I admit to some shame after my last post in which I wrote of the blissy aspects of this bizarro time, as I experience it. Of course I have also shared heavier stuff in previous posts. I experience the gamut of emotions and I am open to all of them moving through me… and I want to live in the present and in my body (where all is well just now) as much as I can.

But the mind will have its say, and here’s what it said after that post: You are insensitive to go on about joy when so many are suffering. Last night we drove down the “main street” of our neighborhood last night and it was a ghost town. Seeing our sweet small businesses close up shop really hurts, especially knowing each such street all over town—all over the world—represents untold financial hardship for countless families.

Also, in the last few days I’ve had conversations with people who are closer to the economic impact of this worldwide shutdown. An urban farmer brought up his fears about the food supply, and whether he would be able to protect his crops if things went really bad. A friend in South Africa spoke of the immediate need all around her, with people going hungry right now as they live in a veritable police state.

Also: 2000 deaths each day in the U.S. alone. And no real plan or social cohesion to get through this ongoing crisis.

It’s frightening, sad, and angering to witness the leadership void at the top worsen the situation for regular folks (even while yes, I am glad for relief packages and stimulus checks).

Joy and worry, shame and gladness, fear and hope: I’m feeling “both/and.” These words from Daniel Foor really resonate:

I am concerned about expanded government abuse of power and I support the shelter-in-place directive right now.

I abhor the exploitative aspects of the global economic order and I am deeply concerned about it just falling apart.

I want systemic measures to truly address climate change and I feel uneasy about a rapid jarring halt on the ability to travel.

I am not afraid of death and I don’t want to die. OK, I’m a little afraid, but not so much. Mostly I love being alive here today.

I am open-minded and not inherently trusting of any source, and there are also facts and knowable things.

I want more nuance, play, and irreverence in the collective and also I want people to submit to facts and what is knowable.

I am truly gut-level worried about where we’re headed and also spacious, relaxed, and in touch with levity.

To quote a true American patriot,
“Do I contradict myself?
Very well then, I contradict myself.
I am large, I contain multitudes.”

– Walt Whitman

So, what to do with all this? (Surely there must be something to do, beyond airy-fairy being.)

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This creek holds raw sewage during heavy rainfall events. That concrete structure overflows with it. It’s the way our city designed the sewage system years ago, an unsustainable combined sewage overflow setup (which is being updated in recent years). I love this creek. Shit and beauty exist side by side. Love abides no matter what.

Unable to steer an entire culture or country, I return to the small ways I can have an impact. I create more space in myself to be more present to possibility. I come back to the guidance of my Wiser Self, as Ellen Meredith calls it, in contact with the big-big picture. I write things down in case they speak to someone else’s soul.

And in the practical arena, I’m giving in ways I can, since I feel amply supplied. In that giving, I don’t want shame to be my motivator any more than I want fear to take the driver’s seat. I want to give my courage and gratitude the space to lead, even as I realize that this attitude is itself a measure of my (largely unearned accident-of-fate) good fortune.

Gratitude: I’m grateful for a Zoom call with my family members last night, for belly laughs and shared concerns. Also grateful for a heritage of Mennonite thrift that helps me stretch resources, so there’s a sense of abundance, more to share, etc.

Tip of the Day: Speaking of Mennonite…It’s soup-stock-making day! I save veggie scraps like onion skins, carrot tops, mushroom stems and celery trimmings in a freezer bag. When it gets full, I make a pot of veggie stock. I add it to this recipe, but it would also work on its own to make a mineral-rich and tasty soup starter. Using up items that would ordinarily be immediately compost-bound makes me feel so smart and thrifty. (Bonus tip: don’t put anything too strong or bitter in your scrap bag, such as broccoli trimmings, and don’t put anything that looks questionable, like moldy onion skins.)

Resource of the Day: I usually send you to an online resource here. But in keeping with the last post’s theme of cutting back on screen time, how about considering inner resources, instead of outer? What are your special resilience superpowers? Maybe your sense of humor never quits (mine certainly does), or you always know how to bring comfort to a friend in need. Mine include the frugality mentioned above, but also a spiritual framework, a strong creative drive, and a willingness to turn toward whatever is passing through me.

If you’d like to post a comment about yours, I’d love to read it! We inspire each other.

Postcard from FoodCon

Friday’s FoodCon was a thrill. I haven’t heard the final tally of attendees, but there was a steady stream of bright-eyed folks. I met so many people with interesting stories about foraging (which, as I explained to one non-native English speaker, is like hunting, only for plants).

Swapping foraging stories with a foodcon attendee

Swapping foraging stories with a foodcon attendee

People spoke of making elderberry syrup for winter colds and congestion, of becoming more accustomed to the taste of bitter greens to the point of craving them, and of eating oxalis as kids.

One little girl said she likes to eat clover petals, which brought back my own flower-eating past: My friends and I used to pick the blooms off my dad’s tall phlox and suck the nectar, pretending it was a special elixir.

Most of my exhibit consisted of weeds picked that morning. All are available in the typical urban yard or garden. “If you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em,” was my line.

Trees are a source of unexpected nutrition too: Even seasoned foragers were surprised to learn that basswood tree leaves are great in salads.

Trees are a source of unexpected nutrition too: Even seasoned foragers were surprised to learn that basswood tree leaves are great in salads.

I told the uninitiated to start by topping a salad with the tangy, tender oxalis, which is prevalent in urban yards. Then see if, like me, they don’t get completely hooked on picking stuff from their yards to bring in to the dinner table.

Wet tablecloth

My tablecloth got all wet after an early gust of wind blew a few cups over. But it didn’t matter: check that wilty salad!

Japanese wineberries (at the right edge of the above photo) were the star of the show. Though one website calls this bramble fruit a “bio-bully” for being invasive, the berries are dazzling little gems that are sweeter than should be legal. (Last year I learned the identity of this mysterious bramble I’d found just as the buds were forming. I was anticipating some happy picking, then they perished in the drought. This year: bountiful harvest.)

Some were amazed that you can actually eat mulberries, asking incredulously, “What do you do with them?” while others were right there with me on the “nature’s candy” point.

A friend and I had biked around the neighborhood questing for these berries.

A friend and I had biked around the neighborhood questing for these berries.

Things I learned: There’s a “Poke Salad Annie” song, and you can eat milkweed flowers, and four hours of talking makes one hoarse.

The solar cooker got lots of interest too, though generally more as a novelty from what I could gather (my partner Judy fielded most of those questions, bless her).

As far as the other exhibitors, I was able to make a quick circuit late in the evening and talk to the folks from Wolf-Beach Farm, as well as friends at the “dumpster diving/dumpster dining” booth and the “making easy meals in 5 minutes” table. (These were all people I had referred to the organizer.)

I also found a couple standouts in the resilience arena. I’ll report on them in an upcoming post. Some great innovators there, helping people break their dependence on a shaky centralized food system that is wreaking havoc on both planetary and personal health.