food, farming, friends and family: a meditation on chosen simplicity and (in)voluntary complications – life.

Archive for December, 2009

Calling All Beets

The following words aren’t mine, but they give a better window into my current state of mind than my own possibly could:

The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The onion has as many pages as War and Peace, every one of which is poignant enough to make a strong man weep, but the various ivory parchments of the onion and the stinging green bookmark of the onion are quickly charred by belly juices and bowel bacteria. Only the beet departs the body the same color as it went in.

Beets consumed at dinner will, come morning, stock a toilet bowl with crimson fish, their hue attesting to beet’s chromatic immunity to the powerful digestive acids and thoroughgoing microbes that can turn the reddest pimento, the orangest carrot, the yellowest squash into a single disgusting shade of brown.

At birth we are red-faced, round, intense, pure. The crimson fire of universal consciousness burns in us. Gradually, however, we are devoured by parents, gulped by schools, chewed up by peers, swallowed by social institutions, wolfed by bad habits, and gnawed by age; and by the time we have been digested, cow style, in those six stomachs, we emerge a single disgusting shade of brown.

The lesson of the beet, then, is this: hold on to your divine blush, your innate rosy magic, or end up brown. Once you’re brown, you’ll find that you’re blue. As blue as indigo. And you know what that means:


Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume


Training Myself to Slow Down

The end of the year is sneaking up on me again; I was lulled into a sense of timelessness by the clear skies and brisk air of early December, but all it takes are some Christmas lights, a few holiday parties, and a forecast of snow to remind me that the year is rushing on, with or without me.

A whirlwind of a weekend is in my future: Neil and I run the Jingle Bell Run here in Bellingham tomorrow morning, bright and early. Saturday and Sunday will be filled with Seattle friends, Secret Santas, White Elephants, and probably too much champagne.

And on Monday I’m hopping the Empire Builder train the 2300 miles home to Michigan. This will be my third year riding the old rail, and, though the realities of little sleep and a sore ass don’t quite match the romanticism I still insist on associating with the train, I really love traveling at this slower pace. Time to reflect and to look forward, time to craft, read and open up conversations with strangers. Yep, I’m still sentimental about the train (though anyone willing to provide some healthy competition for Amtrak has my full support!).

I’m very excited to see my family, to reconnect with old friends and old places; to go out to movies and eat too much cold cereal; to listen to Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton sing incredible Christmas carols; to go sledding with my mom, thrift-store shopping with my sister, out to Indian food with my brother, cook with my dad, trade stories with Jac, go on runs and walks with Corinne and Sara, and watch Erica try on wedding dresses (!).

And to know that when I come back (still unsure as to whether that will be by train or plane) there is a home waiting for me back in Bellingham! A new one. Yes, another move is in my and Neil’s future. But this one is a matter of a few miles – to a yurt near a couple of good friends, and with plenty of room to grow food. It certainly can feel like a burden to have made some many homes over the years, but it’s impossible to put a value on the friendships I’ve made in the process and the freedom it takes to be able to be so mobile.

So, with that, roll on December … with this in mind:

Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why. -Eddie Cantor

Halloween Musings … In December

Halloween might not seem like the most thought-provoking of holidays, it’s true. That said, for the past several years, my mind has been haunted by the same question come Halloween night. It has nothing to do with what costume I’ll wear, nor is it the hesitant – How much candy corn can I get away with eating before my body really starts to pay for it?

No, the answers to those two make themselves clear pretty quickly.

This one though, this one still perplexes me:

How did that girl in the Hooters costume
make me feel?

I’m sure you’ve seen her. She’s huddled in a large group of her similarly-dressed peers (sexy maids, cops, kittens, etc) walking quickly across campus or running into a bar. My freshman year roommate dressed as a Hooters girl – along with the other 50 women in her sorority. I guess that first year of college is when I became aware of the phenomenon that is the hyper-sexy Halloween costume.

