Did you ever think about how disconnected most of us are from the processes that sustain our lives? Food…air…water…clothing…shelter. Those are the things that keep us alive. Without any one of them, we wouldn’t last long, but most of us outsource them all.
We spend most of our lives in homes and offices with artificial air brought to us through heating and cooling systems. Our water comes through a system of reservoirs and pipes and ducts and, we hope, effective filtration plants. Our clothing is made in far-off places, and few of us consider the sources of the fiber that forms fabrics or the dyes, the processes, the people behind the hands involved in the work or the transportation that brings the garment to a local store. And not many of us build our own homes, that’s for sure! What is drywall made of, where does it come from? Insulation, siding, window panes? Before it even gets to the builder, the elements of our homes have passed through many hands and traveled much ground.
How about food? What most of us know is that it comes from boxes and bags we get at the supermarket, sometimes so disconnected from its source that it’s not even food anymore. We don’t know where it grew or how, who nurtured it, who harvested it, their names or what their lives are like. We don’t know the animals behind the flesh pieces wrapped neatly in styrofoam and plastic, their names, how they lived during their unnaturally short lives, what they experienced and felt. We don’t know how items in the supermarket got from the ground or factory farm to the supermarket or what resources went into making that happen. We have nothing to do with any of it. We often don’t even connect with our food at the very end of the supply chain, in our homes, cooking it.
I sometimes wonder how this disconnect from the basic work of being alive changed our psyches. Surely it did. Surely there is a difference between a person who grows up drinking fresh water from a mountain stream, water they get for themselves by cupping their hands or making an earthen vessel to scoop it in and a person who turns on a tap and has no idea where the water originated or what might have been added to it or removed from it. As the example of Flint, Michigan teaches us, we can’t always trust what comes to us through intermediaries. There has to be a psychological difference between living your life experiencing water as pure and life-giving or experiencing it as a source of distrust and uncertainty.
There has to be a difference between people who sit down together to share a meal they worked hard to bring from the earth and then cook, and grabbing some commercial food product on the fly and eating it in isolation. Even more so as we learn these products we thought were safe and nutritious are causing devastating diseases.
What massive shifts in worldview might we attribute to this change in how we manage our basic necessities?
Many years ago, I discovered something quite by accident: I felt better when I cooked my own food from real, whole plant foods. I felt better yet when I grew the trees and plants, then cooked their produce into something I knew was tasty and nutritious. I don’t just mean physically better, although there was that. But there was a spiritual component. Perhaps it was participating in the cycle of life, being part of something much bigger than myself.
I felt spiritually fulfilled, content, occasionally exhilarated. Grateful. Whole in a way I never felt when I turned on the tap or or picked up one of those styrofoam and plastic wrapped packages in the store.
I wonder, would the world’s great religions with their profound insights ever have emerged if people two, three and four thousand years ago been able to outsource their basic needs? Turn on a tap? Or did it require that different pace, a constant drawing from the sources, to generate the creativity that inspired the Bible and Hinduism?
Since I made my discovery so many years ago, I have always tried to live my life hands-on as much as I can. There was a time I hoped to spend my life on a farm. That time has passed, but I had the good fortune last spring to discover a farmer who moved into the area, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). At first I thought I might just do as most people do, buy a share, receive a 3/4 bushel box of produce each week and experience the changing season through the produce and the foods I would make with it. Then I noticed they had a worker’s share, and I signed on for it. Now I go each week to help with the seeding, planting, weeding, harvesting, washing and packing. It’s hard work, but it fills my soul.
This year I’m back in the fields, but I get to do something else as well: I will put together a weekly addition to Farmer Bob’s newsletter providing an alternative to the “meal kit” craze. How about Meal BOXES!!!??? A week’s worth of nutritious, delicious family meals (and more than likely some to share and some for dried or pickled treats in the off-season) for just $34.50/week ($690 for the season, 20 weeks of delicious, crazy fresh, organic, local produce).
So if planting seeds and pulling weeds isn’t your thing, you can still get in on this amazing experience, get back to the sources, share food with your family and friends and be part of a way of life that inspires appreciation, confidence, fulfillment and hope. Check out the information about Bob’s Fresh and Local here. There are several pickup sites, so contact Bob through his website if you’re in Geneva, Elgin, Dundee, Cary, Algonquin, Crystal Lake, Woodstock or anywhere in between.
For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.