Sunday, June 13, 2010

Deep in the heat of Texas

Summer is here in full force. We have humid, 90-degree days (although balmy compared to the 100+ weather of last summer) and the nights are not much cooler.

It is these temperatures that bring me closer to understanding my southern genes. The heat and humidity really take it out of me, and I find myself moving, talking, and even thinking much slowly. Suddenly things lose their urgency as I gravitate toward the porch or any piece of furniture under a ceiling fan where I can find a little air movement.

The easy ways of my grandparents and great aunts suddenly spring to mind. Those folks couldn’t be hurried into anything and the lazy way they framed their thoughts sometimes seemed alien to me. I’ve always been prone to rushing around and doing too much at once. The only time the pace slowed was when I spent time with the McCasland clan. It was from grandma that I learned to love chickens, corn bread, bacon fat, greens, and anything else she would let me help cook. Grandpa and I spent many hours sitting in the boat waiting for the crappy to bite on Emigrant Lake a tonic for an A-personality granddaughter prone to talk too much. It seems he never ran out of stories about Arkansas and I never tired of listening.

I think of Jack and Clemmy often now. I think I can understand them a little better and I wish they were both alive for me to tell them so. I’d like to tease Grandma and tell her how I relish greens and bacon. Grandpa would be urging me to drop a line into the Colorado River to see how big a bass I could pull in. I hear the crappie bite really well on lawn grubs I can hear him say. I would tell them about my lazy summer days and how now I can appreciate the phrase “come and sit a spell.” I would show them my garden and laugh as the drying pods on my black-eyed peas pop and crackle in the sun. We’d talk about the merits of the tomato varieties I’ve planted and wonder how much taller these sunflowers are going to get. We would sit in the chairs that Ed made out of fence boards, swat at the mosquitoes and admire the fireflies.

I could never imagine the life I lead now. I could never even conceive of slowing things down and actually enjoying the heat of the day. I had no idea that the south would ooze out of my pores like the gallons of sweat I didn’t know I could produce. I didn’t know I had a southerner in me. “I swan Sheri”, I can hear Grandpa say, “we knew it all the time.”

Sunday, June 6, 2010

If only things were different

Yesterday I ran across some news that struck me profoundly. The first was a picture of an oil-soaked bird in the Gulf of Mexico http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127482022. Then there was a post about an Prescott Arizona elementary school mural that is going to be “whitened” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/04/arizona-elementary-school-mural_n_601436.html. Last, a thought-provoking article in Mother Earth News discussing the morality of industrial agriculture (among other things) http://www.motherearthnews.com/nature-community/the-truth-about-vegetarianism.aspx

At first I became very sad and wondered how it could possibly be that we live in a world where such things happen, where people cap cop such attitudes. Why doesn’t somebody do something? Why don’t people see how wrong they are? Why are these mistakes made over and over?

Then my indignant and morally superior attitude hit me right back in the face. Want to change the world? Change yourself.

What these three articles have done is turn me completely inward to evaluate what role I have played in perpetuating a society that allows us to destroy ourselves and others without a backward glance. What is it about us that require one to be right and the other wrong? Why do we feel the need to bully each other or nature into submission? What genetically predisposes us to dominate, destroy, isolate, and control?

I think part of it has to do with our complete disengagement with community and family. We live an anonymous existence that allows us to write things on the Internet or hurl insults from a speeding car without any fear of retribution. We are free to air our hurts and hatreds, perhaps hoping that if we spew it from our bodies it will somehow heal us. Sort of like throwing trash on the ground; get rid of it and it’s no longer my problem. But it doesn’t heal, it doesn’t go away, it just gets worse.

I am not above all of this. I am part of the problem. These past years have not been fun for me and I now can see that the root of the problem has been inside me all along. The anger and viciousness I have hurled at others to express my dissatisfaction with life makes me no better than those people in Prescott. My assertion that other people have it easier than me and that I deserve better means I am just as greedy as BP oil trying to take shortcuts in order to make more money. My speechifying about my greater understanding of the food chain due to my agricultural background still sees me going to the grocery store for the bulk of my meals – despite what I claim to know.

Here is what I have learned. There is no Right. There is no One Way. There is only Me and what I do right Now. Want to change the world? Start right here, with me. Want people to treat me better? Start right here, with me. Think other people have it easier? I have a perfect example of an acquaintance that is wealthy and is one of the most miserable people I know. It’s better to be me with all my flaws and anemic bank accounts.

Here is what I am saying to myself. Live your life the best as you can with less. Grow as much of your own food as you can. Sew your own clothes or buy used. Drive less. Consume less – I mean, how many pairs of shoes do you need any way? Treat others with more kindness. Stop envying people you think have more. More is meaningless. Things don’t matter, they are just things. Stop trying to change other people; instead, be an example. Stop doing things that make you crazy. Stop hanging out with people that make you crazy. Seek a higher path instead of judging others.

Wishing things were different will not make it so, becoming different will. Change the world one smile, one more vegetable garden inspired, one less mile driven, one less object bought at a time.

This I can do. So can you.