Molly was told last week that she will need to be on bed rest for at least a month, maybe longer, after she is discharged from the hospital. It took a few days of digesting this information, simultaneously with the fact that Molly was becoming stronger and stronger each day, before we began to question exactly what form bed rest needed to take. Molly asked the attending doctor over the weekend and received the answer that she needed ‘tranquility’, removed from as much stress as possible.
I suppose just staying in the hospital indefinitely, removed from the hustle and bustle of city life outside, disconnected from her own life in ways that could create context for rest like the sanatoriums of the old days, might be one interpretation that could serve. I want to believe that the slow pace at which things move in this hospital and the extra time everything takes is a subtle form of this. I see the remarkable progress Molly has made in a week and know she is anxious to get back to her life, but I understand the doctors recommendation at the same time. She made a remarkable recovery after suffering severe pulmonary embolism. She will need to adapt to many changes in her life and it will take time to ease into this while she continues to heal.
I try to bring tranquility to the hospital with me each day. Before I leave each morning, I sit on the bench outside my room in the courtyard, belly full of hot coffee and fresh rolls with butter and strawberry jam, and knit. The sun begins to enter the courtyard during this time, signaling that strange but warming combination of contentment and anticipation that comes with each morning. The scarf I am knitting is with hand spun and dyed alpaca wool I found in an artisan shop one of my first days here.
The feel of the soft wool is a balm. The colors are dark and vibrant and I play with combining two colors at a time, feeling the flow of transition from one section to the next as much as I can see it. I sit at Molly’s bedside and knit. While we talk, while she eats, while she chats with her roommates, while she sleeps.
I see such peace in her beautiful face as she rests.
I try to bring tranquility back into the streets of Cusco with me as I walk around in search of a place to have my evening meal. I don’t have to go far. I found a sweet little restaurant in San Blas just at the top of the stone steps that begin across the street from my lodging.
I was drawn in by the fire in the large clay oven at the back adjacent to the small efficient open kitchen.
Kitchens in Peru are very different than what I am used to. In a home or apartment here you will typically find just a two burner cooktop, a counter, some shelves, and a small sink with running water. Refrigerators are rare. Ovens even rarer, except for the formed dome clay style I saw in front of me now. The refrigerator in the small kitchen in Chascafe Restaurant is right under a small flat screen t.v which has a soccer channel playing. Unlike other restaurants which typically have larger screens of non-stop soccer playing with sound, I am grateful for the quiet, and pick a table up close to the fire, where I can watch the young couple/chefs do the culinary dance they do to make this restaurant work.
I marvel at the economy of scale, ingredients and motion. On the wall there is just one shelf with a bottle of oil, a bowl or salt, and a few spices. There is just one rack with a few hooks for the wood utensils required, each one replaced on the hook immediately after being used. I couldn’t see the counter where food is chopped and prepared for cooking, but I could feel the economy there too.
I ordered one of the ‘menus’ offered, an economical alternative to a full fare and full portion meal, for only fifteen soles ($4.50). I am first served a plate of tequenos e guacamole. Two pieces of lightly fried rolled spears of bread dough with queso blanco (white cheese) in the middle next to a perfect amount of creamy guacamole. Next dish served is a good sized bowl of steaming hot creama de chocolo, a light soup made from the large kernel corn called chocolo. I savor each warm fragrant spoonful, careful to eat it all before it gets cold. While waiting for my pollo ala plancha, I am served a small glass of Pisco sour, a Pervian classic made with the colorless brandy produced in winemaking regions of Peru and Chile, lemon or citrus juice, sweetner, and egg white. I wondered about ordering pollo ala plancha yet again, the simple dish of grilled chicken fillet with rice that I’d already had at least four times in the past week, satisfying but otherwise inspiring. And was pleasantly surprised at this version being placed in front of me here, the chicken obviously covered with a mix of spices that turned this ordinarily bland meal into something special. It was all just the right amount of food, and accompanied with the kind of entertainment I like too, being able to watch the swift non-stop movements of these two cooks, how the fire in the open oven was pushed to one side to make a baking slab for a flat round of dough to bubble up in no time, the grabbing of bowls from the shelf to add this or that to a steaming pot, the refrigerator opened to retrieve the next round of ingredients, the sounds of chopping, sizzling, and clinking, all moments before one them emerges with the next plate to be delivered.
The restaurant began to fill just as I was leaving. And yet the street outside was eerily quiet, silent but for the distant sound of taxi horns.
I began walking back down the grand stone steps and took in the soft light I was descending down into, framed by the twinkle of lights in the hills beyond.
These moments of finding myself alone with the stone constructions of this ancient city continue to fill me with awe. And tranquility.
Now, a day later, the tides have shifted again and Molly has been discharged. She is home sleeping in her own bed, eating food of her own choosing again, easing into her new rhythm. We will spend these next days together, and with her friends, to establish the context for her to continue to heal with tranquility. I’m still hoping to finish knitting my scarf to wear for at least a day or two before I leave.