“On Counting What Is Precious” by Dana Velden
In famine, the number of dried beans in the cupboard; in abundance, piles of chicken bones and empty wine bottles. In sorrow, so many tears that they over-salt the soup; in happiness, the number of place settings at a wedding feast. In middle age, candles on the cake; in youth, the frosting roses. In celebration, bubbles in a champagne glass; in mourning, the number of bites taken from a sandwich, delivered to your door draped in a napkin (none).
In planting, the number of seeds and rows; in harvest, the bushels of fruits and vegetables. In sickness, the spoonfuls of weak broth that are managed to be swallowed; in health, the number of courses at the fancy bistro plus a little nightcap at the tavern down the street. In winter, three puffs of breath blown on the surface of hot chocolate; in the summer, five ice cubes in the tall glass of lemonade. In trust, everything; in suspicion, nothing.
In babyhood, the number of tiny spoons of stewed carrots that actually make it into the mouth; in old age, the number of tiny spoons of stewed carrots that actually make it into the mouth mixed with the memories of parties and holidays and feasts beyond compare. In life, the uncountable stream of nourishment that sustains, enlivens, entertains, celebrates; in death, well, we can't know that yet.
In good times, we grow distracted and we forget to count; in bad times, we can only remember and wish we had.