I have so much to be thankful this year, it hardly seems fair. I hope you have a lovely day of feasting and friendship today.
In much of my adult life I’ve had an interesting series of Thanksgiving meals with friends, since we don’t live near family. They’ve all been lovely.
I’ve had vegan Thanksgivings, Friday Thanksgivings, one where I was already so tipsy on red wine that I scorched the mashed potatoes, and tomorrow will be the second I’ve had with a turkey from the farm I work for. And this year when Chris pulled out the innards I actually knew what the gizzard was, and wasn’t freaked out.
I am shocked at the love and gratitude and great friendships I’ve had as a grown up. I’ve lived lots of places and it just seems highly unlikely that I’d be at such a wonderful place in my life surrounded by so many amazing people.
Like my friend Paul used to always say….”You are like a cat, you always land on your feet!”
Almost 4 years ago we moved from one coast to the other and our lives changed in a lot of ways. One was a huge cut to our overall income. This put us on a different path, and I honestly feel like we are much better for it.
It is easy from time to time to get off the path. Sometimes less important things or people creep in and cause a lot of distraction and I forget the end goals.
Recently I joined a discussion group on Voluntary Simplicity organized by Jillian. She wrote a great post about it which I strongly suggest you read if this sort of thing strikes your fancy. I had to miss the first two meetings but I have done all of the readings and really like the course so far.
Week Three’s topic was work. Just in our small group I realized that I am in a minority (I think) when it comes to how I view satisfying work. To me work is very physical. If I’m not manipulating things it doesn’t seem very gratifying.
Most of my “work” now belongs to the things I do at home. It isn’t necessarily the most fun, and I’m certainly not getting evaluated on it or anything, but it’s important and I take pride in it.
I enjoy baking bread and making our Christmas gifts and sewing Halloween costumes. In a minute I’ll start working on chicken pot pie for dinner, but I already made the crust this morning with Jack. There will be something more special about dinner, because I made it myself. I put time and energy and thought into it, and to me that’s valuable work.
In the course of the discussion I mentioned skillful work and that I think it’s important for everyone to have some form of skill. You should have something you are good at that you could use to help you trade for some other good or service, if necessary.
Oddly, when I brought this up a woman in the group said, “Whoa this is sounding a little bit Tea Partyish if you ask me.” Whoa. Ok, I know not everyone has the same perspective as me, but when I think Voluntary Simplicity I think of living with minimal inputs, closer to nature, low tech.
People seem to forget that our “modern” way of life has been very brief when you look at the history of humans over time. It is amazing and interesting to be alive during this area, but there’s no way to sustain it for the long haul.
I want to put forth the energy and the time to learn skills that should not have been forgotten in the first place. I don’t choose to learn chicken butchery because I think it’ll be as fun as a walk in the woods. I do it because it empowers me and it adds to my own ability to sustain myself and my family.
Voluntary Simplicity, to me, is living with technology and modern life in a way that is fulfilling, not all encompassing. To be thankful and grateful for all that the modern world can do for us but to still be able to put up your own food, whether you choose to or not.
I’m not sure exactly how that has anything to do with people who can’t understand why we need taxes for roads and fire departments, but I guess everyone is allowed to have their own opinions.
(The course is through Northwest Earth Institute if you want to check it out.)
We have had back-to-back evenings filled with government and history this week, and it’s only Thursday.
Monday we went to our friends’ farm for Guy Fawke’s Night (also called Bonfire Night). Our friend is English and so is one of our neighbors. I rode up with our neighbors and there was another English couple at the party too.
Jack and I talked about effigies earlier in the day and made some of our own. We talked about who Guy Fawkes was and about plotting against a government. Then we talked about what it means to be drawn and quartered and that when a person was quartered their body parts were brought to the four corners of the country. Pretty gruesome but interesting nonetheless.
Tuesday was the election and we discussed how only white men could vote originally. He was confused and asked why I wouldn’t have been able to vote. I told him that among other things, they thought women weren’t smart enough to be able to have that responsibility.
Then he looked at me and said, “People used to be mean.” I asked what he was talking about and he said, “Well they used to cut people up and not let people vote.” I informed him that in many places people are still very mean, and that many people still can’t vote in other countries. Pretty mean indeed.
Then I stayed up until quarter after two to hear all the speeches after the election. The results of this election gave me hope that we are all becoming less mean. There are more women in elected office now, people who had said horrific things about women were voted down, an openly gay Senator was elected, and several states let voters choose if homosexuals had the same rights to get married as heterosexuals…and those voters said, “yes.”
