Grace Notes
A hopeful newspaper column ~ by Natalie Costanza-Chavez
God Words > Can We Wreck God?
Can We Wreck God?

Grace-Note #49 – ran on 11/27/05

Sugar

My sons are blustering for action or shooing away. I pull out a cookbook, ancient and dotted with the splatterings of a woman far more productive than I. It has a candy section and I flip to the whimsical pages.

“We’re making lollipops?” they ask reading over my shoulder, incredulous. “No,” I warn them; it won’t work. Don’t get your hopes up. Making candy is chemistry – I was English major.”

“But you’ve made snow candy,” they insist.

This is true. Once, in a failed attempt to make caramel, I ended up with a bubbling pot of some scalding, awkward, liquid. They were outside making compacted snow-bricks. Disgusted with my mishap, I walked through the yard with the pot, demanded “Move, move, move – this is hot!” and poured the syrup in puddles on the snow bricks. It crackled and hardened and the boys picked it up knowing, as any child would instinctively, that it was candy. They thought I’d intended all along to make such a thing.

“Lollipops are different. They’re much harder to make” I say.

And so we begin two hours of brown nickel-sized blooms spreading through the clear liquid and boiling to a burn.


Finally I look up and through the window facing west. I can see the dark coming.

Insisting it is time to clean up, I send the boys outside without coats. Through the glass, I see only the white stripes in their shirts as the moment of evenfall, of the light passing between day and into deep darkness, comes.

It is the time of longing.

Late year, if we allow ourselves a moment, we can become like the children we were – wondering what it is that we want. What’s the perfect wish, the perfect hope? What do we yearn for?

It is the time of longing – for the vital, the important, the essential.

These last weeks before winter, what do we want?

I want to get it all done and do it all right.

But, it’s almost early December, so I fall into uncertainly about getting any of it right. The mix of religion and presents and practicality and magic and prayer, somehow all starts to muddle, and then threaten to crackle into an unmanaged mass of what is not important, what is not vital, what is not essential. Sometimes I fear I’ll forget about God.


So, the next day, I go at the lollipops again. It becomes a challenge, this possible juggle of temperature, molecules, dissolution, saturation. Again, it burns. And again, that evening, I set a mixture on the stove.

I check the cookbook, Lucas goggles “sugar,” reads about the carbon, the hydrogen, the oxygen and presses me “Did you dissolve the sugar in the water first?” My husband eyes me quizzically – I can’t tell if he’s bemused or annoyed. “Tell me why you’re doing this, again?” he asks.

Over the next several days, and the additional burned masses of sugar, I think about his question. I can get this right, I think. The exactness – the measured and practiced steps.

Again and again I try to make the lollipops. The effort demands I be patient. It demands I attend without moving much, or multi-tasking, or rushing.

Sugar is readily available. If I don’t get it right, I can try again without too much to lose. So, too, I eventually decide over the boiling syrup, when it comes to God – if I don’t get it right, I can always try again without too much to lose.

We can’t wreck God into a crystallized mess.

There is something we long for and may fear we are forgetting this time of year, but hold to a stillness of some sort, any sort, be patient – instinctively you will find your way in.

It is the stillness I wish for you.

If the sugar burns, simply slow down and set it to cook again – you’ll get it right eventually. You haven’t forgotten what’s important, that God is patient and doesn’t ever leave.