Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Lovely Inspiration

Inspired by my good friend who writes about kids' music to write about whatever-in-the-blasted-universe she wants to, I'm finally writing my recent thoughts--which have nothing whatever to do with kids music. Or my kids. Or even just music.

(Plus, there's nothing like moving to make you do things like blog instead of packing.)

I've found myself lately on this path I didn't know I was on--the kind where one book you read leads you to another and then another and you end up deep into a forest of some topic you didn't really make some master plan to explore.

It started with a novel by Wendell Berry--slow-moving, incredibly readable, beautifully prosed (and with none of the guaranteed unsettled scenes of my favorite tv host's book club choices). I started with Hannah Coulter, one of the Port Williams novels, and got so into it that I kept reading more of Berry's Port Williams books: Jayber Crow, A Place in Time . . . as many of them as I could get to dig in deeper with all the shared characters. They're all farm books--lovely character-focussed reflections on changing farm life over the last 50 years. Not at all connected to my world--I live on the coast and tend to kill even house plants.

Then a friend recommended Michael Polan's The Omnivore's Dilemma--a farm book, but non-fiction. All about where our food comes from (without too many harrowing details about how crammed together the chickens are). Lots of thoughts about organic food (which I can never decide whether to afford) and farmers again, of course. More farmers. I couldn't put it down--and it poses these really challenging questions about the choices we make as consumers without ever offering any answers, which is annoying and freeing all at the same time.

When I put that one down another friend recommended Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. And that's where I am now--and it's a super-enjoyably-readable walk through one family's resolve to eat only what they could grow themselves or buy within 100 miles. More farmers.

And now I'm seriously considering having a garden of my own. I look at food in the grocery store differently because of these books. I live in California, but I'm actually considering paying attention to the seasons of food.

It's funny how books can take you somewhere you didn't plan on going. Even more hysterical, of course, that I've done most of this organic food reading while eating a daily intake of Taco Bell.

Here's to unplanned trips.

And Happy New Year, friends.


GBK Gwyneth said...

I find it greatly interesting to hear about others' journeys! I wish I could write about mine as well as you write of yours...

The Kingsolver book has opened new doors to me as well. We're looking into a plot in the community garden - between my brown thumb and the record breaking drought here in Atlanta I'm not expecting a lot. However, while looking into local food, I found a new farm that is less than a mile from our house. After striking up an email acquaintance with the farmer himself, we've gone to get some winter veggies from them already! I can't wait for more....

I hope all is well with you and yours.

--ginger. said...

How great, Gwyneth! I've gotten just far enough to commit to a weekly outing to the farmer's market (just a few blocks from my house) and I'm just about to move across a church parking lot from the community garden . . . I'm excited about doing some farm visiting with my kids too. I recently told them that Burger King had refused to pay their workers who picked the tomatoes for the hamburgers an extra penny per hour and my son said "that's mean" and isn't bugging me about going there anymore!

Anonymous said...

I'd like to read the Berry novels. Thanks for mentioning them. Pollan's book can def. be a life changer. Like you, I love/hate the no answers issues. There's so much to think about these days...

I hope the move will be good for you all. Packing stinks, but new homes can be a great adventure.

Happiest new year!

Puttermeister said...

If moving means we get to read more of these posts more often, I think you should move once a week.

I haven't heard of the Barry books before--they're going onto my list. But as for the rest of it, I, too, find the idea of the farm and the garden compelling. I want so much to live a slower, more integrated, more full life, and the farm itself, especially as Pollan describes it, seems a perfect metaphor for this longing. All of these books seem to have struck a larger nerve within the zetigeist: that is, considering where our various "fuels" come from and what we're willing to sacrifice in order to avoid thinking about the larger implications of our smaller actions.

Nice post, baby.