A week ago, on Monday, kids and teenagers all over Canada went to school in the morning and returned home after school ended. All except one. Devan Bracci-Selvey, a 14-year-old from Hamilton, was stabbed and killed during school hours, behind the high school he attended. His mother was with him. Can you imagine? I cannot. Ever.
I had to look twice to make sure; OK, three times. It was
snowing. The wind had been blowing since yesterday when it was 18 degrees
Celsius in late afternoon. All degrees but four got scattered by bedtime. We
lost two more overnight.
Today at noon we got snowflakes. A first this time of the
year by everyone’s account. Dog and I took a walk in that swirling mad
snowflake dance and I realized this sad fact: first snow always had my heart
flutter with joy. Always. Today, this year, the flutter is missing and instead
I feel sad and worried. The world is changing and I do not care about making
yet another point about climate change (yes, it is real, and yes, I am shaking
my head knowing it is still debated; seriously!). But.
When I returned home from walking the dog that morning my youngest was still at home. Enthusiastic grade 8 student that he is, skipping was out of the question. He had walked to school as usual and was told to go back home by the vice principal. There was a police car in the alley, my son said, blocking access to the school entrance.
Two days ago, I read a thought-provoking
article about the strategy (or one of them) that Dr. Seuss used to create his
work. He was challenged (it was a $50 bet in fact) to write a kids’ book using only
50 words that a grade 1 student would understand and handle with ease. Green
Eggs and Ham was born and if you haven’t read it yet, please do today
because that it will make your day, and beyond. It has rhyme, reason (obviously)
and quirkiness galore.
When the boys were little, we collected and read as much Dr.
Seuss as we could. Quirky and funny and rolling off the tongue is the
recipe for what children like in a book and parents can read many, many times
over without wanting to tear their hair out of sheer boredom. Not with Dr.
Seuss’s books. A healthy side-effect: They incited the boys to want to read by
themselves. Just to have that silly rumble of words come out of their mouths
instead of mine.
Full disclosure: I am still (stuck) in transition. It’s been
almost five years of homeschooling and now it’s all in past tense. I miss the
boys, their pitter patter around the house and the whole bouquet of adventures
collectively known as learning at home. Rainy days make it a bit more evident.
Maybe it’s the strong smell of wet sagebrush. Or the Saskatoon leaves turning.
Yes, it is fall, and the house is silent. A different
reality for me, and a much bigger space that I find myself in. It’s not an
empty nest, really, but a half-day empty nest. For the last two years it’s been
Sasha and I; and the dog, of course. And lots of music; early morning guitar
and afternoon piano.
It is an interesting case of ‘better than smoking’ that has been adopted by many. Vaping, they said, does not present the same risks as cigarettes do. That many e-cigarette brands are developed, and owned, by tobacco giants…well, that’s a tell-tale like no other.
My hands smell of basil and tomatoes. I just picked the first four Roma San Marzano tomatoes from our new garden. It’s all heirloom veggies this year. They are plump and red and pushing into the thick stem with a force that leaves grooves on their sides.
The basket is half-full of potatoes; they’ll be dinner and lunches. The potato berries are hanging bright green, round and tempting (do not, for they are toxic!) as I let my hands crawl deep in the dirt where the yellow and red tubers are. It’s pure reverence, seeking food and then cooking it. The simplicity of a meal cooked from the food you grow, no matter how small the crop… there is a mark left on your heart. It fills you up.
I pick a green taut pepper and fill my hands with more basil;
purple. For a moment, I indulge in remembering my Dad’s hands handing me
tomatoes and carrots to taste; the smell of summer nights when the sun drips
honey-coloured warmth all over the horizon and the garden delivers promises; my
Mom’s delicious light summer meals. Everything else peels off for a few brief
moments and the plenitude of now is beyond rewarding.
I was to write a post about sugar and its ill presence,
about candy bars that are wickedly awaiting by the checkout tills now in bigger
packages. OK, maybe they have been around for a while and I just noticed them.
Thanks to my Mom and that garden magic that started with strawberries, pears
and red currants in the morning and ended with tomatoes and carrots and herbs
of all kinds in the evening, I have a missing sweet tooth. But I did notice the
bars this time. They were big and indecent.
The stats on obesity in North America (and beyond) are grim. 1 in 3 adults in Canada are obese and may require medical assistance to manage the symptoms. The many adverse health effects that obesity causes are daunting to think about. High blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular problems, arthritis, sleep apnea. Childhood obesity has tripled in the last 30 years though some recent study pointed out to a mild decrease between 2004 and 2014 (I believe mild cannot be a pacifier for the sizeable problem that childhood obesity has become.)
Where are we now? People indulge and lament at the same
time, they eat and overeat because sugar does that to you. Portions grow, processed
foods abound and sugar finds its way into almost everything…Sugar was never a
true need but has become a want of gargantuan proportions. Meanwhile…the good
food grows too. If we want it. In gardens, in pots, in farms from which we buy
at the market…
Food we ferment so the good bugs in it can help our microbiome (the bacteria we carry inside and, on our bodies, a camaraderie that keeps us healthy.) I am experimenting with a new sourdough starter just for fun while a loaf is resting in the fridge for tomorrow’s baking. By the window there are summer pickles and pickled turnips (I know what you might think, but they really are so tasty!).
Hippocrates said that food should be our medicine. And yet… so much of it has become our enemy. Food is never supposed to make one sick; real food that is. Or obese. You eat as your body requires, you move and you celebrate both. Being alive comes with a need to eat, yes, but we need to rewrite the terms. Actually no… we need to remember them.
One tomato bite at a time. Or beans if you prefer. Or a new
potato, cooked to perfection. This kind of indulgency never comes with fear,
but with gratefulness.