Monday, November 21, 2011

Dust to Dust

I've never really gotten the "ashes to ashes, dust to dust" thing. I couldn't see how I came from ash or dust, exactly. I knew that I was born of my mother and father, of flesh and blood, and I couldn't see the relationship between that and dust--at the point of origin, anyway. I could always see its relationship at the end point, of course.

But standing in the middle of the Arizona desert two weeks ago, it couldn't have been clearer: I am earth, born of earth.This is perfectly clear when I stand over a Reiki client as well. But now more than ever, after sitting, standing, and walking in the Arizona desert, I see: we are particles of earth,
la terre. Terrestrial.

And with that understanding, so much organizes, so much makes sense. The balancing capacity and aligning effect of Nature; the inexplicable attraction I feel for lands, people, and cultures where life is lived close to the earth, in tune with the earth, in partnership with it rather than in Dominion over it; my draw closer and closer to her murmurings since the birth of Love's Freeway; the ailments and suffering of those not attuned to those murmurings.

In a conversation with my sister this past weekend, chicory came up--first as the primary ingredient in my mother's new favorite "coffee" drink, and then as the root that a friend harvests from various untamed tracts of land around the city.

"You know it, I think," I tell her. "Or maybe not, in suburban sprawl, I don't know. It's that "weed" with the tall spires and the powder blue daisy-like flowers scattered down them." She thinks maybe yes she does know it. But she is more fascinated by my friend's urban foraging.

"How does she do it!?"

" She digs up the roots, dries them, grinds them, and that's her coffee for the winter."

"No way!" she says. "How does she grind it?"

"I don't know - in a coffee grinder, I imagine. Or maybe a blender."

Maybe a VitaMix, my sister suggests. Maybe. Anyway, I tell her I've been thinking of trying it myself.

Our conversation stays with me later, for some reason. And then today, opening my community newspaper, I find a familiar face smiling out at me, alongside an accompanying headline that catches my eye:

"New cookbook greeted with rare herbs dinner" the page announces.

I own the cookbook, and I know its author, Chef Didi Emmons. I also knew the dinner, or thought so anyway, until I read the article. This was a post about an upcoming dinner, another promotional event following the palate-bedazzling book launch I recently attended:

"A bestselling local author's new cookbook about rare herbs will be welcomed with a special dinner featuring the unusual ingredients on Nov. 2..."

Rare? Unusual?
I imagine Didi balking at this, moving to educate the journalist and any readers who might be intimidated or led astray by this perspective.

It sure does seem that in the modern world, a substantial portion of the population believes that food comes from the supermarket shelves. That those markets get that food from distributors. That the distributors get that food from... factories perhaps? My sister's coffee comes from Costco, along with lots else in her fridge and larder--including her Thanksgiving pies, she tells me.

My sister has never before thought of digging and grinding her own coffee beverage, and I do think she represents the rule and not the exception amongst metropolitan-area consumers. Some might shudder at the thought of ingesting something pulled from the ground of an abandoned city lot. For many, coffee at home comes from sanitary, vacuum packed Keurig K-Cups, and that's that.

There's no problem with this, per se. But there is the matter of all the fossil fuel it takes to produce, package and ship these individual servings of squeaky-clean coffee, and the matter of the refuse that results--as well as the matter of the planned obsolescence of the Keurig rigs themselves. And there's the matter of the nutrient loss in the packaging, handling, and shipping, the long delay from snip to salad. But even more concerning to me than all of that is the commercialization of natural resources. Maybe we're not all meant to be farmers, or urban foragers. And I'm sure there are plenty of good reasons to put our foodstuff in a central location where non-farmers can come to procure it by trade or by coin. But I daresay the balance has struck a point of imbalance when
common--or even unusual-- weeds, plants and fruits the earth would offer aplenty if given half a chance are considered rare, scary or unsanitary.

When a gift turns commodity, things have gone haywire. To forget where our food comes from is to forget where
we come from--to forget the true source of our life and nourishment. Gone in no time at all is the awareness that by preserving (or destroying) the integrity of the earth's land, air, and water, we preserve (or destroy) our very selves. It is not that one is linked to the other; rather, they are one and the same: terre and terrestrial. Earth and flesh, dust and dust.


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