tater tots and the limitations of language

I’m on my lunch break at work right now. I’m eating some of those Triscuits that are made out of something weird, like “red beans” (which, “red beans” is an oddly vague name of bean) and I just found a perfect miniature one – square, all of the edges woven in just right, but tiny. For some reason it delighted me and I’m still happy about it.

But, I did eat it. Popped that sucker in my mouth. It was delicious also.

This morning at the Zoo we had Kevin Kling come in and tell us stories and tell us about story-telling. He’s on NPR a lot, and he travels the country too, as a storyteller and an actor, a playwright and a writer. Dozens of us Zoo employees sat on long concrete benches in the old dolphin stadium (there are no dolphins there anymore) and looked down at him standing in front of thousands of gallons of clean blue water. I can’t speak for the crowd but I was transfixed by the stories. I laughed and I got chills and I had tears in my eyes. I also learned some new things about this new state of Minnesota, such as that a “hot dish” is a thing and kind of a big deal. (A ‘hot dish’ seems to be basically a casserole, often containing tater tots and some kind of cream soup and maybe even hotdogs? They are apparently popular at Lutheran potlucks. I’m sure some of you out there can tell me more about this.)

(I just did a google image search for ‘Minnesota hot dish’ – note the lack of a tater tot term in the search phrase – and damn. Tater tots are big in Minnesota.)hotdish

Beyond the tater tots, though, there was great weight and depth to his stories (as there is to all stories told by humans, and especially those by great storytellers, and now I’m thinking of sitting on a hot concrete stoop and hearing some.)

At one point, he quoted Rumi. When he said it, I misheard him, and mistook the word ‘field’ for ‘feel’ instead, which I almost like better. But here is the quote from Rumi himself, written in the 13th century:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.

long grass


2 thoughts on “tater tots and the limitations of language

  1. Hi Liz,

    Nice post, once again. The quote from Rumi reminds me of an image/experience I have in my head. Ironically, it’s from Isle Royale, my first visit there when I was 17. Early in the trip, somewhere west of Three Mile Camp, we stopped in the mid-morning and sat down in a tall grassy meadow. There was still some dew in the grass, glinting in the light, and insects were making their noises. Little things crawled on stalks, butterflies hovered, birds swept overhead. I don’t know why this memory sticks with me. I think of it surprisingly often. Everything seemed extra-colorful, extra-alive–including me, I guess. I think I felt like I was part of the meadow, not someone tramping through it. We sat there no longer than it took for one of the guys to smoke a joint (10 minutes?), but it comes to mind at least once a week. It’s strange.

    Love, Dad

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