The Fruit and Veggie Moment

(from my book Elderwoman: Reap the wisdom, feel the power, embrace the joy.)

Way 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. 

This 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 delight. 

I 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. 

Yes, 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. 

It 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.

So 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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Inner Simplicity

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