Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Divine Process

On Saturday I started reading a book that's been sitting on my "to read" shelf for several years; If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska by Heather Lende. It is a series of reprints from her social column for the local (Haines, AK) newspaper and a collection of new essays about her life and those around her. I'm only on page 73 but have already been laughing out loud, moved to tears (more than once), and saying, "hmm, that's fascinating," again and again. Now I must admit that part of my interest and connection with the book is due to the fact that I've actually been to some of the places she talks about. But aside from that, she is just telling good stories.

Today I was reading her essay entitled, "Domestic Goddesses," (p.59) which simultaneously shares her experiences with friends and other women in her community and her (largely) self-taught proficiencies in her somewhat subsistence lifestyle. She is very clear about the definitions for subsistence though, both the act of living from the surroundings in a sustainable way and "the quality of having timeless or abstract exsistence." She ends the essay by observing that "there is more than just a bit of the divine in food gathering and preparation. We are all domestic goddesses."

Although I think I'm far from a "domestic goddess," I have felt divine in the processes I've undertaken, the knowledge I've gained, and the knowledge that I was able to prepare and preserve so much food from right around here. And here I must throw in my own dictionary definition: "Divine (informal): extremely good, unusually lovely." I have felt that way about the results of our local food source challenge - even if I haven't always felt that way about the process itself.

When people ask us now how our local eating project is going (an especially popular question now that winter is setting in in Northern Illinois), it's fun to say that it's working, we're eating well, the kids are growing strong and healthy, and we've had a great time learning new things and sourcing things locally. This is all true. I do admit, though, to days where I just didn't feel like cooking or weeks where I got behind in my harvesting/freezing/canning/cellaring operations. But we have a fully-stocked freezer, loaded cellar and pantry shelves, and bins and bins of root vegetables, grains, winter squashes, and onions (I know I need to get the allums out of the bins!). I will post again, hopefully this weekend, about our end of summer harvests and the status of our food stores.

What I really want to say right now is: I think the whole thing has been, and continues to be, divine.

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