Sunday in the Park
July 22, 2011
As I removed the baby spring greens from bag to bowl, a few leaves fell on the kitchen floor. In the past I might have swept them away. On this occasion (the floor was clean, honest) I gingerly picked them up and thoughtfully placed them in my bowl. After all, I had been involved in the creation of those young tender leaves. I celebrated their existence and if they had been lost to weather or petulance of any kind, I would have shared in their loss.
Yes, this year I joined a CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) farm. Friends had done this for years. Ditto my adult kids. I, however, had so many reasons not to join. My schedule was too erratic (that’s still true). There was only one of me (that’s still true). Maybe I wouldn’t like the mix that came my way (that hasn’t happened yet). After some gentle nudges, I explored it this winter and found I could join in a modest way for my modest needs. I added the benefit of fresh flowers for a number of weeks as well.
You never know what will change your life. Make you more mindful. Appreciate the everyday. I have come to look at Fridays but not in the traditional, "oh boy the weekend is here" kinda way. Like many, I work in a piece of the service industry much of the summer and weekends are often still workweeks in my world. No, Friday means my drive out past the city limits, along a well-traveled by cars and bikes and strollers and brightly colored Nikes, country road. I turn down a country lane, into a parcel of land that could easily be mistaken for a national park. Lush trees and a gurgling creek and around the bend a sunk into the hillside greenhouse and the cleanest chicken coop you ever saw with spirited chickens laying colorful eggs. And off to the side, John Helton’s masterpiece Copper Moose, a reminder of the Moose on the Loose project, from years ago.
So far, early in the mountain growing season, I have been graced with spinach and arugula. Baby greens and garlic snapes (wild-looking herbs, rather Suessical in nature). Bouquets of baby carrots and fresh tarragon, mint and oregano. The flowers are deep purple lupines, heavy-headed white and bright pink peonies, and other wildish flowers I cannot name. You would not find these in most flower shops. Their bloom life is limited. The bouquet is meant to be loved for the week and then replaced. It follows a natural life cycle. Some weeks there are leftover loaves of bread from another related community share group. We can purchase fresh bread right in the greenhouse or extra flower bouquets if it has been an abundant week.
I have just been at this for about a month. It has changed my summer life.
What happens when you have invested in the harvest of this food is that you want to use it at its peak, unlike the plastic bag of lettuce you buy at the market and feel little or no connection to. Living in the mountains, where the growing season for anything is precious and short-lived, you appreciate the effort of creation. It would be nothing less than disrespectful and wasteful not to be mindful about the produce.
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"Mindful of the produce." Did that just sound as weird to read as it did to write?
Years ago I walked a piece (a very, very small piece) of The Camino in Spain. At the end of that trip, I spent a few days in Madrid, and then took a day trip up to Segovia. It was so beautiful that May, with the water running from the mountains in aquifers centuries old. In a tiny shop on a cobblestone street I found a beautiful hand-painted ceramic bowl in cheerful colors and, after moments of debate, I purchased it. Surrounded by soft hiking clothes, that (pricey for me) bowl made it home intact.
Like too many things, for too many years, I placed the bowl on a shelf and simply admired it and was reminded of the trip from time to time. But now, each week, the bowl and I have a bit of communion along with the fresh produce. What can I prepare that will be a one-dish meal in the bowl? It isn’t a begging bowl like the ones monks use to take into the streets once a day. Not exactly. But I do look to the arrival of my community share to determine at least one dinner.
Fresh tarragon on chicken? Fresh fish on fresh greens? Trying to recapture my grandmother’s hot spinach/bacon salad recipe from the recesses of my mind. At least one time a week I am mindful and grateful of what I eat. And joyful. It has already been a month of Sundays in the Park….
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the foundation that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.