Present Tense

On Food: A Manifesto

gardenIn a sure sign that spring will eventually arrive, I received an email and order form from a local farmer that we buy beef from. Time to order for the fall harvest. I sent in my deposit and I’m in for a side of his locally produced beef.

Food. We all need it. We all eat it. It seems to me that many of us spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about it. I know I do. Not in the way you might think; I’m sort of obsessed about our food chain. I believe that our food is the biggest cause of disease and ill health in the U.S. I’m not alone. You can do your own research.

Start with the movie “Food, Inc”  or “Fed Up” and many others that you can watch for free on Netflix and Amazon Prime, etc. Maybe you’ll climb on my bandwagon after doing a little research.

One of the reasons that I wanted to move to northern Michigan was because it’s a foodie heaven. Tons of locally grown produce, fruit, meats, cheese, honey, maple syrup and on and on. Almost anything you need for sustenance is grown and produced here. Much of it organic or chemical-free. There are so many farm stands in the summer and fall, that I constantly carry $1 bills so that I can stop and buy great food.

We also grow our own food. We have a garden, an orchard with 30 apple trees, wild blackberries and raspberries, a huge asparagus patch and now my husband has resumed his hobby of beekeeping.

We buy our beef, poultry, fish, lamb and eggs from locals. We see how those animals are raised; outside, foraging with plenty of room. They are healthy and strong and I’m mostly convinced that they have pretty good lives. I’m still considering cutting animals out of my diet, but as long as I can get the protein that’s raised in this way, I’m at peace with eating them. My moral and humane apple cart is not upset.

Now, I understand that we are blessed to live in a place where this is possible. But, then again, we chose this place for that reason, so it’s not luck; it’s planning and foresight.  Most everyone can find a supply of organic or humanely raised meat no matter where you live, if you take the time.

My husband and I still argue about organic vs. conventionally grown food and I tend to choose organic and items that are labeled as non-GMO. Obviously for health, but also because the mega-food industry pisses me off so much.

It’s my personal, activist protest against the way that our food is grown and produced, with so many chemicals and toxins and mostly, the way that these huge companies will NOT allow accurate labeling. The movement to force them to label GMO products has been crushed under corporate money and lobbying and again, that pisses me off.

We should be able to accurately assess what we are buying and eating. We cannot and that’s why I spend a lot of time procuring, growing and preserving the food that is consumed in our house.

The way that animals are grown and harvested for mass consumption is evil and immoral. They are caged, force fed, kept in the dark and shot full of hormones and anti-biotics to produce more meat, more quickly. Then, they are slaughtered in ways that give me nightmares.

In my airy-fairy belief system, I think that when animals are treated this way, negative and violent energy remains in their flesh, meaning that when it is consumed, that bad mojo then transfers to the eater.  Crazy?  Hey, we’re all energy; we exchange good and bad energy all day, every day.  Violence begets violence.  That’s probably a whole other post, though.

I understand that we need food and I understand that we want inexpensive food and that is the problem. Cost. We are not willing to spend a little more for a superior and more moral product. Even though food is the very foundation of our health and well-being, we’d rather spend that money on more data for our phones.

So, this is my manifesto on food. Meat that is labeled “all natural” at a fancy supermarket is not organic or humanely raised. That label means nothing, other than to make you feel better. Educate yourself, commit to spending a little more and eating a little less. Give up the processed crap. Read any of Michael Pollan’s books on food. Don’t just give up and consume environmental toxins because it’s easy and convenient. This kind of apathy is making us fat and sick. That’s not what the creator intended.

Stake out a little area in your lawn and grow something that you can eat.  Quit spending time and money on useless grass and the care and the toxic sprays that keep it green.  It’s not that hard to care for a small garden and you’ll be part of the solution.  I also suspect you’ll feel pretty damned good when you harvest that first healthy salad that you grew. We rely too much on others for our personal care and feeding.  Take back some control and feed your body, soul and spirit with your own hands.

Be well. As Michael Pollan says: “Eat real food; mostly plants”.

February 22, 2015 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Re-assembling My Soul

meLooking back on your life can be a surreal exercise. I believe that even though we retain the same name and biography, we are not the same person from day to day, let alone decade to decade.

The ‘me’ of 20 years ago is not the same ‘me’ of today. Biologically, not one cell in my body is the same; they’ve all been replaced many times over. My day to day and minute to minute experiences have altered my outlook, behavior and reactions. My friends and co-workers and geography have changed. The things that interest me or take up my time are radically different and so how are we the same person throughout our lifetime?

My husband and I argue about this all the time. He looks at life as more of a long progression or a movie, whereas I see it as a bunch of snapshots or more of a photo album. When I look back, I see it as chunks of time that I often no longer relate to. Even if that chunk was in the recent past.

I’ve been struggling with our move from Colorado to Michigan over the past year and a half. I was drawn back to my home state for reasons that I could not explain at the time. Something compelled me to move back to a state  I hadn’t lived in for over 30 years. I didn’t question it, I just did it.

