I have a thing for bowls. I am sometimes particular in my lust for bowls. I like them plain without much hoopin’ and a hollerin’. I like the ones that are white on the inside, colorful on the outside, mostly. My grandma had similar bowls, for mixing fresh pie dough and decadent cake recipes.
My husband Mario brought a blue bowl into the marriage. We called it a cereal bowl. Deep, you know, so you could stir the cereal, milk, and whatnot around with a flourish. When this blue bowl broke, I was desolate. Relative desolation, of course. American desolation. “Oh, my favorite TV program went off the air” kind of desolation. Still, I missed the old thing. It never chipped, you see. I have a thing about chipped dishes. They kind of make me shudder: It’s like seeing a chipped bone.
Seriously, though, I like my bowls. I don’t buy a lot of things. For instance, I have one pair of jeans. I have two pairs of shoes. Penny loafers, which really need replacing. And a pair of running shoes that I use for hiking. I don’t buy stuff. But I have many bowls. Forty-two, I believe, counting the mixing, serving, salad, soup, and cereal bowls. The plain bowls are my favorites. These bowls are beautiful in their simplicity.
Sometimes I open the cupboard and stare at the plain bowls. Piled on top of each other. Egg yellow, split pea, plum, blue, dusty cranberry. They’re like huge open flowers, each one spooning the next. Or bowling the next, I suppose. Almost nesting, but not quite. I like the colors. I want to take photographs of them the way I take photographs of rhododendrons: up close and personal.
Every time I make something that requires using one of these bowls, I smile. I reach for one bowl, deliberately, slowly, and take it off the pile. I look inside at the translucent white well to make certain nothing untoward has dropped inside.
When my friend Linda was ill, I asked her what she wanted to eat. She wanted pumpkin pudding. So I made it, and I used one of my big bowls. Into the bowl put in pumpkin, eggs, honey, cinnamon, and my love, and I wished for her healing. Afterward, I washed out the big bowl with reverence. What a wonderful thing it was to cradle that which nourishes us—even if it was only for a short while.
The following day, I took the pudding to Linda.
The day was blue like my blue bowl. Was the sky the color of the bowl or was the bowl the color of the sky?
Linda and I sat on weather-worn benches, the dark green grass at out ankles. Swallows swooped above us, singing their watery arias. A wren sat on a small willow tree near the large bird feeder and sang to us. Flowers grew along the fence lines, wild and brightly colored. Linda said, “I need to cut the grass and weed the flowers.” She ate the pudding as she sat sheltered by the bowl of the sky, with me alongside her.
Later that night, Linda was in so much pain that she called an ambulance. I didn’t learn about this until the next day when she called to tell me she went to the hospital. She called after she was home again. I didn’t fuss over her. She hated that. I just listened. When I got off the phone I went to the cupboards, opened the doors, and stared at the bowls. They were still beautiful. Full of memory. Potential. Color.
Then I pulled out two big mixing bowls. One was split pea colored, the other was chick yellow. Mario loved my blueberry muffins. Only they weren’t muffins. That was too much fuss to pour the mixture into a muffin tin. Too much bother to clean. So I made blueberry cake. I had the recipe memorized. First I measured out two cups of rice flour and put it in the split pea bowl. I should have sifted it, but I didn’t. I dropped in two teaspoons of baking soda, and then I stirred the dry mixture together.
In the yellow bowl, I put a teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup maple syrup, and one egg. I whisked them all together, then added 3/4 cup water. I gently poured the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients.
I stirred everything together with a bamboo mixing spoon. Next, I dropped a cup (or more) of frozen blueberries into the bowl along with my love and affection. I folded the blueberries into the mixture carefully. Almost immediately the cake mixture turned blue. Not ordinary blue. But a blue-green. No, that wasn’t it. It was the color of blue that you’d imagine a mermaid’s tail would be. It was so deep and light and natural and perfect that I could only oooh and aaah. I showed it to Mario. If I were a painter, I thought, I would spend a lifetime trying to create this color. But then, why bother? Nature had already done it.
I oiled a Pyrex dish and then poured the blueberry mixture into it. I put it in the oven at 375° for about 30 minutes. I washed the mixing bowls carefully, reluctant to clean away the blueberry cosmos.
Later, I served my beloved blueberry cake. I watched Mario eating my love and affection for him along with the blueberries, egg, flour, and oil. I wondered what he would think if he knew he was eating the cosmos, too. He seemed happy as he ate.
I wished my pumpkin pudding could have made Linda happy—or eased her pain. Maybe it had for a few minutes.
Mario promised to make one of my favorite dishes on the following day: a kind of stir-fry with rice and tofu and veggies all mixed together. He would use the huge chick yellow bowl that we had not had an occasion to use yet. It would be a glorious sight, I was certain. A great feast.
“This is even better than usual,” Mario said as he ate the blueberry cake. “Did you do anything different?”
I smiled. “It’s the bowls, darlin’. It’s the bowls.”
copyright © 2012 by Kim Antieau. All rights reserved.
Kim Antieau has written many novels, short stories, poems, and essays. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, both in print and online, including The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Asimov’s SF, The Clinton Street Quarterly, The Journal of Mythic Arts, EarthFirst!, Alternet, Sage Woman, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. She was the founder, editor, and publisher of Daughters of Nyx: A Magazine of Goddess Stories, Mythmaking, and Fairy Tales. Her work has twice been short-listed for the Tiptree Award, and has appeared in many Best of the Year anthologies. Critics have admired her “literary fearlessness” and her vivid language and imagination. She has had nine novels published. Her first novel, The Jigsaw Woman, is a modern classic of feminist literature. Kim lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, writer Mario Milosevic.
Her latest book is Her Frozen Wild.
Learn more about Kim and her writing at www.kimantieau.com.
About Her Frozen Wild
Scientists in the Altai in Siberia uncover the 2,500 year old frozen mummy of a tattooed priestess or shaman. This mummy has the same mtDNA (mitochondrial DNA) as American archaeologist Ursula Smith whose mother disappeared in Siberia 30 years earlier. Ursula travels from the U.S. to Siberia to unravel the mystery of the “lady” and meets Sergei Ivanovich Polyakov, a Russian doctor who graciously invites her into his home. After they become lovers, she discovers he has the same tattoos on his body as the tattooed lady. He tells a disbelieving Ursula that they have met before and she is destined to save the ancient People, considered as devils by some and shape-changing gods by others. A shaman takes Ursula to one of the sacred timeless caves where Ursula’s mother supposedly disappeared. When Ursula allows the shaman to tattoo her, she is thrown back in time where she must unlock the mystery of the People and their link to her past in order to save them and Sergei—even if it costs her her life.