Dear Casa Carmen Family,
The table is one of the most familiar and intimate objects of our life. But familiarity often hides meaning, as we don’t really ask questions about familiar things in the way that we ask questions about strange ones. We are used to them and therefore we don’t wonder what they are, or where they come from, or what they what they do, or what they truly mean.
This is certainly the case of the word “table” in English, and “mesa” in Spanish. A quick search in a dictionary of etymologies will reveal that “table” comes from the Latin tabula, which literally meant “board, slab, or plate.” But in Latin the term for a specific piece of furniture, on legs, used for eating, writing and playing games was not tabula but mensa, which is the origin of the modern Spanish term mesa. This term comes from the Proto-Indo-European root me, which means middle or in-between. And therefore, a table is not just any “board, slab or plate,” but one that exist in the middle. The table is a “board, slab or plate” that is meant to be in between, to mediate, to be a sort of connection more than a division or just a tool. It is no coincidence that the term bears such intimate resemblance with Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization, that table between two rivers where humans first settled and called a space their place.
This is because the table is the origin of the strictly human, the lifting of the gaze from toil to leisure, from work to feast. It is a meeting place where people come together. It is a holy place where pilgrims gather after long travels, through fields and vineyards, through orchards and forests, through oceans and rivers and skies, through the salt, the fire and the knife. It is a bridge over the brief and vast chasm that always separates one person from another, a center of gravity that brings a person into the presence of another face.
The table is a beginning and an end. It is a truce that ends the silence that always lurks at the birth and death of every word, giving way for speech to emerge. It is the theatre and the play, long legs upholding a towering stage where the human drama unfolds every day. It is a wildfire on a plate where words fly from side to side, like mad shooting stars falling from a burning sky. It is a plank upon which two elbows tremble beneath two hands that cover a sobbing face, a letter scrunched up rolling past the edge. It is the rebirth of land parched by violence and distance, the fertile soil upon which laughter blooms after the storm. It is a secret bond upon which confidences are made, secrets disclosed, weights lifted, and hands held. It is a celebration and a feast of unity, where people are bound by their common humanity, by the ease in their gaze.
Therefore, friends, when the end reaches us, may it reach us at the table, with a bridge between us, loosely floating on the river of conversation and laughter drawn wide upon our face.