All was well for the most part, until a few devastating things happened, including the death of my dog and then, the sudden death of my 93 year-old father. Those two incidents made the already difficult transition of moving across the country, much more challenging. I longed for our life in Colorado, where Chili was still alive and my sweet daddy was a phone call away. I found myself pulling that ‘photo album’ off my mind’s shelf all of the time.

It didn’t help that my job was still in Colorado, so I was constantly reminded of what I was missing. I spoke to Denver every day on the radio and flew back for work fairly frequently. It was hard straddling two lives, while I was grieving so much. That’s one of the reasons I chose not to renew my contract when it expired last year. I had to live in one place and accept that my life was now on a beautiful 10-acre farm in northern Michigan.

So, I talked my husband into a ski trip to our former neighborhood. As we drove up Berthoud Pass into Fraser, Colorado, it felt as if I had never left. My exact quote was: “I feel like the last year and a half has been a dream and now I’m waking up to reality”. That’s how much I loved that segment of my life.

I’ve kept in contact with the folks who bought our house and we were able to pop in and spend some time visiting with them and my beloved house. She has offered to let us stay there when we visit, but I just wasn’t sure that I could handle that. Too hard. But, visiting with her and ‘my’ house was the most important part of the trip. That house is loved and cared for and I felt a huge wave of peace as we left.  All is as it should be.

We skied in beautiful conditions; there is no place on earth that makes me happier than a ski mountain and so this trip was therapeutic in ways that I never imagined. We snowshoed through the beautiful meadow behind our former home and I was able to soak in the images and energy of the mountains that I love. My happy place. The place where I left part of my soul.

So, that leads me to my next theory. All of those ‘photo albums’ that I mentioned earlier contain bits of our soul. We leave pieces of it as we travel our path and I guess our goal is to somehow call them all back at some point; to reassemble our souls as best we can by letting go of regrets and anger and bitterness. By being grateful for the people, places and experiences that have either chipped at our soul or filled it. We are a constant work in progress and we morph and grow and shrink and evolve, depending on the state of our soul.

I am so grateful for my time in Colorado because I know that for me, it’s a magical place, even though it took leaving to make me fully aware of how much I love it. I’m grateful that I can come back and visit and feel its familiarity. I also know that there were some very difficult times while I lived there and I must honor those challenges as well. It wasn’t perfect; no place or time in our lives is.

But, my soul is fuller after this trip. That part of my life is past and I’ve accepted it and embraced it. So, my message to you is to find your happy places and go there. Often. Whether in your mind’s eye or physically. You’ll find little pieces of your soul there.  Call them all back; it’s what makes us whole again.

February 20, 2015 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Stream of consciousness….

natureI’ve got so many things on my mind right now that I’ve felt too scattered to try and write. In fact, I’m sitting here now, just typing and hoping that something materializes that makes sense.

I’m reading 3 or 4 books at once and all seem to focus around one message, despite their divergent authors and subject matter: get in touch with you.

You, meaning the natural, authentic, ancient you. I’m kind of obsessed with a theory that the ancient peoples of the world actually knew MORE than we modern humans. They lived directly on and with the earth their entire lives. They intimately understood the natural rhythms of the seasons, the eco-system and the energy that animates us.

I feel as if we are so separate from our roots in nature, that we have lost touch with the elements of life that keep us healthy, happy and human. Most of us embrace technology as something that has greatly enhanced our lives, but the more I think about it, the less I believe it. I think we are distracted, numb and out of touch with what animates us as living, breathing organisms. The natural world is where we came from and yet we’re destroying it in the name of growth, progress, and ‘better lives’.

Yes, I’m guilty. I have all of the modern conveniences, including a giant iPhone 6 Plus, that I obsessively carry with me at all times. I have a conflicted relationship with that frickin’ phone. It contains podcasts, music, meditations and various apps that I use for fairly healthy pursuits, but it’s the email and Facebook and texting that addicts me. Every time I spend more than 20 minutes Facebooking, I hate myself. It drains me; it often depletes the spiritual work that I’ve done that day, particularly if I get sucked into some stupid self-righteous argument. And yet…I go back to it.

So, what to do? I’m seriously considering dropping the Facebook page that many of you found this blog on, but then how do I publicize Present Tense? I enjoy writing the blog, but is it time to just completely retire from public communication? Do I write because I need constant validation? Is this merely my ego striving for attention?

Last week, I went out to dinner with some girl friends and out of the blue, they all told me to never stop writing the blog; they said it gave validation to many of the feelings and struggles they were having. Then, during another discussion about my astrological chart, I was told that I was here to communicate; to talk about and share my own spiritual quest and help others along the way. Okay. Blog will continue.

So, my next phase will include a lot of rumination on how we can go backwards as humans to a time when we were in tune with our world on a much more intimate level than we are right now. Some have never lost that connection, but most of us have. The ancient people who are responsible for much of our current spiritual roots, knew much more than we give them credit for.

