The Wishy-Washy Writer (and kindness to all)

This is the story of a wishy-washy writer (therefore all her business is out there confusing the world) and her battles with what is right, and what makes us well, and what serves the most people and animals, yet finding what is beneficial to us (because if we aren’t happy then we can’t inspire others).

This is the story of a wishy-washy writer who was vegetarian for twenty-seven years, vegan for two, then on-and-off again meat eater-then-vegan since. It is about this time each year that I become fiercely ill. My body absolutely rebels against its half a year of animal products. One year it felt like I had a hole in my stomach. One year the gout was terrible. Then there was the chronic swelling of my lymph nodes for over a year. Then the intense stomach issues. This year I am on my third week of hives and stomach issues. Every year in my journal I write, “Next time I want to start eating meat again…read this!” But alas, we inevitably go on vacation, go to a friend’s house, read a book about being a locavore or the poisons of processed food and we are back to a freezer full of meat, pretending to be pioneers until I get sick again and neither of us are feeling so hot.

Every year, I frantically erase all of the posts from the six months before. When I am vegan, I erase the posts about raising animals for meat and recipes. When I am a meat eater, I erase all the animal sanctuary posts. Vegans (even the word, vegan) can sound annoying and frantic and extreme. I have inspired a lot of people to become vegan over the years and those folks are adamant and heartfelt in their work. I feel the same but then I think it may be so hypocritical. We simply cannot go through this life without causing death to other species. From petroleum use to clearing farm fields, every time you pop an Advil, or buy plastic, we aide in the death of others.

It is easier to just consume animal products. Then you don’t have to be the annoying one at the holiday dinner or the irritated one at a restaurant. You don’t have to get creative trying to make goat cheese out of almonds. I want goats. I don’t necessarily look forward to milking. And in my heart I know that taking the baby away and then sending it to slaughter if it is a boy, and drinking the milk after my own mother’s breast milk has many decades past dried up, is probably weird, if not wrong, and probably not that healthy. I don’t know y’all. Does anyone else have these dilemmas constantly bantering in their heads and hearts?

After I get sick each year, after I take on a plant based diet again, I always get better. Every ailment that ails me heals itself on a plant-based diet. Every time I have meat on my plate, I have less room for antioxidant-rich grains, vegetables, proteins, and fruit. Can you be a locavore and eat a plant-based diet? (And if we are honest, are any of us really eating that local?)

Here is the thing, I don’t even like the feeling of eating gooey, greasy cheese and I don’t even like meat! But it is so easy in our society. On this farm, am I really going to look in the eyes of an infant or old farm animal and decide they are going to die? I don’t think it is right to kill elephants or horses or cats for food….in other places it is acceptable….why do I think some animals are just destined for the plate? I could never look in the eyes of a moose or or deer and pull the trigger to end its beautiful life. I don’t know. These are real battles in my heart and mind and the way a writer delves into those recesses of questioning is to write.

I wonder how many people have chronic illnesses that can be blamed on their food choices, but because it is so hard to change them in our society, they will never make that change or get well.

And wouldn’t I rather be an example of kindness to all?

(If you leave a comment, please make sure it is respectful. There are probably no right or wrong answers here!)

IKIGAI; What is Your Purpose?

I read the most beautiful book this week.  It has helped me get my groove back.

I had decided last year as my business was failing that I would go back to school to be a chef (but it is hard to be a chef when you don’t use animal products and the busy catering description gave me anxiety).  So then I thought teaching.  I love teaching!  “What would you teach?” everyone asked.  Oh…anything.  Then I got the bill for the first semester and promptly dropped all classes.  I would be retired before I could pay off that degree.  I look around and I love and am fascinated by so much.  My friend is a surgical tech.  That sounds cool!  My friends are nurses.  I was a candy striper in high school.  I wanted to be a nurse.  I could maybe work somewhere or do something.  Anything.  But, I know my pattern.  I go get a job, become overwhelmed, am shocked at the measly paycheck, am behind on dishes for weeks, and then quit.  I am better at being an entrepreneur.  But that failed.  Again.  Last year.  And that is when I went off kilter.  I lost my purpose.  I was no longer a full time herbalist.  No longer a shop keeper.  No longer healing baby calves around the county that were sick because they just got picked up from auction.  Heck, I am not even in the country anymore.

And then my beloved aunt and grandma passed away, I became sick, I think my dear friend, Steve, in California killed himself, and I have been listless and depressed.  Which is not like me.  And something had to give.

It is amazing how a book can change your life.  So many books, so much literature, has changed my life.  And this week, this book, I am so grateful for.  I realized that everything I feel is stemmed from my losing my purpose.

