy and culture. If nothing else, think where we’d be without the input of so many great cuisines.

It’s also hard to believe that this is the best season of your life if you’re a sane caring person right now scared about the future and what will happen in nine months, what will gestate and emerge on Election Day. But in this moment I let go of the unnecessary things crowding my mind and heat up my leftovers from last night.

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