“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.” ― Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
For years I’ve been topping my morning butter and honey toast with cinnamon. It’s a simple procedure. I crack a lid (there are two — one covering a large hole for dumping, one covering smaller holes for sprinkling — I use the latter), hold it upside down, then pat the side six times while jerking it around.
But something went wrong recently. I did the tapping, picked up the plate, picked up the coffee, placed them on the table, sat down, and…
There was too much cinnamon. Clumps of it. Mounds.
I ate it anyway. It was like chewing sand. I wondered if you could overdose on cinnamon. I guess not.
The next morning, forgetting about the morning before, I did the same thing.
I was flummoxed. What was going on? Why was there too much cinnamon?
The morning after that I paid close attention. No, I was not opening the wrong lid. Everything seemed fine. But again, clumps of cinnamon plopped on the toast. They looked like anthills.
I shook off the excess. Wasted cinnamon.
I was still flummoxed.
For the next few days there were adjustments. I tried only three pats — but still clumps, although not as many. I jiggled instead of jerked and there were no clumps, but again too much cinnamon. I held the container only slightly tipped, banged on the bottom, but what a mess. Nothing was working.
I lived like this for over a month.
Throughout the day, the mystery would often pop up in my mind. I may have dreamt about it once. I wasn’t obsessed, just bothered. Confused.
I began not wanting to get up in the morning because I’d have to confront the cinnamon. I even tried switching to strawberry preserves, but something was unsatisfactory and imperfect about it. Always there was this yearning for honey, the kick of bitter cinnamon.
And I wanted to figure out what was going wrong. At least I did in the beginning. After about a week I didn’t care about figuring it out. That’s what happens when you sink into depression. You don’t care about being depressed. You’re too depressed.
The cinnamon was almost gone. No surprise, since I’d been using so much of it. Generally, a container lasts three months. I’d opened this one around the time the nightmare started, a little over a month ago.
At the big box store, I almost didn’t want to buy a new one. I associated it with misery, incompetence, failure, anxiety, and big messes on the kitchen counter. But I bought one. I felt like I had better confront my fear — or it would overwhelm me.
A few days later the cinnamon shaker was empty, I tossed it in the recyclable bin, and cracked open the new one. Full of angst, I nervously held it upside down and tapped the sides.
The cinnamon sprinkled flawlessly. Like a perfect snow.
I studied the array of holes. Something looked wrong. Then there was an epiphany. Actually, something looked right.
The old container was pulled out from the recyclables, I flipped the lid.
The holes were bigger. Much bigger. The new container had tiny, pinprick holes. Lots of them. Just like, I realized, they’d had for years and years and years.
I wasn’t going crazy. The world was a comprehensible place. I was simply the hapless victim of bungled quality control. The big-holed lid was probably destined for grated Parmesan or bread crumbs, yet ended up paired with a finely-ground spice.
Of course, it was impossible for me to concentrate, being so happy, relieved, and excited. Even before finishing breakfast I had to lie down. I was smiling, gloriously. Such a huge whoosh of clarity!
I realized that I was part of something much bigger than just cinnamon. I was connected to the world and its essence: my cinnamon was connected to my cupboard, my grocery bag, my car, the box store, a distributor, a packager (where the mutant gene originated), a transport company, a factory where they ground the cinnamon, even another transport company, the cultivators, the bark, the tree, the tree growing in the earth, the earth … the connections go on and on into the universe, perhaps to places beyond the universe.
I got up to finish my coffee. It was cold.
That pissed me off.