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mastery sounds deliberate…

February 3, 2010

…but I don’t think it is in my case. When Julia Child set off to master the art of French cookery, it was deliberate, purposeful, a sound step towards a solid goal. But life. It’s not the most concrete of words. Its meanings, according to the vast knowledge of Merriam and Webster, are many. It doesn’t take much creativity to master the foremost meaning of the word:  “the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body”. I think that’s more the “breathe-in-breathe-out” routine. Maybe the definition that most fits the delicate thing I am attempting to master is “the sequence of physical and mental experiences that make up the existence of an individual”. My existence will be mastered, I suppose, whether by boredom, frugality, extravagance, happiness, apathy, or countless others. But I intend to master it with other things, too: magic and grass stains and laughter and licorice, to name a few. That mastery won’t be so deliberate. It will just come, never mastering in the conquering sense of the phrase, but slowly flavoring and infusing it. (But honestly, who would read anything entitled “infusing life”? It sounds like the labelling for a stress-reducing herbal tea.) 

So… this weekend’s bit of mastery (or infusion, depending on how passive you judge my conduct) was brought on by weather. Here in North Carolina, snow is special enough. But I, a wide-eyed Texas transplant, found it nothing short of magical. It snowed all day and night Friday, and we woke up Saturday to a snow-covered neighborhood. My brother and I were the first out in it. It was perfect; unspoiled. We had the great honor of making the first tracks on our street. And make them we did. We had very little time to ourselves, though. We were soon joined by not only our friends, but every person under 40 occupying our street. Everyone swarmed onto the streets, and soon there were mass snowball fights and sled races and fort building. I think our street single handedly kept the cocoa companies in business. Every few hours, some mother would come out and yell for her children and all their friends (and usually a couple children she’d never seen before in her life) to pile in and squirm out of all of their layers and sit and drink cocoa and eat popcorn and watch movies and drip all over the leather furniture. No one seemed to mind.

It seemed like the snow brought out the best in everybody. Our neighbors who have spent years in both New York and Germany came out with piles of toboggans from their snowy past, and gladly passed them out. Children shared their cocoa and colds with all of their friends, and everyone exchanged snowballs liberally.

But today, our four-day reign of snow has ended. It’s melting into sad, gray puddles and dripping off of wet roofs. School promises to be back in session tomorrow and children are starting to lose their tempers much more easily. However, I am convinced my life is improved, if not mastered, by an infusion of wet gloves, good neighbors, multiple snowballs down my back, sled races won and lost and vast quantitities of cocoa.


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