Thursday, March 24, 2011

Embracing my purpose

I'm becoming more and more convinced that one of my biggest roles on this little planet is to speak truth. I don't often enjoy the job, because most people don't want to hear what I have to say, seeing as it's usually bad news. Yet, I am bound by my personality to fulfill my duty.

This time, my somewhat unwilling speech is about food. The movie Food Inc., to be exact. But it's not just that movie; it's my slow, unhappy, dawning realization that the food supply in this country is really messed up.

Let me say, up front, that I am not a vegetarian. I eat meat. We own firearms. I am increasingly conservative. However, we also have a garden and grow food in it. I am an avid cook who tries to use healthy, natural ingredients as much as possible. I love animals, while also realizing that we are superior to them in our intellect. I believe that God made us in his image, and that animals are wonderful companions that are here to help, teach, and serve us.

It seems logical to me that, if we are more intellectually capable than any other earthly living thing (that we know of), it should be our goal to treat all of creation with respect and gratitude. (Within reason, of course. Respecting nature doesn't mean we never chop a tree, or that we move an entire city because its existence threatens the life cycle of an owl, etc.)

Anyway. This movie, Food Inc., is disturbing. If you're not thinking seriously about where your food comes from, you ought to. It's sort of a companion piece to King Corn, another eye-opening flick, plus one of the commentators in Food Inc. is Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma (which I have yet to read but very much want to).

In the same way that the phrase "throw that away" has somehow turned into a mammoth floating garbage dump in the ocean , the idea of "going to the store" has morphed into a weird, utterly dependent system of unhealthy consumption that feeds our twisted, tightly controlled agricultural economy.

Even if you don't live in a city, it's still quite likely that you don't know any farmers. Why is that? If not, where did they go? Food is coming from somewhere... so neatly wrapped, in pretty packaging, it just magically appears and we buy it and eat it and ask no questions.


I need to keep this short because, lo and behold, my little guy came home sick from school today; he's feeling pretty lousy and I need to be attentive now that "Arthur" has ended. But seriously, I hope you'll watch the movie. I hope you'll ask some questions. I hope you'll see, as I am seeing, that the terrorists of this world won't even need to bring us down, because we're doing it to ourselves with ignorant and bad choices.

Over and out, for now. Next on my public service messages? Buying American. Then, we'll tackle the abandonment of plastic bags.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Ancestry—avian, and otherwise

I was outside earlier today, enjoying the late morning sunshine and comfortable temperatures. I took some paperwork onto the patio, to try to lighten the load of record-keeping by surrounding myself with nature.

It worked. The load was quite manageable and even rather pleasant. Of course, I was not as productive as I likely would have been in the darkness of the dining room. I became rather distracted by the many birds who flew in and out of my midst to dine at the feeders I'd filled yesterday.

The chickadees are definitely the most bold. They swoop in without apology, lighting nearby and chirping insistently. A titmouse showed up, more timid, and didn't stay long. A few sparrows stopped by, some munching right there, others taking a seed in their beak and fluttering back to some safer locale. Lately, we've even been graced by a big, pileated woodpecker. Nuthatches visit the suet feeder, and the funny mourning doves with bobbing heads trip around beneath the feeders, feasting on what would have been wasted.

I clearly recall my youthful days at home, when my mom would address the birds. "Hello, Birds," she'd say. Sometimes she spoke to the sky on a particularly beautiful day, or her many flowers, and I think I may have heard her recognize the big maples in the backyard. I can't tell you how many times I giggled at her when she did this, gently poking fun at her fascination with nature and all its winged beauties. I was oh-so-worldly, you see, and much too cool to participate in such silliness. I would never speak to birds and plants.

And now, sitting out back of my own home, some 30-plus years later, I see how you always come back to your heritage. You can deny it, you can run from it, you can try to train it right out of yourself, but it's there. It's in you. Maybe it's in your face, when you look into the mirror and one of your parents stares back at you, or an aunt or uncle. You might hear it in your voice, when you pronounce a certain word, or speak a turn of phrase you swore you'd never repeat, such as, "I'll give you something to cry about." (That was my uncle's phrase. It still makes me chuckle.) Perhaps you'll recognize the way your thighs look in jeans, or the bump on your foot just under the big toe (that's from my grandma, Ma-Ma).

