On July 26, Jessie Simpson will turn 24. That’s also the day when his mom hopes to have him at home for a few days, so he can enjoy the place he has not been able to see but in memory, fragmented as it is, due to the horrendous attack Jessie suffered in 2016 on the night of his graduation party.
Presently he is in the hospital, fighting his way out of a kidney infection that has him in pain and nauseous. Just a few weeks ago, he had yet another seizure which his mom witnessed.
So… speaking of balance, do you check the news often? More now than before? In my case, yes and yes (and then I wonder why balance went missing.) I get my topic for my columns through perusing news, more now than I used to three weeks ago (it feels like we’ve been stuck in this pandemic craziness for way longer, right?).
But… this morning my eyes fell on a headline that just about made me run the other way as fast as possible, which is fine I guess as long as I keep my distance. The headline contained the dreaded word we are now seeing everywhere (yes, I mean coronavirus,) but included scarier yet words which collectively read ‘second wave of.’
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.
Last week on Wednesday evening a 14-year-old lost his life to a suspected overdose. Carson Crimeni was alone as he struggled to stay alive, after being surrounded by a crowd of teenagers, some of whom filmed him and posted the video online. His grandfather found him in ‘very bad shape’ near Walnut Grove skate park in Langley. Carson was still breathing but died later that night in the hospital.
There are also rumours that was he was bullied into taking
the drugs by the same people who then documented the aftermath. His cell phone was
found in a nearby garbage can.
If you were to sit with us for dinner on any given night, you would be privy to a recurrent conversation that surfaces whenever social issues such as poverty, violation of human rights and modern-day slavery, refugee and climate change-caused disasters are brought to our attention via news, books or any other sources: why don’t wealthy people help more? And why do some choose to act in ways that take away from those who have little to begin with?
It’s disheartening to have to ask those questions.
It’s 7.02 and my alarm did not go off. How do I know this? Because of the coldish wet nose that is gently pushing down on the mattress near my own nose. Perhaps a molecule or two are exchanged in the process, that’s how fine her touch is. She knows that my weekdays start at 7am. On weekends we sleep in; she knows that too.
Make that magical feature number 1.
She seeks my gaze when I start dressing or even just reaching for a pair of socks. She looks into my soul and my soul warms up. ‘Can I come along?’ She almost always does. If the adventure is but grocery shopping, it’s togetherness she’s after. So am I. We listen to Nina Simone and Stan Rogers in the car and our eyes meet in the rear-view mirror every now and then. To never feel lonely; infinitive.
Magical feature number 2.
The other day we got ambushed by a coyote on the trails. Twice. The first time she barked her big dog bark, charged the coyote only so far, and then came to stand by me as we both scanned the hills. The second time around she chased it further but came back unharmed. She looked at me: we’re going home now. I listen every time. I learned that in the woods where it’s just the two of us (and the plethora of wild creatures stalking us!) and her nose and instincts always prevail. I am safe because of her; I never question her instinct.
That’s magical feature number 3. (Number 3 applies to people too. She sniffs out the strange ones and blocks their access to me. Go figure. I shrug and say hello but from a distance. As per my dog’s suggestion.)
She sleeps by my side of the bed and when I can’t fall asleep, I let my hand rest on her. Research says… everything calms down and I feel my thoughts tuck each other into imaginary beds… All’s peaceful again. Closeness. Gratefulness.
That’s magical feature number 4.
I signal our hiking trajectory wordlessly; I wave my hand and she gets it. I teach her the words for the things we meet on our hikes: snake, stick, cone, person, bird, puppy, plane (nope, we don’t fly but planes do and she looks up wondering what they are. Planes. So there.) I ask her if she is hungry on the way home and she licks her snout looking up at me. She knows people’s names. Her dog friends’ too. While I solemnly promise to never refer to her as ‘fur baby’, she knows me as Mama. Because the boys call me that. To be fair, we are raising each other, her and I. But yes, on paper I am the dog owner and the dog’s name is Poppy.
Today is her birthday. She turns 3! A pallid midday sun catches us playing soccer with a cone on a frozen beach. I kick the cone we found buried in sand, she runs to catch it and creates a mini sandstorm. Repeat. Repeat. Until. What? Already time to go? OK, once more.
We stop by the side of the frozen river. It’s quiet but for the hum of the city in the distance. I crouch down and she nestles into me. I kiss the side of her head and she closes her eyes gently. She sighs. I sigh. I’d change nothing; not her relentless bicycle chasing or occasional stubbornness. The car will be full of sand again. So what. Repeat. Forever.
Happy birthday, Poppy girl. May our snuggles and adventures never end.
Saturday morning started with a good amount of sunshine and blue skies. I hiked and took in the fresh air and the beautiful landscape, and spent some time remembering Cindy Ross Friedman, whom I got to meet for coffee and chats many times after moving to Kamloops and whose celebration of life service I was to attend later in the day. Gone too soon, she had a spark like no other.