Posted by: Peadar Ban | October 22, 2010

Wash Away My Sins

Sometimes it is the tiny things, things you might not ordinarily notice, that for some reason mean more to you, and fix themselves in your memory of a day. Father Kelley was away on retreat last week when this tiny thing occurred. I did not have much to do except prepare for his return on Friday.  I was in the kitchen on Thursday doing just that, a little preparation, when it happened; and now I sit in the kitchen thinking about it, one eye on the oven and one eye on the wind blowing down the leaves, and the rain washing them away.

Of course I had to do a little shopping, bring in some fresh food for him, on that hangs our story.  “Where do you buy your vegetables,” I asked the ladies, Alana, Jean and Linda, yesterday.  Alana and Linda both answered, “Market Basket.”  Jean was a Hannaford’s fan.  Now, I like Hannaford’s.  In many ways it reminds me of Whole Foods, a place I have nicknamed a “Food Gallery”, as in art gallery.  (Incidentally, though I have never bought much at a Whole Foods store, I have stopped going there since learning that they support Planned Parenthood.)

Well, question answered I was in front of three curious women wanting to know why I had asked it in the first place.  Smiling at them I held up a small stone, about as round as a thumb nail and about as thick as you thumb might be.  It was tan, with a thin streak of some darker material shot through it, about the size of an exclamation point, if one were at the end of this sentence.  Like so!  You might find such a stone anywhere, at the beach, in a river bed or bank, in your back yard.  Brows furrowed, they wondered aloud what had my little stone to do with vegetables.

“Because,” I said, “this fell out of the bunch of fresh dill I just bought at Market Basket and was washing in the sink.”   Other stuff came out, too, sand, a few really tiny stones.  But this was the biggest, and most amazing for all of that.  I didn’t add that stones in the gut might be good for birds, but they are of no use to priests or other folks even though the thought occurred to me.

The little rock precipitated several stories about things found in food and the differences in the vegetables both stores have.  Hannaford’s is a bit more upscale.  They have wider aisles, better lighting, artful displays, and the vegetables look as if they have all been hydroponically grown, almost antiseptically clean and crisp looking.  Whole Foods, you see.   This is also reflected in the price, I will add.  But, sometimes, as anyone will tell you, price isn’t an obstacle.

Market Basket, on the other hand, is a kind of Do It Yourself Place.  They have the standard aisles and clumps of stuff.  I have been there enough to know where everything will be, and can go directly to what I want, bypassing those things I either don’t want, or don’t know, like jicama, aloe leaves, and the other “exotics” which keep appearing in this increasingly diverse place where I live.  I do use the beets, leeks, chard, and collards these days, much more than I ever did before.  Collards I have not found at Hannafords…or at Whole Foods.   Neither have I found okra there.

What I really like about Market Basket, besides the price I mean, is the fact that the stuff they sell is “real” stuff, with roots and such like still clinging to them.  I think of the farmers and the workers, the packers and the truckers when I walk along the aisles looking at the roots and stems and leaves to eat.  I think of my mother and grand mother back home years ago washing and cleaning and cutting and chopping while I do the same thing in the rectory.   Preparing.  Making ready.  Shall I say purging?

I have the little stone on the window sill above the sink, now.  It rests among some other rare collectibles, those little statues from the Red Rose tea boxes.  It may become, itself, the first of a collection, a reminder of something:  From time to time I’ll stop Father Kelley in the Rectory and ask him to hear my confession.  I always feel new and clean after that.  I’ve come to think of it as my Psalm 51 feeling, “Oh wash me, I shall be clean.”  This is what washing the stone out of the middle of that bunch of dill means to me now as I look at the storm outside; how those things hide themselves inside me until, thank God, they get washed away in a cleansing flood.

What a grace…


  1. the stones are hard but it’s the boulders that really hurt. 🙂

    • Indeed, Joan, especially when you fall on them.

  2. You should give jicama a try, Peter. It has a consistency similar to an apple, but without the sweetness. You’ll find some simple recipes on the web — no need to get eloborate with jicama.


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