5.16.2008

Tomatoes, Etcetera

I just finished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, the book I bought at the airport to make myself feel better about leaving Ohio. It's part food diary, part farm journal, part family memoir, all focused on the year her family ate (almost) entirely locally. BK is one of my favorite nonfiction writers, for sure, and this one especially hit a nerve. Toward the end of the book, she addresses the difficulty in leading people to recognize the gravity of global warming, etc., without overwhelming them to the point of deciding that it's too far gone, and nothing they can do matters anyway. The narrow clearing of hope between cynicism and apathy.

The book sufficiently inspired me to ask for those Mother's Day tomato plants. It's as much about the eating local thing (not really all that hard to do in Southern California; we could go to a Farmer's Market any day of the week) as it is about the doing something myself thing. We're sold so much convenience these days, from fast food to disposable diapers to prebaked, presliced loaves of bread. While reading A,V,M, I remembered the advice John Ortberg passed along from one of his spiritual mentors in an old Christianity Today article: “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life, for hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our world today.” While there are certain conveniences/luxuries I cling to happily - and I don't just mean indoor plumbing and electricity, I'm talking cell phone and TiVo - I do wonder if I'm missing out on something important by turning over so many essentials to the professionals, if I'm losing the sanctity of time by "saving" it.

I'm currently on a bake bread once a year schedule. One of the things the Kingsolver family did/does is bake all of their own bread using a bread machine. When they go to the store, they don't purchase the stuff that's been baked in a factory, sent through an automated slicing machine, wrapped in plastic, and delivered by diesel truck to the chain grocer near you. They buy flour and yeast. And then they spend a few minutes every other day or so tossing a handful of ingredients into that thing most people have hidden in their basements. They live in a place blessed with the scent of freshly baked bread (which is, to my imagination, the perfume of heaven). Surely, the trade off is worth it? The time spent, (the money saved)?

Of course, as I go about doing research on bread machines and nervously tending my vegetables (I have a poor track record keeping things that utilize photosynthesis alive), I still never keep up with my share of the household chores. Baking bread, even with the assistance of a bread machine, is romantic and fun. Finally getting around to cleaning those windows is not. I should work on my basic housekeeping skills before I invest in the 20lb bag of whole wheat flour. But locating that narrow clearing of hope in the midst of all that there is to fear in this world surely must require regular servings of joy. If I can keep those tomatoes alive until August, they will not just be another humdrum afterthought to toss in the salad. They will be MY TOMATOES that I grew MYSELF in conjunction with SUN and WATER and SOIL. I will rejoice.

I don't want to waste all my time by saving it. It isn't the life I want, and it isn't the life I want for Juliette. I want to ruthlessly eliminate hurry, and selectively replace convenience with joy.

(p.s., Tomorrow is the day we're on our own with the cloth diapers. I think the rejoicing in that business comes once she's potty trained...)

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