Harvesting Hope

I have just finished reading a very informative book by Jane Goodall on the subject of Food.  Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating has led me to reconsider the way I buy and cook and eat food.  Much of it is based on common sense and natural practices (What would a chimp choose to eat?  Have you ever seen an overweight chimp in the wild?), and much of it exposes the insanity that is our factory food production here in the “civilized” world. How civilized is it to cram thousands of chickens together in a cage, remove their beaks so that they can’t peck each other to death, pump them with antibiotics and force them to cannibalize their own kind by giving them non-vegetarian feed?  And then to slaughter them, ship their polluted flesh over thousands of miles burning fossil fuels, and eat it?  I was not thinking about that when I bought Super Saver packages of chicken breasts at my local super market.  I think about it now.

And here is the surprising gift of hope: my children have been thinking about this for years.  I didn’t lead the way. 

Here is another arena of hope: reclaiming, salvaging and recycling living space.  My daughter and her fiance purchased a home that had been severely water damaged and mold and mildew infested.  The inhabitants had moved out to hospice care and died; the house was abandoned, but the water wasn’t shut off.  In the winter freeze and thaw, the pipes broke and flooded the place.  What a mess!  But Joe comes from a family line of carpenters and construction wizards.  He has completely re-worked the house: plumbing, electric, heating, floor plan and surfaces.  He’s gotten neighbors, friends and family involved in the labor and in donating fixtures. The final step will be relocating the back yard garden.  You see, this house is just a few doors down the street from the one they’ve rented for the past 3 years.  So, by their wedding date one year from this month, they will have their own home and garden.  They are marvelous role models for sustainable living, and I am so proud of them! Yesterday I went down to visit and take pictures.  They sent me home with a bunch of produce from their garden.  I am so grateful and awed by how life unfolds.  The next generation is certainly capable of taking responsibility and working hard in a sustainable direction.  Let’s just hope many of them choose to!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Object

I met in the street a very poor young man who was in love. His hat was old, his coat worn, his cloak was out at the elbows, the water passed through his shoes, – and the stars through his soul. – Victor Hugo

Never criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.  – Native American proverb

The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.Carl Jung

What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognize the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful than the garment with which it is clothed?Michelangelo Buonaroti

Back in the days when I was keeping up a profile on OK Cupid, I was prompted to write about my favorite pair of shoes.  I imagine the flirtatious fetishists out there were just salivating at the possibilities.  I didn’t have to contemplate long before I realized that the footwear that best housed my feet and characterized my soul was my 30 year-old, steel-toed, suede waffle stompers.  They had outlasted even my husband by that time.  I got them in High School and wore them in on a trip with the Sierra Club.  I still have them.  They still fit, although I don’t wear them any more.  I purchased new hiking boots a couple of years ago, before I went on a 4 week road trip with Steve.  They are lighter and more comfortable even then my venerable pair.  For a person who hates shopping for clothes or shoes or anything else besides food, the thrill of buying them was unexpected.  I’d finally had a Female Consumer Moment! 

(I don’t plan to have any more…please stop sending advertisements.)

Wednesday Words: for Steve

Your fragile skin is smooth and taut, a drum head.

Shadows surround your bones.

Your waning flesh a cry for mercy.

You dream 

a hermit’s life

of walking at a slower pace

unburdened.

Steve in profile

* Steve became a City Carrier Assistant for the US Postal Service in April.  His sister and his father have both had long careers in the P.O. Steve has left a lifestyle of self employment in the online bookselling business in order to make fast money with overtime and extended hours walking a city mail route.  This is a temporary solution designed to retire some debt.  At six foot two inches tall, he now weighs only 155 lbs – less than he weighed in high school.  In the sanctuary of his home office, surrounded by stacks and stacks of used books and melodies of Handel, Beethoven, Schubert and Mahler, he is a happier person.  Scholar & Poet Books is his personal work.  Walking the footpaths of Wisconsin is his preferred route.  He longs to return to this Walden by the time he turns 50 years old. *

Scholar and Poet Books – Announcing Our E-Bay Store!

sbp3

Our online store is up and running with over 200 items — finally!  Check out the link in my sidebar to visit the site and find out what I’ve been photographing.  Our Rocky Horror Picture Show Scrapbook is up for sale for the next 6 days.  Buy It Now or give us your Best Offer…the perfect Valentine’s Day gift!  Or check out our Vintage Toys and Games & Puzzles.  Our first vintage toy sale was a thrill for me.  He was a little Schuco wind up toy, a clown faced monkey that played the violin and shuffled around in a circle, made in US zone Germany right after WWII.  He was in his original box and in excellent condition.  We asked what we thought was a reasonable price after having researched other items of the same ilk…and there weren’t many!  Within a few hours he was snapped up by a buyer in Braunschweig, Germany.  It made me very happy to think the little guy was going back home!  We shipped him off and just received confirmation that he arrived safe and sound and is making his new owner very happy.