There is a long, long road before us, but I feel like progress is being made.
I’m just glad I have a kid who knows when it’s a proper time of year to eat tomatoes, that homemade bread tastes better than store bought, and that being mean isn’t right. Yep, I call that progress.
Today is Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. I enjoy celebrating this as it reminds me of growing up in the Southwest. I’ve always loved Mexican folk art as well, and really love the ideas behind this holiday.
Jack and I made Pan de Muerto last night, which you leave out with other goodies for the spirits who come to visit, on this day when the veil between our world and theirs is lifted. It’s filled with orange and anise, a little sweet and a little bitter, just like life.
On top you can make a skull and bones as well, and that was Jack’s job this year. He made a pretty awesome skull, although the little bones sort of slid down the sides as it baked. It’s still delicious!
We also left out pumpkin tea, Mexican chocolate spice cookies, Jack made a special bowl of his leftover Halloween candy (he even unwrapped them so the “good spirits” specifically could get at the sweetness), he also put out coins and I added a squash, some candles, the sugar skulls Jack made in art class, and this cool little Our Lady of Guadalupe light I got ages ago in Phoenix.
This year I was especially glad we did this. Chris and I both lost old friends who were very young and died suddenly. Just this week a good friend of our family passed away as well. In some odd way it comforts me to place these ofrendas out for them. It makes me feel like the distance is less, like those spirits still walk among us.
Even if those spirits are really just memories, I’ll take it.
Today is my most favorite day of the year! I’m about to get ready and get into costume (yes I dress up and I try to spend most of the day dressed up as well!) and then we will be heading to Chipotle for $2 “booritos” and then to Jillian’s for some trick or treating.
I wanted to do something creative this year that involved nature. Last year we made bats and spiders out of construction paper and black paper plates. They are cute and we put them out again this year.
I decided we would make a pentacle wreath both as a nod to Mother Nature and as a protection charm for the house. I plan to keep it up until it’s too darn cold, and then I’ll move it to our interior door. The neighbors probably think we are weird already, now I’m sure they will think we worship the devil.
We got everything at a craft store and put it together this morning. It was really simple and I think it came out nicely.
I explained to Jack about the history of Samhain and how it’s changed to Halloween over time. This is a holiday that seems more relevant in my life now more than ever. Since much of my life revolves around growing seasons, it seems very fitting that this is the end of the year.
In two days we will celebrate Dia de los Muertos with some sweet bread and an altar in the kitchen.
Now we march into the darkness. Onward to Winter Solstice!
After my summer long hiatus from blogging I wanted to write about happy things like the fun stuff we did this summer and what we are up to now. But I’m not. I’m going to write about our current weather.
We are now in the middle of Hurricane Sandy. Last year we went through Hurricane Irene followed quickly by Tropical Storm Lee. Irene and Lee were supposed to be “hundred year storms.” We didn’t even get 5 years; we only got 14 months.
We are fine, thankfully. Shockingly we haven’t even lost power for more than 5 minutes. Jack and I watched some cartoons and drank apple cider.
But I’m upset and I’m worried. I worry that we’ve really pushed the Earth too far. I feel like we are beyond a point of stopping a decline, and at this point we can only mitigate how bad it will get.
I don’t know how you raise a kid to not be greedy, to care about things like not littering or leaving all the lights on, and then the people who can really make a big impact put money above all else.
Don’t these people have kids or grandkids of their own? You can’t pay off Mother Nature, it’s not how it works.
Right now many of my friends are in lower NYC without power. Other friends’ parents are in places with flooding or near blizzards. Wind is whipping around my house. My bees could be in trouble and I won’t know it for another day and a half.
After last year I was so heartbroken with the devastation to local farms and farming towns. Every time a customer asked us for squash or sweet potatoes my heart sunk. I don’t want to live through that again.
Here’s a transcript of Bill McKibben on Democracy Now talking about climate change and Hurricane Sandy. It’s an interesting read. I just hope we still have time and that people are willing to make things better.
I don’t want to live through another Irene or Sandy. Ever.
*Update: I wrote the original text on Monday night, while the storm was still over our area. As of noon on Tuesday my bees appear fine and they were out working. We are only experiencing some wind here. I wasn’t expecting to get to them until Wednesday because the weather forecast still looked bad. We are so very lucky. The five borough area is a mess though. It seems as if my friends are fine but I know many people and buildings are not.