When I started this 30-Day Writing Challenge with you, I was not expecting to do it during a quarantine. In fact, I’ve never experienced a quarantine in my whole life, so these 30 days really turned out to be something.
At the outset of the challenge, I thought I would learn a bit about barley and other grains. On a life level, I wasn’t planning to face more personal loss than I’d already faced at the opening of 2020. I could not have known, for instance, that I would lose two family members—one to stroke and respiratory failure, and one to Covid19.
As it went, the tail end of March right on through April turned out to be a cruel month indeed, with the quarantine being only part of the cruelty. (T.S. Eliot knew what he was talking about.)
In the midst of griefs, the world keeps turning. I do believe it is part of our creative spirit to express our sorrows. Laments and complaints have a hallowed place in the healing process. They are an expression of what we’ve held dear and what we’re so sad we no longer get to hold. They are a beginning.
My own mother, who was no stranger to sorrows, always knew how to help this kind of beginning not become an end. She would take us by the hand, sometimes literally, and walk us to a new place that contained the sorrows but introduced elements of possible joy. I remember long walks with her to pick wild strawberries, even as we faced difficulties in the home of a man who we now understand probably suffered from bipolar and wartime PTSD.
All change—whether it happens via sorrows or joys—brings some sense of loss, some worries for how things will go, and a lot of discoveries. These things are to be expected. The key is to remember to keep on walking, making our complaints when they arise, but then turning them into chances to create something unexpectedly beautiful, even inspiring.
Just yesterday, I had a minor “loss moment” when I discovered the tiniest bit of leftover crushed pineapple in the fridge. What a find! I added the pineapple, along with some coconut flakes, to my wild mustard, violet leaves, and dandelion medley. It was so tasty. “I’ll do this again soon,” I thought. Then I remembered: quarantine. There’s no more pineapple, and I’m not going to the store.
When I awoke this morning, my small sense of loss had refashioned itself into a challenge. I have dried pineapple somewhere in my pantry. Why not rescue it from non-use (it’s too sweet to eat straight up) and see about putting it in a fresh-greens medley tonight? It will not be quite the same as yesterday’s. But I am betting I can make it good. I’m going to try.
This brings me to what feels like the secret of making change work for instead of against us. It’s the pivot from “taking away” to “adding in.” So when it comes to the pineapple, for example, I’m thinking less about how the crushed version has been taken away and more about the intrigue of adding in the dried pineapple that’s been languishing in the pantry. Now I even have a mind to pick a little of the fresh mint that’s just making its appearance near the front steps, to lift the whole dish to a sense of bittersweet sparkly flavor.
And so it is, as we end our 30-Day Challenge, I tenderly wish this for you: a focus on what you are adding to your life and the life of others and the earth by trying a plant-rich food lifestyle. That, and the inspiration to take new journeys again and again, within that lifestyle. Barley is only a beginning. There’s pineapple and mint and more—just waiting for you to explore.
Look back at the last 29 days and choose a food or a topic that especially inspired you. Then make this the basis for the next 30 days, where you’ll devote yourself to exploring more deeply.
For instance, you might choose to make the next month “millet month” and try a new millet recipe once a week for four weeks in a row. Or, you might decide to go ethnic and add in a Chinese recipe, a Greek recipe, a Mexican recipe, and an Indian recipe over the next four weeks. Perhaps the idea of eating seasonally really captured you. You could decide to prepare at least one seasonal meal per week, for the next four weeks, with main ingredients that have been locally grown.
When you finish your 30 days, you can begin again with a new food or topic. The journey will go on, ever changing, ever inspiring. Capture it all in poems or journal entries, and eventually you’ll have a body of work you might find interesting to share with the world. We’ll be waiting to hear.
But for today, begin with a poem of decision, that features your next topic or food.
in boxes, bags,
the hard times
I promise to bring
your shy sweetness,
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