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This is the latest adjunct to Steve’s online book business which he’s been running from this location for about 5 years.  In the process of buying books from estate sales, he’s also been in the position to pick up other items as well.  He used to rent an antique mall booth to display and sell these things, but now we’re doing it all online.  I am his new business partner, and so far, I’ve been “specializing” in Children’s Books, Toys, Games, Puzzles and Hobby Kits.  That means I get to research where all these curious things originated and when they were manufactured.  I tell you, I’m learning a LOT!  Frequently, it’s a LOL experience, coming face-to-face with humorous cultural idiosyncrasies and fetishes.  There’s a lot of history thrown in as well, which I find fascinating. 

So pop on over and satisfy your curiosity.  There’s much more to come!  Haven’t even begun to list the German LPs, stamp collections, and QSL cards…

Resistance

Earlier this week, we sold a book called I Want That!: How We All Became Shoppers by Thomas Hine.  The blurb about it reads:

“Shopping has a lot in common with sex,” Thomas Hine observes near the beginning of this wide-ranging exploration of the history and psychology of one of the most commonplace and important activities of modern life. “Just about everybody does it. Some people brag about how well they do it. Some keep it a secret. Most people worry, at least a little, about whether they do it right. And both provide ample opportunities to make foolish choices.”

Choosing and using objects is a primal human activity, and I Want That! is nothing less than a portrait of humanity as the species that shops. ”

Me?  I hate shopping.  My first reaction is always, “I don’t want that.”   I have been thinking about getting a place in a more rural area of Wisconsin.  Lying in the bathtub this morning, I was struck by a realization.  Even if I pay cash for the real estate (from the sale of my former home), I still would have to pay property tax every year.  I don’t want that.

I don’t want to be indebted; I don’t want to be obligated.  I don’t want to be coerced or pressured into a relationship with any thing.  I am beginning to feel a mounting sense of resistance.  I’ve resisted getting a full time job for more than a year.  I’ve resisted being a consumer, especially of clothing and beauty products.  I’ve resisted Facebook.  I’ve resisted television and movies.  What is that about for me?

I am still struggling to be my own person, I guess.  I am struggling to focus on the things that I do want in a manner that I like.  I’m not ambitious.  I am an observer, an appreciator, but not much of a go-getter.  I resist marketing, for sure, but I don’t mind discovery.   Maybe part of that is simple laziness.  Maybe part of that is wanting the freedom to choose my relationships and responsibilities.

When I first read that comment about shopping having a lot in common with sex, I didn’t get it.  I hate shopping.  I love sex.  I suppose my consistency is in insisting on having the freedom to be very particular about my engagement with both.

And now, for the photo portion of my blog.  Choosing images and focusing where I want to, observing and appreciating has led me to these shots.  If you discover you like them, great.  I will not try to convince you to, though.  (Do I sound testy?  Okay, so be it.)

A fungus among us

The pod people have hatched

Bread & Guts

Yesterday, Steve & I stopped in at a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop for lunch.  The guacamole and sprouts on their veggie sandwich remind me of my 15 years living in California and call to me sometimes, especially when I’ve had too much cholesterol-rich Midwestern holiday food.  So, I ordered my #5 No Mayo favorite.  Then I watched in horror as the guy gutted the sub roll of its soft, white, doughy insides and flung them in the trash bin.  I thought of the ducks I visited on Christmas afternoon, swimming toward us in eager anticipation of bread bits.  I thought of the two bread pudding cookbooks we have in the dining room just begging to be explored.  “Why did you just throw that away?”  I asked.  “Oh, we do that in order to make more room for the fillings and so they don’t squish out when you bite into the sandwich.”  Well, that explains why they take it out, but it doesn’t explain why they throw it out.  Driving away, I imagined pithy slogans I could print on a poster to protest this practice.  “Don’t hate your guts”  or “Cast your bread upon the waters, not upon the landfill” or something like that.

