We often forget how important pleasure is. Maybe it’s our North American puritanical roots, but somewhere along the line, pleasure became associated with shame. It became synonymous with gluttony, lust, greed, debauchery. But pleasure, true and pure pleasure, is sacred. It is a crushed blackberry between your teeth, it is dipping your feet into the cool river, it is an hour alone with a favourite novel. A pleasure does not corrupt. A pleasure does not enslave.
Depression is my blood inheritance. I spent many a year as a limbless grey shadow, despising pleasure, wanting nothing more than to be left alone to indulge in destructive, isolating behaviours. I went from a curious, vibrant, creative creature to one whose life centred on avoidance. Only now have I emerged, a several-year process that involved desperate tooth-and-nail combat every step of the way. I anticipate that I will likely experience a deep depression again, simply because it’s in my chemistry. It’s who I am. But I have found both a sword and a balm in pleasure – the simple act of remembering that everything I am surrounded with is beautiful and meaningful. The simple act of looking The Good in the eye.
One of the classic Christmastime pleasures is roasted chestnuts. Extracting the tender, sweet, steaming nut from the blistering hot shell. It’s a whole experience. I roasted them for the first time last year, and spent Christmas Eve with my now-husband playing chess, listening to Bing Crosby, and cracking open chestnuts. It was one of the first times in a while that my soul had felt that light and careless and vibrant, that full of love. So chestnuts, of course, are sacred to me. A path-marker on the long road to balance.
1. Select heavy, full nuts with no gaps between the flesh and shell. Set the nut down on it’s flat side, scoring the curved side lightly with a sharp knife.
2. Place the nuts in a single layer in a roasting pan or casserole dish, add a touch of aromatics (rosemary and sage are quite lovely), and roast at 350 degrees for half an hour.
3. Put on Miracle on 34th Street, get cozy on the couch, crack open the shells to get at the sweet nut inside, and try not to burn your fingers.