Tag Archive | despair

Food, Despair and Gratitude

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For me, taking pictures of food is a prayer of gratitude. A few weeks ago I traded Ruth some kefir grains and a jar of milk for some sourdough starter and four cups of flour. This is what I got! I need a ready supply of bread for the winter so I can eat all that jam I’ve been making while the world unravels.

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Peach jam on warm bread. I’m not a big fan of sourdough, but this starter and recipe doesn’t actually taste sour; it couldn’t be easier or more delicious.

 

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Or more convenient. The next loaf didn’t do so well, a little flat, but still the perfect vehicle for plum jam and rose hip jelly. 

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I’m on my third loaf, roughly one a week, and still have fresh tomatoes in late October. I savor each sandwich as I deplete the tomato basket, down to the last few ripening from green I picked before the first freeze.

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Grilled white cheddar and garden tomato on one of the few cold days we’ve had so far this fall. Uncanny how warm it’s been: This is no brief return of mild weather as we usually get before Thanksgiving, after some serious cold and snow has already come; this is still-summer weather broken by a few cold snaps. It’s been the longest, mildest autumn I can remember. Looks like we may be winning the climate change lottery here in western Colorado.

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Basil and tomato open-face on toast. I brought in one pot of basil for winter, one each of mint, oregano, and rosemary.

Why, though? Why this obsession with fresh food and homemade jelly and bread? Because I can, here; because we have this great good fortune to live in a hospitable clime where many good things grow in abundance, and water, air and land are wholesome; because we have the luxury to tend and appreciate beauty and bounty in our gardens. Because we are lucky to live here. As the world seems to harshen and disintegrate around us, I savor more intensely quotidian joys in the moment.

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Maybe the best apple pie I’ve made all season, from the Fujis that grew on the little tree by the gate, with brown sugar and spices and butter crust, topped with Cynthia’s homemade cinnamon ice cream.

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All that homesteading the past few months, freezing and canning… whew! Reaping the rewards with a peachtini by the pond in October: peach-infused gin and peach brandy, garnished with frozen peaches.

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Life as Art. Every little thing.

I’ve been meditating a lot on gratitude recently. My whole life I’ve had so much to be thankful for! Yet there’s always been, below that awareness, this undercurrent of despair. When I was a child I dreamed of how it is now in the world: greed seems to prevail, and our fragile planet is always at stake in some urgent battle. Solastalgia has had me in its grip since I was nine years old.

Dwelling in this remarkable valley for more than a third of my life, I finally begin to shed the anxiety that has plagued me since childhood. Gratitude and compassion have been wrestling with guilt and despair inside me for half a century; most of these days gratitude wins. It helps to live in this community that values nature, eats responsibly, and celebrates our interconnection with the earth.

Now this peaceful valley stands at a precipice: the Bureau of Land Management gets to decide the 20-year game plan for the public lands that surround us, and it wants to open 95% of them to lease for fracking and other extractive industry. Anyone can submit comments to the BLM by November 1, opposing oil and gas leasing in the North Fork Valley.

We are just one front among many in the larger fight to save the planet from fossil fuel gluttony. We will do what we can and what we must to save our small island of life from the encroaching tentacles of corporate greed. It’s an uphill battle, but we have everything to lose.

 

 

 

 

Hope is Slender

A false sense of security.

A false sense of security.

A few years ago I was pulled over on I-70 by a Colorado state trooper just inside the state line from Utah. I’d been visiting back east, and didn’t think twice about saying that when he asked where I’d been. “Coming home from Virginia,” I said. What? Oh. Well, I sometimes go around the mountains instead of over them when there’s snow on the passes.

He asked for license, registration, proof of insurance. I handed him my license and got worried when I couldn’t find registration or insurance in my purse. The Mothership was up to date on both, but it was winter and I hadn’t yet stuck the year on the license plate because of snow, mud, and inherent laziness. That’s why he stopped me. A routine traffic stop.

“I’ll have to look in the glove compartment,” I told him, and he nodded. “I have a gun in there,” I said.

Can you see where I’m going with this? I was a white woman and he was a laid-back Colorado state trooper on a virtually empty interstate through the desert, instead of I a black man in a city, any city, and he a frightened urban cop.

“Nice and slow,” he said, or something less cliché. I put the holstered pistol on the seat where he could see it and rifled through the papers, and still no proof of either. He took my license back to his car, ascertained that I was insured and registered, and cautioned me to be sure and put those proofs in the glove box as soon as I got home. I gave thanks.

I don’t know what to say that hasn’t already been said about the shooting of Philando Castile during a “routine traffic stop.” My heart breaks for him, his family, his community, for all the innocents shot these past days, these past years, by cops who lack the training, skill, wisdom, compassion or decency to make the right call in so many complicated, fraught situations. And my heart breaks for the police officers shot in Dallas, in Grand Junction, Denver, Pittsburgh, in Any City, USA. Not to mention how I feel about Orlando, Aurora, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Newtown and other mass shootings and random snipings by lunatics.

I fear the escalation of violent reaction (or reactive violence) in our culture, in our world. From routine traffic stops gone horribly awry to all the wars raging across the planet, our human violence is out of control. The fear and despair that settled over me on 9/11, as I watched Manhattan in chaos on TV and the Pentagon smoking from my parents’ patio, has only been buried by years of living in this peaceful valley, it has not been dispelled. The certainty on that Tuesday morning that I’d witnessed the first volley of World War III has not dimmed in the least. We are in it.

And the reactive violence that spawned and spurs this globally now spreads like contagion through the streets of our cities, foreboding some weird kind of civil war. Fear, rage, and the uncontrolled grasping that underlies them are not cultural traits, they are human traits. I hope, though “hope is slender and for fools,” that we as a species can put the brakes on this entropic crash, but it is sure hard to believe that the powers of love and simple human decency can turn this spiral upside down.

Though daily I am grateful for my many blessings, for life, water, flowers, bees, trees, dogs, and kittens, for shelter, beauty, music, love, community, I don’t really know how to live in this world. All the good food and all the good friends can’t put my heart together again.