Giving entire life to others “Babette’s Feast” was gift to self. Being a great “artist”. “Ah, how you will enchant the angels!” by Isak Dinesen (August 2017)

Susan's Thursday morning note August 31, 2017
Anecdotes of Destiny and Ehrengard by Isak Dinesen 
Babette's Feast - Woman spent entire life as an "artist" being a great chef for others.  
Giving to herself.  "Ah, how you will enchant the angels!"

Good morning! Silence as the sun wearing light orange pajamas begins to show her faithfulness in again preparing to enter the scene. My angel of dawn peering into the window with a calm smile encouraging me too enter this day. This gift of another day where the sun will rise, the birds will sing, the spiders will weave, the musicians will play, and where I am promised peace the moment I look up to the heavens for strength and eternal perspective picturing heaven further than I can see.

I have reread this week Babette’s Feast, a short story on a behind the scenes chef working quietly her entire life for others. This treasure was written by Isak Dinesen, known for her book “Out of Africa.”

Two beautiful daughters of a clergyman have chosen to not marry and give their lives to helping others in their town (poor and needy).   A woman arrives at their doorstep with a letter from a man that had loved one of the girls, but had moved to France knowing marriage was not what the girl wanted. The note asked if they would take this woman on as a housekeeper/cook because her son & husband were killed in the war and she needed to escape.   For twelve years this woman quietly worked behind the scenes in their home. I love one particular description on observing this woman from a distance. “She would sit immovable on the three-legged kitchen chair, her strong hands in her lap and her dark eyes wide open. At such moments they realized that Babette was deep, and that in the soundings of her being there were passions, there were memories, and longings of which they knew nothing at all.”  Isn’t that a beautiful sentence? After 12 years of working quietly and diligently in their home she receives a letter that she has won 10,000 francs. The daughters assume sadly that she will leave them and go back to France.   Babette asks them if she can do a favor for them – cook them a celebration dinner. This is hard for them to accept (living prudently). She orders and prepares a lavish dinner of the most expensive foods and wines available to her. One at her table for the meal recognizes the food and makes a beautiful speech on grace. As the dinner unwinds the guests unwind and over the course of the evening in their talking and eating have many ties broken that had been between them for years.   The story goes into detail the beauty of the evening as the air is cleared of such pain and sorrows and misunderstandings. All as Babette is in the other room not observing any of this.

The daughters at the end of the story express their deep gratefulness. They ask her when she will be leaving to go back to France.   She informs them that she will not be going back to Paris. Following is one of the most beautiful scenes so far in literature for my mind.

“How would I go back, Mesdames? I have no money.” “No money!?” the sisters cried as with one mouth. “No,” said Babette. “But the 10,000 francs?” the sisters asked in a horrified gasp. “The 10,000 francs have been spent, Mesdames.” She states then that 10,000 francs was the cost for a meal for 12 at the Cafe Anglais where she had been the main chef. The ladies did not find a word to say. The piece of news was incomprehensible to them, but then many things tonight in one way or another had been beyond comprehension.   The girls then were overwhelmed with the “unforgettable proof of human loyalty and self-sacrifice.” Babette responded, “For your sake? No. For my own.” She rose and stood before the sisters. “I am a great artist!” Silence from the sisters. “I am a great artist, Mesdames.” Again, silence. Then they responded that now she would be poor her whole life. “Poor?” She smiled as if to herself. “No, I shall never be poor. I told you that I am a great artist. A great artist, Mesdames, is never poor. We have something, Mesdames, of which other people know nothing…”

Babette did an act for her own pleasure, with no guilt. She wasn’t cooking to satisfy those that would receive her food. She was doing it so she could BREATHE, so she could LIVE, so she could be HER FINEST. The final sentence in the book from one of the daughters is, “Yet this is not the end! I feel, Babette, that this is not the end. In Paradise you will be the great artist that God meant you to be! Ah!” she added, the tears streaming down her cheeks. “Ah, how you will enchant the angels!”

The daughters had observed her distant looks those twelve years.   We all have longings and hopes, and some of you have shared that you will not have a chance to see them realized in this life because of your personal circumstances. What do you do that is only for you – for the deep part of your soul?   Anne Lindbergh wrote after visiting a woman she respected, “She is a hostess to herself, she surrounds herself with what she loves.” What are little pleasures you can do during your day that is for yourself? Extra filler in your coffee? Buy a daisy bouquet at the grocery store? Turn off the TV and just stare? Hold your kitten. Hold your son. Call your daughter. Call your friend from college. What can you do for YOU? Feel no guilt calling no one!! (grin!)

We each have such private longings, desires, hopes. We do not need to feel guilty for having them. For doing little things (or great) for our own pleasure. Daily I hear, “Susan, you can’t GIVE me that book!” and I reply – “I can if I want to.” I realized when I read this story, this brings me pleasure. You may or may not get out of the book I give you what I did. That is secondary to me. Specific books have affected me deeply that I’m giving away, but the giving it to you brings me pleasure. We were created for pleasure. After all of nature God created man for his pleasure. God feels. He loves.   He created us for companionship.   For friendship. He receives pleasure in being with us. Psalm 18:19 – The Lord brought me out into a spacious place.   He rescued me because He delighted in me. He desires us to step heavenward – to speak all day to him as we go about our lives.   May we fall to our knees and look up to our God. The peace that passes our understanding is promised to be only that distance away.   Our sand timers continue to move, yet will we mentally stop a few grains and moments as they pass and notice.   Notice the beauty of gifts today.   Eyes. Birds. Sounds.   All gifts. Created for our pleasure. 

Latin for this week: 
Nosce te ipsum - Know thyself.

Works Cited:
Dinesen, Isak.  Anecdotes of Destiny and Ehrengard.  New York.  Random House.  2011.