All those people who made you, are in you. They shaped you, and eventually, they will emerge from you in all sorts of ways.

It'll happen. It's happening to me. Now, I speak to the birds. The wonderful thing, though, is that now I understand the other side of the quotient: my mother was only holding up her end of the conversation.

Thanks, Mom.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Blog lite

Watching the television coverage from Japan lately has certainly helped me kick my self-pity habit.

Those poor people.

I'm not emotionally ready to grasp what is happening there, let alone to write about it. So, I'm offering a "lite" blog entry, a la Cute Overload.

I present to you baby varmints. Groundhogs, to be exact. I know that in a few months those very same darling beasts will be trying to break into Todd's garden, gnawing at every tender new vegetable they can reach.

But for now, gazing at their small fuzziness, I can forgive all the damage to come.

Meantime, I hope you'll join me in praying for the people of Japan. I cannot imagine the devastation, to structures and roadways, families and co-workers. They need our prayers. And our support and assistance.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

This is the end (of winter)

It's almost over, folks. Let me tell you how I know.

I know that winter is waning, because I have officially become my ultimate cranky, coughing, Vicks-scented, mean-girl self...and that happens every year around this time. We're on the cusp, and I am crawling toward that cusp, biting back curse words every time the wind blows my hood right off my head. We're on the cusp, and our entire household is enjoying an intimate relationship with our many boxes of Kleenex with Lotion (hey, I'll scrimp on clothes, furniture, and discount foods, but even I have my standards). We're on the cusp, because if this winter lasts much longer I can pretty much guarantee that injuries will be suffered by some poor person, at my hand, after said person has uttered the phrase (or thereabouts) "Spring is just around the corner!" You see, I am beginning to suspect that the only thing around that corner is a nasty sleet storm. Another nasty storm.

So, all of this means winter is nearly finished.

The only time I averted this horrible yearly phase of my psyche was the year that Todd and I had the good sense to book a long weekend in Florida in mid-March. I can't describe the bliss that came over me as we exited the airport in Tampa, looked around us at palm trees, and breathed the essence of living, green warmth.

I can't bear to think about it. Must plod on.

I have other things I'm planning to post about, but I'm not ready to stop feeling sorry for myself quite yet. Hope you'll check back in a day or two. That's assuming, of course, that the dastardly north wind doesn't blow so hard that it knocks out everyone's power.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Inquiring minds want to know

(Notice I spelled inquiring with an "i" because I do not in any way want to be associated with the National Enquirer, the classless rag that first made such a statement. Frankly, I'm not even sure that it merits the italics used to indicate a publication...)

I have an inquiring mind, and I want to know. I want to know because I need to know. How bad is it going to get in America? In the world? Situations are unraveling faster than the newspeople can address them. You'll notice the local news-givers have simply refused to acknowledge any serious news outside of an invisible 60-mile radius surrounding our city. Another local fire? Robbery? Shooting? Demonstration? Quick, find a barely literate, clueless person to interview!

Anyway. Obviously, no one's getting the truth from the liberal, purchased national media folks, either. What I do manage to learn, (mostly via web sites which merely visiting could earn me the label of militant troublemaker,) is all bad. Economy and employment=bad. America produces very little and is controlled by thugs. Food? Bad; it's controlled by giant conglomerates like Monsanto who force chemicals, additives, and dependency on its unsuspecting consumers. Housing: bad for most, unless you had the sense to purchase a tiny, cheap home in a decent market for a fair price, and you've somehow managed to stay employed for the past 3 or 4 years. The youth? They're the victims of all this degradation and sadly, a lot of them don't even realize how unbalanced (not to mention immoral and sleazy) our world has become. Hope and change? Fading fast. Leadership and government? They're in midair now, having already driven off the cliff. (Did I mention you were in the cart they dragged behind them?)

So, what's a poor, flustered, concerned suburbanite to do in the face of all this madness?

Go off grid. Actually, go off off-grid. Just being a survivalist and removing yourself from the so-called "grid" that our culture has slowly plugged into the back of your head, Matrix-style, is no longer sufficient. Now, apparently, you must branch off from the off-grid lifestyle.

