Vol 13, Num 9 :: 2014.05.02 — 2014.05.15
Dear City of Angels and fallen angels, races and classes, celebrity fame,
glamorous beaches, suntanned beauties, media, stardom and pride —
You have not seen the beauty
of the purple kohlrabi, the magenta shoot of Swiss chard,
the chocolate tomato with its olive green veins
or the zebra tomato at the end of August.
You do not know the joy of getting your hands in the dirt,
rooting up vegetables, plucking leaves,
filling baskets with the earth’s treasures,
choosing dinner from what the garden produces,
instead of your latest craving for grease and salt.
You cannot imagine the grains your country hides from you —
quinoa, chia, a hundred types of rice, lentils by the dozens, more than wheat
baked goods from the oven instead of silver and blue packaging,
whole carrots with stems instead of manufactured baby ones.
You have not met the farmer who collects your milk for glass bottles,
who wakes up early to milk the cow whose cream you will put
in your coffee; in fact,
there may be no farmer on a stool at all,
and there are probably no glass bottles.
You cannot imagine jumping into a dumpster to rescue
vegetables, cheese, bread, roses from the landfill,
restoring them to dignity on the long tablecloth.
Why, you ask, should I drink water from a jar that yesterday held jam
or peanut butter? You cannot see
the beauty of the mason jar, the magnified stems of flowers,
the pomegranate seeds that rest like jewels at its base.
You have not threaded a needle,
run it through colorful fabric,
looped it through buttons and beads,
pulled into a crisp tight knot.
You have not made fruit leather or raisins in the food dehydrator,
pesto or hummus in the food processor,
butter in a mason jar,
ice cream, or bread.
You cannot see the beauty in the rich yellow yolk
of an egg that is brown, not white.
Oh my beautiful city, are you such a queen
that the world must do everything for you?
Make your clothes, make your food, grow your food, take your trash,
nothing a little piece of plastic can’t resolve,
and plastic is disposable too, invisible
once it’s carried off to the landfill.
Are you so independent that you don’t need your neighbors,
don’t converse with them in the driveway
or invite them to dinner?
You do not even see them out mowing the lawn — your perfect, lush, verdant, over-watered, square lawn
that you take such pride in,
for you do not maintain it yourself.
You have not tasted the humility
of kneeling on the dirty floor,
scrubbing the scum from the shower or toilet — no,
there is someone else to clean up your grime as well.
And you will never have to look at it; you
can go on living a superior, polished, independent, efficient, disposable life.
Because efficiency will make you happy, won’t it? There is value in speed and transience and lack of commitment, no?
But you find silence awkward
and contemplation a waste.
Have you never let yourself dwell in a moment
and just be,
still as a blanket of snow?
No, I suppose you have not seen the way nature slows and darkens
with the rhythms of the seasons,
the way everything must pause and look up at the white moon in awe.
You cannot hear the snow tapping softly on the windowpane
or the melody of the rain in its season.
And you pride yourself in this, for rain is a nuisance.
But have you never beheld the strong, stiff stem of a tulip
rising through the cold spring soil?
Growth is gradual, and change takes time.
You cannot appreciate the swaying of the winter fire,
the stability of the hearth,
the stillness of a body at rest under a woolen blanket.
You cannot dwell in the beauty of silence;
you fear even your own thoughts may fail or frighten you.
So you do not pause to think
as you speak;
you cannot let silence be connection enough between two bodies;
You have forgotten
how to carve out s p a c e.
Slow living is laughable to you.
Go on, then. Go to work. Work too hard to be present when you come home.
Sleep too little to be present when you go to work.
Is this what you call living? It is efficient, it is worthwhile because you are accomplishing something;
But is it meaningful? Is life rich?
You may have money,
but money is not happiness. And you do not need money
to grow a garden, knead dough, sew fabric,
or find treasures in the dumpster.
My dear home, when you grow weary
when life is spinning too fast and you lose sight of all purpose
and you fall to your knees on the floor,
know that I too
am falling to my knees
on a carpet in a cold room in Michigan.
I am falling to my knees because I miss you;
because my heart breaks for you and some days
I want to come back to you, to the happy dream we were living,
because life is hard and we long for the simplicity of childhood, those of us who were fortunate enough to have good ones.
I too grow weary and question my motives,
but life is not meaningless
and I will be okay.
Because my identity is not in the work that I do
and school and grades and paychecks are not everything.
And when I do fall to my knees and weep,
I will get up again.
I will walk into the warm light of the living room and sit on the couch and just be
with those who love me.
My dear independent, glamorous city,
we cannot make it on our own.
and we will not always be okay.
But when harsh winds come,
what seeds have you planted to get you through winter?
And where have you placed your roots?