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Babbling Brook

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Dropping a bunch of beef bones into the pot of water begins my Sunday morning on a plaintive note. Before Andy puts on the classical music station, before I rev the exhaust fan, before the fish sauce mingles with the star anise to create the makings of a proper Phở broth, the simple sound of bones falling into water greets the day. For eight hours these bones will simmer, crafting one of the most delicious broths that has been used for years as an antidote to the winter doldrums.

It’s a long gestation period for a soup, I know, but it’s always been worth it. I sit back down at the dining room table and write these words, find these photographs of a little brook at a local cemetery. How fitting, to be talking about bones, and then to have these pictures showing the water that passes by hundreds of bones every day. The beautiful, sad cycle of life, going round and round, in water and steam and air and sustenance.

The babbling brook goes on and on, murmuring nothings and somethings and everythings to all who dare to listen.

It’s not always easy to listen, though. We would rather fill the incomprehensible with familiar noise, known words, recognized cadences. Strange languages, secret codes, other-worldly messages – we don’t want to hear them. We crave our known comforts. The rest is just background noise.

My broth is running over. It spills and hisses on the hot stove. Plumes of steam rise before me, as if I were making an offering to the gods. Maybe they will smile upon my soup. Maybe the ghost of some sacred cow sends a silent moo to bless this morning.

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