I had already devoted myself to a more serious gardening effort this year, a deeper, more consistent approach to growing something as close to organic as possible, when I laid my dirty, badly manicured hands on this little book.
Do you know that feeling when something big and meaningful suddenly clicks with a personal yearning you've felt for a while, largely unable to articulate it until that unpredictable moment? This happened to me today. My craving for seasonal, from-the-ground-up, healthy life and garden reconstruction has found a voice in Barbara Kingsolver's 2007 book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Or at least, this books speaks for a large part of my heart.
Earlier today while waiting for a cup of coffee to brew so I could warm up before heading back to the cold chores waiting for me outside, I picked up this book expecting to just skim a few lines. It had come highly recommended, after all, so I nabbed it at a book store recently but then just let it sit around in a pile of good intentions. Working with compost and animals all day had me more in the mood for garden talk and less in the mood for politicians (I have been reading Game Change, that 2008 election story), though, so I branched out. I ended up plowing through the first chapter without breaking a sweat, and with every page my agri-excitement built.
Kingsolver was an accomplished novelist by the time she wrote this book, a non-fiction account of her family's year-long experiment to become true localvores. So I sank happily into her style of expression which is mercifully free of pretension but rife with poetry. It's just a lovely first chapter. Kingsolver makes a strong case for examining our food sources. She inspires fresh thinking about the nature of culture of any kind, in particular North American food culture or lack thereof. I am now even more fascinated by the notions of environmental overdraft, the illusion of topsoil, food provenance, and being an agricultural agnostic. (Say whaa???)
"Live each season as it passes;
breathe the air, drink the drink,
taste the fruit, and resign yourself
to the influence of each."
~Henry David Thoreau
This has been a favorite quote of mine for a long time, but I usually groove toward it when the weather turns cold, reminding myself to notice the leaves' color change, enjoy the fireplace, etc. But in terms of growing food and working more in cooperation with our environment than in competition with it (demanding for the sake of our mammoth appetites that we beat the elements into submission), Thoreau quickly reminds me to watch what grows here and when. Pretty simple.
"Isn't ignorance of our food sources
causing problems as diverse as
over-dependence on petroleum,
and an epidemic of diet-related diseases?"
This isn't meant as a book review tonight. I barely read two chapters today anyway. But I do feel more than a little bit magical for having thrust myself into this family's story just as the Lazy W gardens begin to finish their winter dreaming. As I finish up my waning moon chores and wait for seeds and seedlings to arrive, I will be reading alongside the Kingsolver family's monthly gardening tales and hope you guys don't mind me sharing the comparisons.
This is really beautiful in every way.
I might need to have this framed in my kitchen, seriously.
I was not exaggerating to call this stuff a meaningful yearning. Beyond the fun of gardening, beyond the superiority of organic produce, even beyond the arguable benefits to our global health by growing and eating locally, there is intrinsic joy to be found in this "hobby," although I think that word is terribly weak. One last quote, then bedtime:
"Food is the rare moral arena
in which the ethical choice
is generally the one more likely
to make you groan with pleasure.
Why resist that?"
Why resist it, indeed?