Or so I'm guessing, based on the talk about a book that becomes available in force via book bomb tomorrow, March 4. The author is a full-fledged, real-life off-gridder, and I for one am quite interested in any insights he has to offer. The intelligent, informed people over at the Granny Miller blog had some good things to say about it, and they've piqued my curiosity. I might have to bite the wallet and order one.

I love being near the city for many reasons. If someday Todd and I decide to remove ourselves from its midst, I will miss the culture, and the availability of odd and wholesome foods, and the diversity, and the dazzling array of amazing manmade creations, and the opportunities and events and seemingly limitless re-sale options. But at the same time, I can clearly see the rapid deterioration of our easy, effortless lifestyle, of the freedoms that we take for granted daily. I can see that the entire country, and most of the modern world, is teetering on the brink of some really difficult times that will make the depression look mild. It's not going to take a super-human shove to push us over the edge. Unpayable debt, overloaded systems, a majority of citizens that rely on government assistance in some form, unhealthy agricultural monopolies, pollution and corruption and—well, you see my point.

Not to mention the cost of gasoline. The refusal of our figureheads to drill at home, thus our reliance on knuckleheads. The absolute breakdown of everything when there's a disaster, natural or otherwise. Can you even imagine this country if we all lose power for any length of time? Or if some evil person gets into some major water supplies and fouls them up? Can you envision what will happen if some major roadways are disrupted for any reason and become impassable for a length of time? What if (gasp) the dollar is replaced as global currency?

I try not to picture these things, but I still do. I can't help myself. I am grounded firmly in reality. I don't like confrontation either, but I prefer it to walking away while peering with trepidation over my shoulder.

I have to think it's better to address these looming possibilities, and what I can do if they come to fruition. I wouldn't be nearly as concerned if I weren't so bloody dependent on all these faulty, flawed systems. That's why I keep eying this whole off-the-grid idea with such focus and fervor. I like the idea of being a self-sufficient unit. I enjoy the pleasures of our culture, the entertainment factors, the modern conveniences, the exotic choices in every realm. But I could live without most of it pretty easily. Could I live without all of it? What would it take? Where would it need to happen? How much money, knowledge, and preparation would it require? How much work would it be?

I know it's a lot to think about. But I do believe it merits a ponder, or two or five. Because truly, the good thing about being such a darned pessimist is that after thinking of all the bad things that could happen, the pessimist is empowered to then move forward into the preparation and planning stages.

I hope you'll check out Granny's site, or the book's website (the link is there).

Meantime, anybody want to sell me some remote land and livestock cheap?

P.S. Sorry if you find more typos than usual here; I'm hurrying, because I want to get this live so my two readers can check out the book by tomorrow...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Springtime in Mel-ville

It's been a long stretch of sick days here in our house. First the kid, then me, then husband complained of scratchiness in the throat. The others shed the bug a bit earlier than I did; in my relentless stint, a completely unrelated infection cropped up, the meds that were required were strong enough to turn my stomach (and did), and finally my chest cold flirted with the idea of becoming bronchitis or pneumonia or some other debilitating thing. Today, for the first time, I feel human. Hot showers, Vicks Vaporub, and much prayer have helped me crawl out of the abyss that is an unwell February.

As I ran errands (yes, actually ran instead of dragging my exhausted, hacking self from place to place), I began to think about how emerging from a stretch of poor health is sort of like coming into your very own springtime. Suddenly, there is life where once there was nothing. There is energy, light, hope and promise. Just as stepping into a sunny spot on a breezy day can remind you that there really is such a thing as being too warm, waking up and feeling decent can remind you of your own potential, your own plans and dreams. It's hard to dream about anything happy when you feel sick. It's hard to even focus, to deal with everyday chores and necessary tasks. I've found it quite challenging of late simply to climb out of a sleepless, uncomfortable night and face the day.

I am very, very thankful to feel more like myself again. Not 100%, but tremendously improved from a week ago. I feel a little bit reborn. I can think clearly. I can look forward to things. I can stop my ceaseless petition to God for healing, and start to feel genuinely grateful again.

And speaking of spring, I've posted a couple of spring bird note cards at the Etsy shop. If you're looking for a good gift idea, especially for someone who loves birds, these will earn you some points for sure!

Wishing you good health, an early spring, and bright hope for tomorrow.