The first line of Joy Harjo’s poem, “Perhaps The World Ends Here” is a line that speaks to me at a deep level.
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
It was while memorizing this beautiful poem years ago that I wrote the early drafts of Around the Table That Grandad Built. I am a believer in the power of sharing a meal, the importance of kitchen tables, and the grace of gathering generations of friends and family together with the excuse that we all need to eat. I’m with Harjo that the kitchen table is where children are educated in what it means to be human—we absolutely make women and men as we pass dishes around and butter the bread. I believe we humans need a place to sing with joy and sorrow, and to give thanks. A table is a good place to do that.
I love a well-set table. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but I like for there to be color, history, and good food placed on the table before everyone sits down. I enjoy “dressing” the table with colorful linens…arranging the dishes and silverware … placing flowers just so … lighting candles …. I enjoy quiet dinners with just one or two fellow diners, and I enjoy more eclectic and boisterous meals where people are squished together around the table and everyone brings something to share. What can I say? I come from a line of women who delight in dishes and napkins and food and gathering everyone up.
It was a joy to watch artist Jaime Kim make the words of this book come alive in the illustrations. The table she drew looks very much like our family’s kitchen table, which she had no way of knowing. She also could not have known how thrilled I’d be with the second to last spread—the table all set, seen from above, hands clasped around it, a feast ready to eat….
For these hands we hold,
for tasty good food,
for family and friends,
for grace that is given
and love that is shared,
we give thanks….
As Harjo says:
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table,
while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.
May it be so, I say. May it be so.