Looking for crumbs

At home, I looked up some statistics about food waste in restaurants.  How depressing!  I am one of those moms who felt compelled to finish what my kids left on their plates just so I wouldn’t have to throw it out.  It hurts me to see food go to waste.  All that work, all that water, all that petrol, all that went into getting that food to the table is someone’s life to give life to another.  It’s sacred, in my opinion.  Tossing it out is disrespectful to humanity.  Something must be done.

Taking it up on a local level is probably the first line of attack.  I wonder if that sandwich shop would save the bread cores for me to cart away.  How often would I have to make a pick-up in order for that to be an attractive option to them?  I’m sure they don’t want an overflowing bread bucket kicking around.  How much bread would that be?  What would I do with it all?  Could I get someone to help me?  What if I suggested they offer a bread pudding on their menu so that they would use the bits and make some return on their effort?  Would they take that seriously?  What if they donated their scraps to a community compost project?  Do we have a community compost project?  When I visited family in San Francisco and Oregon, I was impressed at the compost recycling programs they had.  I have gotten tips from my daughter and her boyfriend about how to start a worm bucket of my own, which I could keep in the basement of this duplex, even over the winter months.  My landlord who lives in the other half of this house doesn’t recycle anything.  His bins stay on his side porch all year and never venture out to the curb.  Would he support my effort to compost and add the products to his garden?  He’s had the property assessed twice this year and may be putting it up for sale.  Do I want to go to the trouble of enriching soil that I may not get a chance to use?

I hate the feeling of going from “Something must be done” to “I want someone else to take this responsibility”.  What responsibility will I take?  New Year’s resolutions are popping up all over this week.  How many of us are really going to work on being responsible for cutting down on the waste of resources in this world?  More to the point, what am I really willing to do about it?  Do I have the integrity to take up the challenges I pose?  Do I have the guts?  I hope so.  Stay tuned and remind me.

Flak Friday

I hate shopping.  It’s eerie to come home from a cozy, loving holiday weekend and find news that the larger world has sunk into madness.  While I was enjoying a two hour Swedish massage in the comfort of my daughter’s home, others were dying to obtain merchandise.  Fighting, heart attacks, assault with weapons and overnight exposure to the elements remind me of wartime conditions.  Are we at war as consumers?  Where’s my flak jacket?

Good grief.  I’ve never celebrated Christmas in a very commercial way.  As an Episcopalian, I tried to focus on the sacramental aspect of the holiday.  I spent a lot of time in church, singing in the choir, rehearsing the Christmas pageant and taking my kids caroling to shut-ins.  We made Advent wreaths, Advent calendars, wrote Advent letters to friends and family and donated money and gifts to charity in each others’ names.  It was never about Stuff.  As a kid, I made presents for my family.  My kids made presents for each other.  One year, Becca just wrapped stuff we already had.  My toaster, with crumbs, surprised me into a fit of laughter.  I could get sore about not being appreciated with a gift, but I took it as a joke on the whole scene.

Perhaps this is just my personality.  I am gift-challenged.  I’m not very good at giving or receiving them.  It’s not one of my Love Languages.  My husband truly enjoyed giving gifts.  My eldest daughter is a very creative, inspirational gift-giver.  They have a knack for finding grace and meaning in Things.  I have trouble with that.  I probably have an aversion to Things, actually, and definitely an aversion to shopping.  When I was about 9 years old, my mother took me Back to School shopping at a huge discount department store called Zayre’s.  It was August.  It was hot and humid.  Our station wagon had no air conditioning.  The store was not in our village.  It must have been somewhere in the Sahara.  It took forever to get there, forever to get the job done, forever to get home.  I was sick with heat stroke.  I remember my mother putting me in the bathtub and bringing me bananas to eat.  Sitting in the cool water, eating bananas was like heaven to me at that point.  I couldn’t imagine why I had been made to endure the ordeal that brought me to that state.

I’m not quite sure how I feel about Christmas this year.  I don’t go to church anymore.  I don’t think about Jesus in the way I used to.  I do love to celebrate with food and family and lots of love.  I like appreciating others and being appreciated.  I’m not sure how I want to embody that, though.  I always write a letter to my children for them to read on Christmas morning, a letter of hope and pride and blessing, I guess.  There are ideas I want to give, but not things.  However, William Carlos Williams keeps whispering “No ideas but in things” and I keep trying to understand.  Shall I give everyone trees this Christmas?  Or soil?  Or double helix shaped jewelry?  The sun?  Words?

A shelf full of ideas

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you….The Universe!  Applause, appreciation, celebration, Holiday.  Think I can pull it off?