There is a spirit in everything and we would do well to honor them all; the trees, the rocks, the flowers, the birds, the fish, the foods we eat, etc. Many of us have pets and we have no doubt that they have spirits; we know them intimately and believe that are connected to us. Extend that connection to everything around you, including other people, no matter how hostile or annoying. Everything and everyone has a spirit and our job as residents of earth is to honor every spirit.

This may mean disconnecting and going outside more often. Touch the actual earth, rather than concrete or asphalt. Eat REAL food, that was lovingly grown. Limit the chemicals in your house and on your body. Stop believing the ‘conventional wisdom’ that is usually disseminated to control your thoughts or gain power or money for someone. Listen to your body and nurture it. Begin some sort of meditation practice. Be introspective and honest with yourself. Above all, recognize that we are all connected; everyone and everything on this planet. Even those you fear and may not understand. Don’t hate. Dig deep and begin to love more.

January 30, 2015 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Be Fearless…And Save The World

I actually wrote this a couple of years ago, but not much has changed, sadly.  So I thought I would dig it out and re-publish, since it’s what has been on my mind of late.  The media and government-fed fear of EVERYTHING is  making us aggressive and hostile and bigoted.  We need to stop.  We need to tap into the better angels of our nature: love, compassion and most importantly, empathy.  So what if people laugh at you for being ‘too nice’ or ‘soft’ or a ‘bleeding heart’.  Seems like that would be a badge of honor; be different. Be the real, loving you.   That’s what God/creator/cosmic energy intended.                                                                                                                                                     fear-198933_640

We live in a time of fear.  Fear brought on by global events, national events,economic catastrophes, other viewpoints, other religions, no religion, health care, no health care…you name it, we’re scared of it.

Life has been chugging along on our big blue marble for thousands  of years for us humans.  And before we-of-the-huge-brains came along, things chugged along without us.  Why are we suddenly so freaked out by everything?

I have a few theories.  One is that we’ve seen such huge technological advances over the past century, that we tend to believe that technology can fix all that ails us.  We are so smart that we should have solved all of the problems by now and when it occurs to us that we haven’t and won’t, it’s kinda scary.  And frustrating.  One solution begets another round of problems.  We don’t like that.  We humans don’t have the control over our world that we’d like.

Despite our best efforts to eradicate pain, suffering, war and disease, the universe remains infinitely powerful and troublesome and that makes us nervous.  I also think that it may be the catalyst for so much of the religious fervor that is bubbling here in the U.S. and around the world.  If we can’t solve all of the problems, maybe a deity can.  Science has let us down, so let’s turn it over to God and go whole hog into religious zealotry. Screw science and technology.  Let’s demonize our fellow sinners, as a sacrifice for the gods.

I’ve been re-reading my favorite book on Buddhist teachings by Steve Hagen, a zen priest.  It’s called “Buddhism Plain and Simple”.  It’s my favorite because I tend to think that spiritual beliefs should be plain and simple.  Fear and unease is referred to in Buddhist philosophy as duhkha;  the concept is that we often feel uneasy about the world around us, particularly because much of life is out of our control.  Buddhists don’t believe that the lack of control is good or bad, but just “is”.  To overcome this feeling of unease or suffering or anxiety or duhkha, you accept reality as it is.  Simple.  The tired phrase, “it is what it is” was probably uttered by Buddha thousands of years ago.  A  Zen parable called “Maybe” illustrates this simply and succinctly.

The older I get, the less fearful I am.  When I was young, I was incredibly selfish.  I did what I wanted to, without weighing how I affected other people.  I’m not proud of that, but there was a nugget of fearlessness in my behavior, mostly due to the fact that when you’re young, you really do think you’re invincible and immortal.  Even though I look back and cringe at some of the things that I did that adversely affected others, I am grateful for my bravado.  I never would have had my radio career without it.  I was willing to take risks to achieve success and was humble enough to learn from my (many) mistakes.  Plus, when you’re young and starting out, you have nothing to lose.  I often say on my radio show that your 20s are your ‘mulligan’ or your do-over decade.  If you’re gonna screw up, do it then so that you’ve got plenty of time to regain your balance and momentum.

Now, my fearlessness comes from knowing that my fears are rarely realized in the ways I’ve imagined.  Obstacles get tossed into your path and you go over or around them.  The next day dawns and you move forward. You learn with time and age, that you’re stronger than you think you are.  I have recognized and begun to accept the concept of duhkha.  There is a lot of stuff that just isn’t within my control and wishing and hoping and praying ain’t gonna make it so.  Accept what you SEE and KNOW to be true and the fear begins to dissipate.  We all end up in the same place in the end.

Accept the inevitability of  life/death/time/change.  It’s amazing how clearly you begin to see.

Morbid? No.  Freeing?  Yes.  “It is what it is”, friends.

 

January 25, 2015 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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