The Fruit and Veggie Moment
(from my book Elderwoman: Reap the wisdom, feel the power, embrace the joy.)
back in the days before I had a garden. I belonged to an organic fruit and
vegetable co‑op. It was at the unfashionable end of a dusty city street. A
simple, unglamorous shop, with a cement floor and big wooden benches lined with
boxes of produce. Most of the staff were volunteers, who worked in return for
generous discounts. It felt good in there. Customers chatted and smiled,
weighing out their own produce and jotting down the prices themselves on little
pads of scratch paper with stubby pencils attached. There were a few recycled
bags. Many people, like me, brought baskets.
particular morning, I had walked out of the co‑op with a full basket and was
attaching it to the pack‑rack of my bicycle, when suddenly the sheer beauty of
that basketful of fruit and vegetables made me stop and stare. It was like a
piece of art. The dark green of the chard leaves and the bright yellow of the
tiny squash that nestled among them, the earthy promise of the mushrooms, the
translucent glow of the apples and carrots, all mixed together in the basket,
suddenly took on an aura of beauty that surpassed any painting I had ever seen.
Gifts of the field. How utterly beautiful they all looked, sitting there
together. A colorful cornucopia of nourishment. Remembering other places I had
lived, other ways I had shopped, remembering Styrofoam and shrink-wrap, plastic
bags inside plastic bags, I felt suddenly overwhelmed by emotion. It was as
though blessings were raining down upon my head. A golden, glowing moment of
realized in that moment, standing beside my bicycle, that living lightly is not
just about being kinder to the Earth and obediently doing the right thing,
ecologically. It is about pure pleasure. It is about stopping and noticing and
being aware, for it is through that very awareness that the delight begins to
flow. It came to me, right then, as I stood there smiling at my fruit and
vegetables, that for me to have to buy them at the supermarket would actually
be to deprive myself of something wonderful.
the organically grown produce cost me a little more, that’s true. But I did not
begrudge a cent of it, for the things I bought were fresh and alive and my
buying of them was an act of communion with the soil that bore them and the sun
that ripened them. It was, too, a vote of confidence in the people who work
that little bit harder in order to preserve the integrity of the soil and let
its millions of living organisms do their work as nature intended, free from
the threat of destruction by chemicals. I knew that the price I paid was the
true price, rather than an artificially low price achieved by the ruthless and
exploitative methods of large-scale agribusiness. Furthermore, the fruit and
vegetables on sale at the co-op were usually those locally in season. Waiting
until the Earth rolled around and conditions brought forth the right crops at
the right times helped me to stay in touch with the movement of the Earth and
the passage of the days. It seemed to me that so much in our modern lives
dislocates this sense of natural rhythm. Growing one's own vegetables, it is
easy and automatic to eat seasonally. But if you live in the city, surrounded
by a vast selection of food imported from every corner of the globe, the simple
joys of seasonality are soon lost. Nothing is special any more. The lazy
overabundance of the modern supermarket has an overall deadening effect; a
gradual lessening of awareness of the seasonal cycle and a dull boredom with
the sameness of plenty.
may also be bad for our health. In Oriental medicine, there is the notion that
the fruits of each season are appropriate nourishment for the body in that
particular season. The cool, wet watermelon that we rejoice in on the red hot
days of summer, if eaten in winter would chill the bones that call out for the
comfort of soup and the warming flush of chilies. It makes sense. Our earliest
ancestors lived in this way. It is how our bodies were designed to function.
For thousands of years, our ancestors grew their own food. And for millions of years before that, they foraged for it. Maybe this is why growing one's own food feels so satisfying. It is like a homecoming. It has certainly been one of the chief delights of my life. How good it tastes, my own produce in the cooking pot. Feeding my children on it was like giving them my own milk. Simplicity is not a strange or new concept. It is one of the oldest in existence. It is where we belong. Food we have grown, fruits and vegetables in season, the rhythms of Nature soothe and comfort. Alienated from those rhythms, we wander lost in the artificial world we never intended to make.
there were many messages for me, folded into that moment outside the co-op,
with one hand on my bicycle.
I love those special moments. When I have dozed off into mindlessness, they wake me up again, like alarm clocks, bringing new messages of wisdom. They recall me to aliveness, inviting me into wonderment and into the fullness of living. And they can happen any time. Even in the middle of the shopping.
Read about 'The Delphi Moment'
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