Saturday, September 13, 2014

Currency of the Heart as Potluck Supper

Thank you Jennie Ashlock for the story and your patience, another form of "currency of the heart". 

Thursday Nights

How may I describe our Thursday night gatherings so you will understand their meaning?  It is not a clear task, but one which I feel compelled to tackle.  I can begin by telling you that they have occurred for two-and-a-half years.  That is a fact because we started when Annabelle, our youngest participant, was born and she is now that age.  So perhaps it is best to begin at the beginning.

Jennie Ashlock
My apartment was too quiet.  The kitchen was poised like a stage ready for actors but there were none.  Every time I opened the cabinets, the dishes and glassware asked “when are we going to be used?”  The forks and knives were no less verbal.  It was a cacophony of cutlery, silent to all ears but mine.

So I tinkered with ideas and decided, with winter coming on, to invite some women with whom I was acquainted to enjoy a monthly evening of knitting and eating in my home.  We ate and consumed more wine than we produced hats and scarves, but at least I had life in the apartment and the dinnerware was, for now, satisfied.

We took a break that summer and in early autumn, gathered around a friend’s kitchen table in the back of her late nineteenth-century farm house.  Deep afternoon light graced the room with a sapphire hue as it shone through old medicine bottles and glassware trimming the windowsill.  Annabelle, barely one month old, cooed from her carrier in the middle of the table.  It was, as dusk turned to night, like an altar – an infant Appalachian Madonna surrounded by adoring admirers, honoring her and life with jelly jars of red wine sanctified by the holy presence of new life.

As dark fell across the fields and chicken pens, an idea arose that we meet weekly for dinner and invite husbands, significant others and friends to join us.  The idea was intriguing, for we enjoyed the camaraderie offered through these meals. 

If doing a weekly potluck with what has grown into, at times, twelve to fifteen people sounds daunting, I assure you it is possible.  For ease, we rotate homes.  At each meal, a different person self-identifies as the host for the following week.  The process is very organic in that someone, during the course of the potluck, yells-out, “we’ll host next week.”   Then at some point over the next few days, the new hosts send an email stating what they will make (i.e., chickpea ratatouille, dhal, red beans  and rice, ribs, salmon, lentil stew) and the rest of us  respond with what we’ll bring (i.e., something green, “not sure but I’ll be there,” wine, bread, something sweet). 

Managing the menu is clearly not a priority, which means we sometimes have all salads or, as in one night, several potato dishes.  Pizza nights, however, always fall together.  Friends built a cob oven in their garden and on warm summer evenings, we delight over individual pizzas crisp and warm from the wood-fired oven.  Jelly jars, our wine glasses of choice here in the mountains, are full and the pizza ingredients abundant from local farms: mozzarella, goat cheese, sausage, arugala, pesto, and tomatoes. 
As I look around the table each night, I feel gratitude for and comfort in being among this rich, dense amalgam of humanity.  Our ages range from 2 1/2 to 65+ with our newest member to join us sometime in August when he is due to be born.  Professions vary as widely as dietary preferences and religious and political beliefs.  Yet we are lively, loud and immensely entertaining in our being.

I asked the group, over steaming plates of chickpea stew, quinoa, spinach, bread and wine, to share a thought about what these meals mean.  One friend stated that we are like an “intentional community” in that we are intentional about gathering.  Our only breaks are Thanksgiving and Christmas, and as long as two or three can gather, we eat.  We have no social agenda, we do not ask for money or canned goods nor do we all work for one cause; our only cause to be in community.

Tonight we gathered at the park.  It was the first warm, spring evening of the season; a welcome herald of daffodils, vegetable gardens and fireflies.  Annabelle spent dinnertime running between the table for nibbles of hotdog and the slide and sandbox.  Avram and I played a wicked game of Frisbee on the basketball court while others held a heady conversation about the pharmaceutical industry around the picnic table.

When dusk arrived, I walked up the hill to my home where I proceeded to nurse a thumb bruised from an awkward frisbee catch.  Later that night, I sat on the front porch with my bare feet propped on the railing where a moist breeze danced over exposed skin.  I took-in deep breaths, filling my body with the scent of fresh earth and an impending rainstorm.  Meanwhile, inside, all was silent and content.

Rosemary Williams launched Currency of the Heart to inspire readers to “pay it forward” from the heart’s most precious currency. We’d love to hear from you! To share your story or to request permission to republish this blog post, please email