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Archive for February, 2008

I’m reading an interesting book right now, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, in which she chronicles her family’s year of eating only foods grown or produced in their local area of Virginia. The term “locavore” is being used to describe those who are trying to support local farmers and eat foods in season in their particular locales. In doing so, they are trying to create and promote markets for a more sustainable agricultural future. Our current food preferences in the U.S. depend upon fossil fuels to both produce and transport food over great distances. With the rising price of petroleum comes inflation which we are all feeling now not to mention the price that is exacted as we pour more carbon into the atmospere and degrade our topsoil through unsustainable farming practices.

Over the past few months we have been making some efforts to eat more locally. Last summer we bought virtually all of our produce and eggs at the local farmer’s market. We continue to buy eggs, beef, pork and some dairy produced locally but winter in the midwest is not known for an abundance of produce. As I peruse the produce department at my local grocery store and see grapes grown in Chile, Clementines from Spain, bananas from Central America and all kinds of green veggies from California I realize how accustomed I have become to having anything I want at any time at a price I can afford. But I am coming to realize that this kind of global agricultural marketplace comes at a high price to both the environment and, in many cases, to the producers of our ‘affordable’ vegetables and fruits.

I realize that if something does not change, my children will have no concept of how our food is produced and how that food production is connected to the earth and the seasons.  As far as they are concerned, strawberries are endlessly available, asparagus has no particular season, tomatoes are a year round food and meat comes in shrink-wrapped plastic containers. When foods are available to us constantly, we lose any sense of the wonder and anticipation that comes from looking forward to a favorite seasonal treat or the appreciation for the cycle of life and our part in that.  Nothing is special because it’s always available with a minimal expenditure of effort.  When that over-familiarity occurs, we lose some sense of the wonder of God’s creation and our connection to our physical environment.

Over the next few months I’m going to be thinking and writing about what I am learning about trying to eat more locally as well as the hidden costs of the global agricultural marketplace. I’d be interested in hearing your reflections on these issues.  To find information about local farmers and food producers in your area, check out localharvest.org.

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It’s been six months since we cancelled our satellite TV subscription and here are a few things I’ve come to realize:

  • It’s a lot harder to be without TV programming when the days are short and the weather is bad.
  • Fasting from TV does not automatically mean that the time is filled with more enriching or productive activity .
  • Children who don’t watch TV require much more attention and energy to parent.
  • While waiting until later in life to have children has many advantages, boundless energy is not one of them.
  • It is both uncomfortable and rewarding to move out of our comfort zones.
  • It is possible to live a normal and fulfilled life without having access to 100+ channels of TV programming.
  • I don’t miss hearing every little detail about the day’s horrific tragedy.
  • I can still get plenty of news without watching TV. The only time I’ve really wanted to watch the TV news was when we had severe weather. We were able to pick up a local channel (though the reception was pretty bad).
  • It’s a lot cheaper to get movies from the library than from Blockbuster.
  • I’ve rediscovered how much I enjoy reading for pleasure.

I have to say that our fast is not a complete fast. We do watch movies and videos from the library or Netflix and I’ve even watched a few cooking shows I got at the library. What is significantly different, however, is that the TV is not available to be used 24/7 as a distraction. Anything we watch is an intentional choice (both as to the programming and the time.) I’ve certainly done more reading, writing and listening to music in the last six months and I’ve learned a lot about myself. Fasting is, in part, about exposing our dependencies and clarifying what is important. God has taught me some important lessons in the last six months and for that I am truly grateful.

Thanks be to God!

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Yesterday was my birthday.  I’ve never been particularly worried about getting older but this year, as I reached the 45 year mark, I was feeling melancholy about the brevity of life.  Yesterday, after eating a celebratory lunch of chili dogs (my hubby took me out for a nice meal earlier in the weekend) and receiving the mandatory gift of chocolate, my 9 year old son said he had one more gift for me.  Putting his arms around me he gave me a big hug and a kiss and said he loved me.  I thanked him and told him that the hug and kiss was the best gift I received.  “Love is always the best gift” he said.  I agree.  I guess if I have to be 45 (and I clearly have no choice in the matter) I’m glad that I am able to spend this year living with and learning from my children.  Thanks be to God.

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It’s raining…again. We’ve had around 3 inches of rain in the last couple of days, everything is soggy and I can’t wait for spring. This is disappointing because I usually look forward to winter. I love snow. I have very warm memories of snow days at home as a child; being outside in the woods with my brothers and the dogs; walking on frozen ponds, which, in East Tennessee was taking our life in our hands since the ice never got very thick; staying out (with bread bags taped over our shoes) until we couldn’t feel our toes; coming in to hot chocolate on the stove and a jigsaw puzzle. We lived near on the edge of a woods on the side of a mountain and the back of our house was big picture windows. When it snowed it was so beautiful, almost magical. Walking in the woods in the snow is one of life’s great experiences. The snow on the trees muffles all the sound and the light glinting off the snow crystals gives everything a luminescent quality. The contrast of the white snow with the green of the spruce and pine trees and the gray of the bare hardwoods lends a simplicity restfulness to the eye that is not present in the other seasons when there is more color. I miss that experience.

The grayness of the winter here in Indiana is difficult to deal with but is normally tolerable when there is more snow. Grayness and rain and a damp cold that clings to the skin is hard to take. I find myself wanting to hibernate, feeling less creative, etc. I’m sure the presence of grief and feeling of being unsettled about the future does not help matters any. So I am left with the question of how to tolerate this season in my life as I wait for the sky to brighten and signs of new life to emerge. It occurs to me that the season of Lent, which begins today, Ash Wednesday, offers some parallel to my experience.

During the season of Lent, followers of Christ are asked to make a commitment to a period of reflection and self-examination in preparation for the observance of Holy Week and Good Friday, culminating in the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection: Easter. Lent is not a happy-happy-joy-joy stop on the calendar of the Christian year but then not all of life is that way. There are periods of darkness…rain…sorrow in all our lives. Lent is a time for looking inward and allowing God to illuminate the parts of us that need attention. It’s also a time for looking outward to allow God to help us see the needs of a hurting world. Finally, Lent is a time for looking upward for it is during these these times of darkness, rain and sorrow in our lives that we can, if we pay attention, experience God’s presence, strength, comfort and guidance in deeper and more meaningful ways.

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