The days move by fast and I run out of time to write. Today I mowed, put several hours into my work with ECF, did some housework and then put up a peck of tomatoes, a quart each of cream peas and butter beans, 18 ears of Silver Queen corn, and a quart of summer squash. To freeze the produce take some prep work—I have to slice and/or peel, blanch and then immediately cool all of it before packing it up for the freezer. I also have a vacuum sealer doo-hickey that should keep all this wonderful local produce tasting like sunshine when I use it on cold winter days to make soup or stew. The discarded parts of the vegetables I put up have all gone into the compost heap and this weekend I learned some more about how you layer carbon based and nitrogen based stuff in a compost bin so if all goes well, in about 8 weeks we should have ‘finished’ compost to work into the dirt where we will have our garden. Tomorrow, I tackle a peck of peaches I also got at the curb market in Montgomery when another new friend, Pat, took me with her on Saturday.
(And to those of you who may remember my disrespect and disregard for Sherod’s nasty-assed freezer that is still with us all these years later—you need to know that I approach it scraping and bowing, aware that it will save us money this year and even more important, that it will allow us to eat healthy, delicious meals.)
This is all a new kind of responsibility—to the land, to myself, to my animal companions. We have a new cat—a stray that showed up late last week, beautiful, blue-eyed, friendly and very thin and weak. Twice a day, I go out and feed this little creature and I have an appointment at the end of the week to take him/her (haven’t gotten a good enough look down there to tell the gender) to the vet for shots. I wanted so much to ignore this new responsibility but I can’t and I am happy early in the morning, when I get to rub behind the new cat’s ears and hear the purring.
There’s an even deeper level and invitation to get involved. I have been asked to be a part of the oversight board that’s been formed for a new program in Selma called Grow Selma—I went to the first organizing meeting last week after I got back from Tallahassee and found myself deeply moved. The people who are launching this effort are all young, emerging community leaders, the sons and daughters of Sherod’s generation, so I heard my spouseman referred to as “Uncle Sherod”. They are determined to make a difference for their community, to help folks understand and commit to more sustainable cultivation practices and healthier eating, they don’t have the years of organizational experience to have a tidy and efficient business meeting and it does not matter one bit because they are out there pouring heart and passion into the effort.
Officially, I have come on board to help with grant writing. I am already researching and finding some promising possibilities. Today I got an email from one of the young board members who is looking for some guidance about funding a more specific project he has in mind; his note left me sitting in silence and admiration—such a compassionate and, for lack of a better word, sustainable world view. I have very few answers and solutions to anything any longer. But I can walk alongside others and I can offer encouragement. In a sense, this is the practice of kindness I hope I can keep at the core of this new place in my vocation.
This is all far more modest than any ambition I ever harbored for myself. I continue to be mindful of the temptation to withdraw into something too small and too comfortable at the expense of the Gospel mandates. But I imagine that soon enough, more will be needed, more will be asked of me. To have this time of gentleness is allowing me to experience redemption in unexpected ways. Some afternoons, I load the dogs in the back of my car and we ride down the road with the windows down far enough so Boo and Daisy can enjoy the infinity of amazing farmland molecules out there for the taking. It’s like they can’t breathe fast enough to take it all in because there is such bounty. My cat Spot has earned herself a place on my bed and I have even resigned myself to washing the coverlet on my bed more regularly to accommodate her; I have also resigned myself to her pounces anywhere between 4 and 5 most mornings, when she wakes me up to feed her. It has been such a remarkable experience to ramble around in this house, and have all three of them come along, settle down whenever I settle down, always present and always good company. They humble me. My new life humbles me. I had no idea this is what it means to cultivate joy.