A note from Bright Happy Power: Today we cheer on all Marathon runners, and we especially lift up the stories of Jason Wertz (bib 28523) and Phoebe Howe (bib 28550) the day of the race, who run to support Bright Happy Power’s work for pediatric patients and families. They are both starting in wave 4 at 11:25 am this morning in the Boston Marathon! And we uphold all those who keep vigil over their safety, and those for whom this day has become a different kind of milestone. Together we continue this journey … www.brighthappypower.org
I preached my first-ever Easter sermon yesterday. Titled “Love Meets You Where You Are.” (Here’s a link to the full sermon: http://vimeo.com/92445329.) In part, the story I was reflecting on is about the movement of love, reaching toward us as we search for it. And the responsbility, as we search for and embody love, to move into the world with love. Not just on sabbaths and festivals and holy days, but always. So the sermon ended with this poem by the ethicist Emilie Townes, who calls us to grapple with the complexity of who we are individually and as communities, and suggests that we will find love in our “everdayness” together.
The everydayness of listening closely when folks talk or don’t talk to hear what they are saying
the everydayness of taking some time, however short or long, to refresh ourselves through prayer or meditation
the everydayness of speaking to folks and actually meaning whatever it is that is coming out of our mouths
the everydayness of being a presence in people’s lives;
the everydayness of designing a class session or lecture or reading or writing or thinking;
the everydayness of sharing a meal;
the everydayness of facing heartache and disappointment;
the everydayness of joy and laughter;
the everydayness of facing people who expect us to lead them somewhere or at least point them in the right direction and walk among them;
the everydayness of blending head and heart;
the everydayness of getting up and trying one more time to get our living right.
She concludes her work with these words: “It is in this everydayness that ‘we the people’ are formed. And we, the people of faith, must live and be witness to a justice wrapped in a love that will not let us go and a peace that is simply too ornery to give up on us … won’t you join me?”
Love is on the move!
Source: Emilie Townes. Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil.
I have been “away” working on my graduate degree, writing papers instead of entering journal reflections. I want to catch up to myself and anyone else who may be following this blog.
As a quick form of re-entry, I’m sharing with you a Youtube video about “why I’m not an architect” from last winter. Of course, my career direction may have moved even further since the punchline of this story, but you get the main idea. Enjoy!
Zumi’s is another soulful place in our lives. I hope there’s a place, much different but with the same deep impact on yourself and your community, somewhere close to you (if you’re not living on the North Shore). Otherwise, check out Zumi’s (their Facebook page shares a good sense of their culture).
Zumi’s offers almost everything I need in life. Fair trade coffee and tea. Chess and card games. Live music in the afternoons. Revolving community and individual art shows. Ice cream. Baked scones, muffins and croissants from A.J. King bakery in Salem. Its owners – Umesh and Zillie, from whom the shop derives its name — come from two different continents and cultures. They found and married each other, started a family here on the North Shore near Zillie’s roots, and together believe in social justice and humanitarian causes. They brew those values into every cup and relationship they build.
Do I sound sentimental? Misty-eyed? Idealistic? Probably. But I love Zumi’s.
- Well, there’s the yummy soy chai latte I love to drink. I’m very predictable, almost never vary in my order, except on a really hot day, when I might request raspberry iced tea / lemonade mix. If you’re an espresso or coffee afficianado, you’ll probably be pleased by their menu, too.
- Plus I love the people who make Zumi’s what it is. It hums like a small town center, where owners Zillie and Umesh, his brother Bobesh and Ohm plus everyone else on the team, try to connect people with each other, to create new and thriving friendships or working relationships. To support good causes. To change the world through daily choices and actions.
- Virtually everyone I know and care about pops by there for a drink and a chat. So I can check off half my to-do list just by stopping in.
My kids virtually grew up there, once it was established. It’s a hangout place for toddlers, grownups and teens alike. It’s a refuge. An office away from your office, a livingroom away from your home. It’s so public, you can’t keep any secrets there, or conduct too much business, because you’ll see a lot of friends and spend time saying hello, chatting and catching up.
Later in the day, you’ll receive one of the following:
a) A member of your family reports back to tell you what you drank and did earlier in the day, because they heard it over the counter from a Zumi’s staffer who served them a beverage, too.
b) Or you will be the one who receives an update on your family member while you stop to place an order. Either Umesh, Ohm or Bobesh (Lord help me, I hope I spelled these correctly … perhaps only phonetically correct) or someone else on staff has memorized your loved one’s favorite drink plus their weekly calendar … “Hey, I saw Chris earlier. 6:45am. It’s a Rotary day, right? He was going to the breakfast meeting.” Or, “Sarah was in an hour ago. She came with her friends and ordered the caramel cloud latte. She was with her friend, the exchange student from Italy.”
Like I said, no secrets. Everything is honest and open. What you see is what you get.
The walls are covered with maps. And sometimes with educational materials. For instance the graphic centerpiece in the bathroom is a map from National Geographic, I think, that shows continents and countries where minefields need to be cleared, to prevent children from being sent into the farming fields to check for undetonated mines. In the main café, you can peruse photos from the top of Mt. Everest. Umesh and his family worked as sherpas on the slopes of that mountain before they came to America from Nepal. And there’s material about fair trade coffee farming. And issues surrounding social justice in coffee-growing nations and other countries. As well as info about causes right here at home, like the local preschool or our community-supported agriculture (CSAs) farms or the future of free-flowing safe water in the Ipswich River.