So how has that Hooters girl made me feel over these past 8 years?

Disgusted. Insecure. Angry. Invisible. Judgmental. Sad. Hopeless.

Quite the range of emotions, though you’ll notice not one of them is positive. And I know I’m not alone here. I’ve had several conversations (mostly with women) about this same thing, and it’s something we feel strongly about.

So what’s really bothering us? And what do we do about it?

A common thread I’ve noticed is the tendency to place the blame squarely on the spaghetti-strapped shoulders of the women in these situations: they’re so desperate for attention that they’re willing to go out half-naked in the freezing cold – setting womankind back 50 years in the process. It seems obvious, and I’ve certainly thought it. But remember, there’s a (warmly-dressed) “pimp” on the arm of most every “hoe” you see out on Halloween night. Men are part of this too, and part of a larger system that not only asks, but expects, women to sexualize themselves every day and not just on October 31st. If only it were a one-night deal!

Demonizing women is not going to bring us any closer to feeling better about these situations; and, as tempting an alternative as it is, I’m afraid that just shifting the blame onto men won’t offer any solutions either.

But some shift is indeed in order. As is my way when faced with what feel like insurmountable problems, I do two things:

1) I get overwhelmed


2) I try to start thinking of small ways I can affect change in my life.

So here goes: A trip to a shoe store or the bra rack quickly reveals that I am not a cookie-cutter woman. But a trip to the women-only Olympus Spa in Lynnwood reminds me that most women aren’t. Nothing like a room full of naked women to help you realize what a beautiful and varied machine the human body is. A machine we’re hooked to for the long haul – and so of course we have a vested interest in it. But if we could shift that interest moreso to how it works instead of how it looks, I think we’d be healthier and happier for it. It’s hard to untangle my socialized perception of beauty, and so it’s difficult to say what I would want my body to look like if I didn’t have any external influences to consider. But I know how I want it to feel – STRONG.

And so I try to keep that in the forefront of my mind. And to notice and mention the strength and shine in those around me. It’s certainly not a given that the people you care about and spend the most time with are also people that help you to feel good about yourself; but what if it was? I feel lucky to be a part of a beautiful (and strong and sexy) community – of women and men – who are wading through this together. My hope is that our ripples (ripples that have done so much to minimize my own struggles with self-image over the past four years) will continue to patiently and inclusively broaden.

So this year – how did that Hooters costume make me feel?

Inspired and Excited.

Inspired to start talking about it

and Excited about my costume!

So I have to ask – how does that girl in the Hooters costume make you feel?

Chasing Time

December begins; It begins with a full moon, and in Bellingham it begins with rain (this comes as no surprise). Three weeks will bring about the beginning of both winter and my 26th trip around the sun. I often marvel at time, how quickly it passes, and how difficult it is to wrap my mind around something like 25 years of living. But I’ve made a conscious decision to try to no longer chase after time, to stop wishing it would stop or attempt to pin it down. Instead, I’d like to get to a point where I’m content with the idea that my past follows me; it flows through my veins, and it’s written in my memory. It has its hands all over the present, but the present is still malleable, open, new.

I’ve thought about these ideas in all sorts of contexts: my relationship with my family, the possibility of creating something new (artistically, socially, culturally), my understanding (or lack thereof) of death, and even in the marathon I ran last weekend.

The whole of last weekend (beginning with a beautiful and wholly nourishing Thanksgiving celebration in Port Angeles and ending with 26.2 miles that went as well as I could have ever hoped) is still sending its positive vibrations through me – and likely will for quite some time. Its foundation, friends and family whose creative spirits and kind hearts I am forever grateful to have in my life, supports and inspires me daily. It’s impossible to explain how wonderful it felt to see a group of familiar smiling faces at the end of the marathon (a race that became easier and more enjoyable once I stopped chasing time and started listening to my body in the moment). And harder still to say what it means to me to know that these people bless my life past, present and future.

To say the least, I am thankful.

Happy December,