IKIGAI; the Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles is a beautifully written and researched tome.  The authors delve into the science and stories behind longevity and happiness, primarily in Japan, where the most super centenarians reside (over 100 years old).  What do they do?  What do they eat?  What are their days like?  I adore research and am very interested in the longevity studies and other cultures.  They touch on diet (tons of fresh vegetables, soy, and fish), social networks (lots of valued friends, social get-togethers, small amount of alcohol daily), spiritual health (honoring all of the spirits and their ancestors), and exercise (they move, not more strenuously, but all the time, biking and walking everywhere).  But the main thing that keeps these folks so alive and well is purpose.  Their IKIGAI.  If they know what that is, they have reason to get up every morning.

What is it that makes you spring out of bed in the morning?  What would you do even without pay?  What is your passion?  What could you talk about without hesitation?  What do you do naturally?  My aunt gave me this picture for Christmas.  I guess she knew.

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I am a writer.  I never have to think about writing this blog.  In fact, it bothers me to take days off but I want to make sure y’all can catch up!  I love writing; books, poetry, articles, snippets of thoughts…I am a writer.  It is my IKIGAI.  I get a modest payment every month from Amazon and the local museum that carries my books.  It won’t support us, but that doesn’t matter.  I am also a gardener, a farmer, a lover of animals.  I need a greenhouse.  I need to be around plants, and I need to grow my own food, and I need to be around animals.  Sanctuary.

After reading this lovely little book I realized that I do not need to have any new degrees, careers, or paths.   I am on it.  If I write every day.  If I take care of my chickens.  If I get into the garden.  I will be okay.  That is my IKIGAI.  And with that knowledge, I am free.  I have purpose.  What is your IKIGAI?

Read it!  It is a lovely book.

To Grow and Forage One’s Own Food

home 4Soon.  Soon now the dark greens of earth will peek through the moistened soil and seek the sun.  Dandelions will unexpectedly be dancing through the grasses.  The mulberries, black and velvet, will stain my fingers as I gather them.  Perhaps the squirrels will leave some walnuts for me.  And this is the year for the plum tree to fruit.

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To forage for food gives a great satisfaction to the spirit but to forage amongst one’s own gardens and land is spectacular.  I can already taste the cleansing lamb’s quarters, the tangy purslane, the scrumptious dandelions interspersed with sweet butter lettuce fresh from the garden.  Just dressed with good olive oil and sea salt, the tastes of spring come forth and fill my body with nutrients after winter’s rest.  Soon.  Soon now.

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I am reading a beautiful book called, “A Year in the Village of Eternity” by Tracey Lawson.  It takes place in Italy, in the village of Campodimele, one of the Blue Zones, where the most active and healthy elders live.

Cibo genuino. Real Food.  Roba nostra.  Our own things.  I let the many Italian words roll off my tongue and take their lessons.  Real food.  Our own things.  Grow an orto, a garden.  In this village they forage or grow nearly everything they consume.  Is it possible?  Last year on our own little third of an acre in town, in soil fit for a driveway, we grew all of our own produce for the summer.  Our first season here with little time or money.  Now we have eggs from our chickens.  We have planted many fruit and nut trees (if I can just keep the puppy from thinking they are sticks to play with!), we are recognizing more and more wild foods, and are growing many more vegetables this year in better soil.  Contadino.  Farmer or gardener who produces their own food.

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I cannot wait to feel the soil in my fingers.  Soon.  Soon.  The season comes earlier where we live now and in three short weeks I will be folding spring crops into the cool ground.  What preserves shall we do this year?  I imagine lilac and lavender jam, stewed tomatoes, crisp fire roasted corn.  We are enjoying our larder these winter months.

To live like this is to be ready at all times, for what you seek or what you want to “put up” may not be there tomorrow.  Herbs must be harvested when ready.  Fruit may be eaten by birds at dawn.  Piles of corn need shucking.  Ah, but I enjoy the work.  I love our evening walks after dinner in the sunlight.  I love the sound of water covering plants and the crisp sound of the pea pod being opened.  Ogni cosa ha il sua momento.  Everything has its moment.

For now I have winter preserving to do so that it is done once the busy season starts.  In my cucina this week dozens and dozens of jars of beans will be put up.  Vegetable broth too.  I still have beans from the garden to shell.  I will check on my vinegars and my kombucha.  I have been resting and a tad neglectful.  But now as each day falls closer to spring, I awaken, don my apron, and get to work.  In campagna, c’ e sempre da fare! In the countryside (or city as the case may be) there is always something to do!