(Continued from Simplicity of Wellness: Love For the Earth and its Creatures )
2. Grow things and cook your own food.
“There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling.” ~Mirabel Osler
An unknown author once said that “you can bury a lot of troubles in the dirt.” I can personally testify to the truth of that. Gardening was one of the first things I did during my recovery. As soon as I had enough strength in my legs so that I could stay on them for any length of time, I would go outside into my yard and pick a little here and cut a little there. I would sometimes visit my old, neglected garden spot to find the strawberries and mint and chives that were still growing there. Those were times which inspired starred passages in my gratitude journal. It makes me think of what Nathaniel Hawthorne said about his special piece of ground:
I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation. It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne
There aren’t many pursuits that are as health-giving as gardening. The garden obliges us to spend time outside, soaking up the sun, exercising our muscles, and breathing fresh, herb scented air. It gives a sense of purpose. It ties us to the earth, makes us responsible for the health and beauty of our little patch. And if we grow food, it provides us with nourishment and taste that cannot be rivaled by any of the insipid fare found at the supermarket.
Growing our own food may seem revolutionary now, but not long ago it was mundane. The garden and farm were where all the food was, not the supermarket.
“The first supermarket supposedly appeared on the American landscape in 1946. That is not very long ago. Until then, where was all the food? Dear folks, the food was in homes, gardens, local fields, and forests. It was near kitchens, near tables, near bedsides. It was in the pantry, the cellar, the backyard.”
– Joel Salatin
Gardening is an alternative to our current food system, which is broken. Our current system is hurtful to every living thing within its sphere of influence. Agricultural chemicals, mono-cropping, genetic engineering, and confined animal feeding operations (or more accurately, animal concentration camps), are all examples of farming practices which do profound damage to farm animals, ecosystems, and to humans.
And farming is only the beginning of the problem. Our system of food distribution is completely unsustainable principally because it relies on a finite resource, petroleum. The sometimes thousands of miles that typical supermarket foods have traveled represents vast amounts of wasted fuel as well as significant levels of increased air pollution.
“The passive American consumer, sitting down to a meal of pre-prepared food, confronts inert, anonymous substances that have been processed, dyed, breaded, sauced, gravied, ground, pulped, strained, blended, prettified, and sanitized beyond resemblance to any part of any creature that ever lived. The products of nature and agriculture have been made, to all appearances, the products of industry. Both eater and eaten are thus in exile from biological reality.” – Wendell Berry
For many of the same reasons that gardening is good for us, cooking our own food is too. When we start with fresh, simple, natural ingredients and cook our own meals with them, we make sure that what we put in our bodies is as safe and as pure as we can make it. This does not have to be complicated. Even a quick, freshly prepared meal such as a plate of scrambled eggs with some orange slices on the side will be a thousand times better for us than a fast food sandwich or a bowl of Captain Crunch.
Cooking, like gardening, is also better for the health of the planet. The process of producing fast food and processed foods creates an enormous amount of waste: food is wasted, paper is wasted, and loads of plastic and paper are dumped into landfills.
When we choose to grow food and cook it ourselves, we are choosing to show respect for ourselves and for the planet that was so lovingly prepared for us. Although I understand this, I also understand how difficult it can be to accomplish these things. I haven’t had a decent garden in three years because of illness. Cooking can be a challenge if it’s something we’ve never done or if our health is bad or our schedule is busy. But even baby steps matter. A simple home cooked meal, a flower bed, or a container full of herbs are significant. Why? First, because the simple act of producing that small amount of beauty or food makes us feel better. And second, because baby steps sometimes lead to bigger steps.