Why in the world would this week seem like a downer? Even when everything is humming along, Ranger and I have spent time talking about feeling “down.”
Here’s our conclusion: When you feel down in our circumstances you suffer from guilt. Plain and simple. We feel guilty because we ought to be jumping with joy.
Ranger: “Furthermore, we now know that guilt is an emotion which is a futile waste of time. And that’s why we started re-reading Thomas Berry.”
Me: “Talk about a cure for what was ailing us! Listen to these beautiful words from Berry’s ‘Dream of the Earth’:
“For too long we have been away somewhere, entranced with our industrial world of wires and wheels, concrete and steel, and our unending highways, where we race back and forth in continual frenzy.”
“…the earth community is a wilderness community that will not be bargained with, nor will it simply be studied or examined or made an object of any kind; nor will it be domesticated or trivialized as a setting for vacation indulgence, except under duress and by oppressions which it cannot escape. When this does take place in an abusive way, a vengeance awaits the human for when the other living species are violated so extensively, the human itself is imperiled.”
And so Ranger and I sit quietly and wait for the dawn and dusk of this day with a renewed sense of gratitude, not guilt, and above all hope. When writers like Berry, who has been saying these things for a long time, is joined by a host of others (like Ranger and me) there may be a future to hope for.
Me: “Ranger, let’s talk about the last few months, and my food transitions. I realized yesterday when I was planning for the evening meal that I was at a much different spot in my head. I’ve been cooking for family members for more than a half century… well, even longer, since I was in the kitchen with my mother when I was a very young girl. Meal planning was always like this:
Plan the meat course. Get the meat out of the freezer before heading off to work, so it’s thawed. If it’s not in the freezer, decide which store you’re going to visit on the way home.
Start the meat course. Grilled? Light the grill. Oven? Get it in the oven! Stove top? Get the mixture ready.
Now, what starch? Potatoes are usually at the ready, in the basement buried in sand, ready to dig out of the garden, or out of the bin in the pantry. Start cooking them.
Last minute, what side will there be? Fruit? Get a can of peaches or pineapple open. Cabbage? Shred some and throw on some dressing for slaw and hope someone eats it. Carrots or peas? Are there any in the freezer? Get them into the microwave.
Get everyone at the table and start passing the food in the order it was prepared. The deal with kids: you MUST TASTE the veggies or salad or fruit.
Now…. my planning goes like this:
Shop a couple of times a week at the local produce market. Stock up on zucchini, squash, apples, blueberries, peas, potatoes, onions, garlic…. You get my drift here. And yesterday? I first started thinking about what vegetable combinations would work. It happened that I had some Yukon Gold potatoes, some snow peas, some cauliflower and some zucchini…. And guess what? I cooked the potatoes until nearly done, then put the rest of the vegetables in with the potatoes for some fast boiling for a few minutes, and then I drained them and added butter and cheese. Presto! A main dish. I didn’t even think about a seafood addition, which has been my usual fallback position since I stopped eating meat of any kind. I’m proud of myself. This is a big big transition for me!
Ranger: “Okay. That’s great. I notice you also got a big new bag of the favorite dog food for me, so we’re both happy with your progress, if you can call it that. I see cheese is still on your menu, and I know from listening to you and Darryl talk that you had spinach and artichoke quiche for breakfast. So cheese and eggs are still there as the protein source for you?”
Me: “Yes, that’s true. Here is the next hurdle for me with diet: I love beans and lentils. Darryl does not. I believe that I could make a big leap into being a vegan if I didn’t worry about what he might eat for an evening meal, a time which we cherish together. Tonight we’re having a small piece of grouper fish in a super fish burrito. We’ll shred the cooked fish, add avocado, sour cream, cheese, tomato, and in my case hot sauce and garbanzo beans. He’ll not add the beans and hot sauce.”
Ranger: “Don’t you see you have your own problem solved? Here you are, with a meal that each of you create from ingredients you’re able to put on the counter. You’ll microwave the result and then eat. What’s wrong with that? Are you feeling guilty or something?”
Me: “Yes, because of the fish and cheese…, and don’t you see that I am agreeing with you? My goal is to find good vegetarian dishes without beans or lentils…. Or….. maybe I should keep experimenting with those in different combinations until I find something he does like. Hey, if I can come this far with my diet in the last year, who knows what can follow? And, notice that I didn’t buy eggs at the market yesterday because I was not sure we could finish them before the expiration date. More and more it’s vegetarian dishes we eat. I’ll make a bet with you…. We’ll give up eggs before we give up cheese! Frankly, cheese is the hard one. I never seem to find a dish that doesn’t go with some kind of cheese.”
Ranger: “Well, okay, now we have a common goal. As you know, I love cheese as well. I hang around the counters waiting for you to drop a sliver of it. And remember yesterday, when you were dressing the salad (with cheese!) I was lucky enough to get an entire mouthful when you left the container sitting on the edge of the counter and I got up there and upset it with my nose. So maybe the elimination of cheese is our mutual goal. I suspect that first you’ll have to do some research into what cheese actually does to the environment. It seems pretty benign, but maybe not. I know it takes a lots of milk to make cheese, and cows…. but we’ve talked about dairy farming before….. Well, now I’m puzzled as well.”
Me: “What these sessions allow me to do is grow into this gradually without feeling guilty. Thank you for that. I really will be interested in where this whole thing is taking me…. and you!
King Rail making himself adaptable in the Celery Fields.
Spiritual Homelessness, Part II
Ranger: “You realize that our last session was spent talking about you, basically. Now, I realize that you’re the one in therapy, but I find that I’m needing to talk more about my own feelings regarding homelessness. Why don’t you grab a cup of coffee and join me outside on the porch for a conversation.”
Me: “Okay, fair enough.”
Ranger: “So in the whole evolutionary development of the species, mankind got domesticated and house bound. The more urbanized the environment the less people were able to be connected to Mother Earth. Much of our conversations lately have centered on that topic. Now, what I’ve been thinking about is what happened to dogs in that process. Somewhere along the line people brought dogs inside and domesticated them, or maybe it was the other way around. Same thing: the more urbanized, the less connected we are with Earth. I’ve been thinking about birds, for example. Birds stay in touch with Earth pretty closely. When their habitat is destroyed they simply die off. The question I keep asking myself is this: at what point will mankind/womankind destroy its own habitat? And what is the habitat of humans anyway? Is it in a highly urbanized environment, or is it closer to Earth? I’ve been thinking about Miami since we read the article regarding all the luxury condominiums being built right on the water there, despite the predictions that the sea level will rise by 5 feet. It seems like people regard their habitat as man-made, and Earth be damned. When Miami disappears, along with the Everglades, I guess those people who bought the condos will just go somewhere else and build others. Luxury condos are disposable to some. The poor will not be in such good shape, however, and dogs? Dogs in Miami will be doomed, won’t they?”
Me: “I see your point. Dogs and cats will suffer because they are dependent upon the humans who care for them. They cannot build a raft or rent a car, or fly away. Like humans, dogs and cats will have a difficult time with climate change. Birds will do better, I suspect, but humans and their domesticated friends will simply disappear.”
Ranger: “So, the next time we have a sit-down conversation with Darryl, let’s talk about what our plans for survival are. I’m not kidding! I’d like to be prepared for the time about two or five years out where these scenarios with rising water start playing out, and what our plan will be to help ourselves and other species. Darryl says we’ll all go feral, but that’s a discussion for another time.”