New Year, new goals, new reads

Monday morning, back to work.  Orders for Scholar & Poet Books piled up on our dining room table over the weekend.  We’ll be taking more than 35 packages to the Post Office to be mailed today.  Some are self-help books on diet, procrastination, and clutter management.  Some are theology books, some poetry, some fiction, some children’s books, some history.  Words to buttress a new year of aspirations.  Which words will I apply to my year?

I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions, really.  The sense of obligation and failure tweaks too much of what I’m trying to outgrow.  It struck me as I was flipping through a book of poetry by a Korean writer that we have our cultural and familial flavors stamped on us pretty early.  Guilt, shame, obligation, work ethic, judgment.  If we are aware and astute, we grow to recognize it.  If we are brave, we engage with it and come to a deeper understanding.  My Anglican family leaned toward perfectionism, rationalism, judgment.  There was always a “right” way to do something.  I want to push myself to get past that kind of assessment  and look more kindly at what is in the world.  I’ve noticed a few things that are: I’m getting older and putting on weight more easily.  Without judging myself too much, I want to be aware of my health and support it.  I’m aware of my desire to write my memoirs.  I want to turn that desire into an artifact.   I’m also aware of my desire to live lightly and gently on the planet.  Without nailing goals to the doors of my consciousness, can I make efforts and decisions that will guide me closer to the life I envision?  We’ll see.

Steve & I finished reading D.H. Lawrence’s The Plumed Serpent, so we set up another book selection.  This is kind of a game for us.  Steve picks a box full of likely candidates and numbers them.  I pick two numbers, look at the books, and choose one.  The reject is then out of the running.  I keep doing this until I’ve gotten down to one book.  This is sometimes an agonizing process because I want to read them all!  This is where I have to tell myself that I can’t make a “wrong” choice.  If we get stuck with something we don’t enjoy, we can always abandon it and choose something else.  If we pass up something intriguing, we can always go back to it.  So, out of 24 books, I came away with Italo Calvino’s The Road to San Giovanni.  I feel bad about putting Rilke’s Letters on Cezanne on the reject stack, but I’ve been dipping into it anyway.  No, I’m not “cheating”.  I am living.  No, I’m not “undisciplined”.  I am feeding myself.  I think of Anne Lamott in Traveling Mercies describing the epiphany she had when she broke through her habits and learned to eat.  It’s not about setting up rules so that you can get neurotic about them.  It’s about feeling a hunger and responding to it.  Choosing what to read, choosing what to eat, choosing how to live.  It can be a simple, graceful process.  Why do we often make it torture?

Joyful possibilities set before us. Happy choosing!

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.