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Sometimes You Know Just What To Do

Sometimes everything falls right into place. The bills automatically pay themselves and the laundry puts itself away. When you set off for your morning walk it’s a perfect blue-sky day, and the next door neighbor’s dog is, for once, asleep, instead of straining at his chain, trying to attack you and setting off the chain-reaction barking of every dog in a five-mile radius. A flock of birds suddenly appears, diving from all directions to eat up all the nasty greenhead flies, leaving you a clear, welt-free path through the woods.

Sometimes you know what’s right and instead of doubting yourself, you believe your own mind, and start doing all the right things. You clear your schedule and clear your desk and clear your conscience. You throw out all the food that’s already gone bad, but you were saving, hoping you could combine it all in some new unexplained way into something edible — something that even the children would ask for seconds of. (“Mom, can I please have another Mu-shu tuna casserole burrito?”) That’s never going to happen, so you throw it all into the compost bin, go out to the garden, and there are a bunch of perfectly ripe beans and tomatoes, peas and potatoes, coconuts and honeyberries and ice-cream cherries and things you never even planted, but somehow seeded themselves. It’s all ripe for the picking and the little neighbor kids show up right then to help you harvest. You load up baskets of this good stuff and pass them out to the neighbors and everybody loves you and tells you what a good gardener you are, and what a pal, and promises to take you out on their boats and lend you their new iPads and mow your lawn and bring you over homemade pineapple upside-down cake.

Then you take your own huge basket of fresh-picked goodness and go into the kitchen wondering what you’re going to make out of it all. But before you can even start rummaging in your shelves of cookbooks for recipes, an idea presents itself to you, fully formed, the perfect recipes to use everything you have and turn it all into the most amazing meal you’ve ever made. The next thing you know you’ve become a whirlwind of slicing and dicing and sauteing and mixing and steaming and pretty soon every pot and pan and bowl and spoon in the kitchen has been used and the table is laden with platters and dishes and cups and vessels and bottles and steaming bowls full of wonderment and delight. Your whole family has assembled themselves in the kitchen, drawn by the incredible smells that have been wafting through the house, and they cheerfully begin cleaning up and setting the dining room table with the fine china, because this is a momentous occasion, certainly a fine china dinner, and they all get so excited they even run back upstairs and put on shirts and pants and dresses that don’t stink and wash behind their ears and take the rings out of their noses and come back and sit, quietly waiting till everyone is ready, then spontaneously break into a song of thanksgiving.

It isn’t the best meal you’ve ever had. It’s the best meal anyone’s ever had.

And you wonder — why can’t it always be like this? Everything just flowed so easily and all the problems solved themselves. All the arguments were forgotten and put in the past and no one complained or threw food at their sister or was text-messaging under the table or made rude noises when the broccoli was passed around. Why is it possible for everything to work out so well one day and then the next a construction crew comes to start building a McDonalds on the vacant lot next door, and the toilet backs up, and your brother-in-law crashes his car into your garage. Why can’t things just get better and better and better? Or at least, why can’t they get better and stay that way?

But sometimes you just don’t know, and then the only thing to do is go down to the beach and watch the sunset, feel the breeze, take a stroll with your favorite person, listen to the waves and the winds, and dream about just what to do. No, you don’t need to dream about it. You’re already doing it.

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