|By Steven Martyn|
This time of year, as September’s shadow lengthens, I always feel a bittersweet edge in my heart. There is a richness like no other time of year, but you know it’s not going to last. In the equation of this mad northern existence where we basically have six months of winter, this time of year balances months of scarcity and harshness. Every day I carry back to the farm house baskets and bushels of the land’s gifts, the living jewels of herbs, fruit and vegetables to be stored and preserved, each in its own best suited manner. While some might say that the richness of this bounty came from my labours, I know better, because some years I might have worked as hard and not drawn as much from the land. This richness comes form the Earth Herself, from the spirits that weave life from the elements, from the cooperation of all the layers of life from the microbes and fungi to the other wild plants and animals, from the Gods and Goddesses of wind, sunlight, heat and rain.
At the Sacred Gardener workshops, folks from near and far always rave about the food. This is curious to us because while Megan is a great cook, the food is very simple. I believe the richness and feeling of satiation come not from the recipe but from the depth of connection. Not from the sauces but from the living stories of soil and seed. Almost all the food during the workshops come from the land here or from friends farm’s nearby. The “hundred metre diet” we call it. So each egg, or vegetable has its own unique story as well as its species history, some stretching back for thousands of years. Each egg or vegetable is a story of where that particular chicken was born or seed was planted; Where the chicken foraged and how the plant or animal grew and worked with the ecology and spirits. When we eat a being like this we feel the connection to its long ancestral story back to ancient times in Europe or the Americas when Native people first bred that plant or animal. We are part of its story after the point when we started growing that particular type of bird or vegetable, where we got it from and on and on. I have had a personal relationship with, some for twenty or more years, every plant and animal in our food. I believe it is these stories that are embedded in the fabric of the food that make it so filling. Modern food, even organic, is industrially produced, each plant being the same as the next for acres and acres, and each seed or animal bred for production purposes, not for its character. The real connection to the Earth has been lost with the stories and character of the plants. And that hollowness just makes people want to eat more and more. The demineralization of our land and in our food has also been documented and put forward as one of the reasons for obesity, as well as the ravenous hunger cycle that fast food creates. The hollowness that I’m speaking of can be seen as the spiritual aspect of this demineralization and de-nutrification of our food. It is all part of the same problem, which is not feeding and caring for the land.
Here is a little story that relates to these points. Megan and I got married this summer, and had a big party and feast. When we woke up the morning after and started to look around we saw we had huge amounts of food left over from an extremely abundant potluck dinner. So we didn’t have to make any food that week, we ate and ate plowing through the leftovers. After a few days of this we were joking about gaining weight and that maybe this contributes to why some people are overweight. When you have endless amounts of food and you don’t have the work of growing and making your food from scratch, and you don’t work or really give in any way for your food, it’s just not as filling so you keep eating trying to fill a place that can’t be filled by eating.
This experience got me thinking about “richness”. Perhaps the obsession with seeking richness comes from impoverishment, from the loss our stories and connection with the Earth, our ancestors and our community.
People seek both material and spiritual richness, and while historically these pursuits have been seen as opposites, perhaps they are closer paths then we imagine, both spurred on by the loss of Earth bound culture. Indigenous culture might seem complex from an anthropological point of view, but in some ways it is very simple, rising directly from the Earth like our food. Agriculture and culture share the same root and mirror each other. How we work with the Earth and Her plants that sustain us, forms the basis of culture. While this might seem overly simple, I think history proves out the truth of this connection; In that when we care and deeply appreciate where our food comes from and approach the Earth in thankfulness, then the richness of culture fulfills our deeper human needs and quells the hungry ghosts of our ambition.