Or I can just extol the virtues of caffeine. Zumi’s usually helps support local charitable events and causes by donating coffee when they can. Our cyclists and volunteers appreciate the hot coffee from Zumi’s every year!
And can I tell you how many memories I have? Playing chess or cards at one of the round café tables with Sarah and Jessie, or sitting in the window with my husband Chris, or hanging out with girlfriends, solving the problems of the world, having a work session between sips, and maybe postponing a return to “real life” (whatever that means)? Savoring my foamy latte?
Goodness in a cup. In the hands that made it. In the hands that receive it. In the connection between the two, and the hearts that believe that every dollar we spend, every decision we make, every word we speak, and every action we take can change the world. You can do it from the slopes of a mountain or over the counter of a coffee shop.
So in it’s very busy, real, imperfect but oh-so-tasty way? Zumi’s is a spiritual experience, in the same sense that visiting a farm or a roadside might also be sacred.
What you bring to such a place, and what you take away? That’s what makes it sacred.
Another week of picking up the share at Appleton Farms. You’ve heard me discuss the sometimes sacred and spiritual nature of these visits to the CSA. Other times it’s just a chore to cross off your to-do list.
Depends on whether you go out into the fields to pick, because most of the magic happens during the intersection of human action, plant eccentricities, and whatever critters might be keeping you company out there (birds, butterflies, bees, beetles, mosquitoes, and mice and other scurrying rodents, to name a few).
Some weeks, the skies are slung low with clouds or lightning tears across the sky, and we don’t go into the fields to pick. Other days, it’s so hot and dusty, you wonder if you’re sane to consider going out among the low rows of crops, to bend and stoop, snip and pluck, filling pint containers or bags with your harvest of flowers, herbs and (some weeks) vegetables.
This week, we gathered herbs and flowers. Along the way, we learned a lesson about persistence.
Specifically, we walked among the rows, hunting for cilantro. Its familiar name was missing among the stakes labeled by such savory titles as mint, oregano, parsley, thyme, dill and basil. The CSA uses signage to make it clear where each crop is grown, row by row, and where to pick. Yet we couldn’t find it. We quartered the field, back and forth, systematic, but undirected. No luck. No cilantro stakes.
Of course, we might have tried looking for it under other names. Did you know it’s also called coriander, Chinese parsley or dhania? (In our culture, when we speak of cilantro, we often mean the fresh green leaves. Its seeds are identified as the coriander.) It grows commonly in regions from Europe and northern Africa to parts of Asia, and now in North America; it’s a common ingredient in many international cuisines. Possibly the most widely used herb in the world. As eloquently stated by a writer for culinate.com, “For just about anyone who grew up in the diverse culinary traditions of Latin America, the Caribbean, Portugal, northern Africa, the Middle East, the South Asian subcontinent, and most of Asia, cilantro tastes like home.” The same lacey green fronds, regardless of label, add a biting zest to all sorts of dishes.
Another confession. I hunted for cilantro, though I have no intention of eating it. I’m a member of the population that doesn’t like its flavor. Yes, we come in two groups: like or dislike. You can’t be in-between, when it comes to a preference or distaste for cilantro.
In fact, the plant’s flavor is actually a polarizing debate among “foodies.” It’s loved or hated, nothing less. This topic has been covered by publications such as the Wall Street Journal and Smithsonian Magazine, and inspired movements such as ihatecilantro.com. For those who love and eat it, because of its bright note of flavor in any dish, it’s hard to imagine why you’d turn it away. Cilantro-haters are often accused of being picky eaters. Yet there’s some evidence that the aversion to cilantro’s flavor is a genetic mutation; some tastebuds are just destined to revolt against it, because it transforms into a different chemical experience in measurable (but minority) percentages in any population. Cilantro-dislikers describe it as tasting like soap or hairspray, but to me it has the tang of aluminum. Ick. And I’m in good company. Per the same articles cited above, Julia Child felt the same way; she disliked both cilantro and arugula.
So I was walking through the field, hunting for an herb I don’t even enjoy, because my friend wanted some for her cooking plans. The whole point of the day seemed to become the triumph of finding a small bouquet of cilantro.
Finally, instead of giving up and returning wearily to the car after multiple hikes in and out of the field, we asked a farmhand. At first, she said there wasn’t any.
Then she winced sympathetically. “I know frustrating, isn’t it? We’re just getting tomatoes in, and we’ve had cilantro all season, and just when you want both, we’re running low. We planted another crop, so we hope there’s some later on this month.” Finally she added, “Well, we took down the cilantro sign, because it’s mostly all picked, and what’s left is hard to find because of the weeds. But if you walk past the dill, halfway down the row, and push aside enough weeds, you might find some.”
Now mind you, I have made a case for weeds. In my “garden” (dry, desert-like side yard), there are more weeds than healthy domesticated species. Spiky, tall, persistent and oddly lovely. Striking from my point of view, anyway. (You are welcome to your own opinion, of course.)
We turned right at the small feathery fronds of dill (also almost all picked and gone, also unlabeled, but visible if you knew where to look). Hiked beyond the knee-high growth of grass blades and vibrant weeds. Paused. Pushed aside leafy wild plants, seeking domestic satisfaction. Found the pungent leaves and stems of the cilantro. Worked our way down the row, reaching among the growth of unwanted plants, for the ones we did seek. Filled a small bag with cilantro, to use in cooking
The lesson? For me, it was the promise of finding what you want, if you don’t give up. If you look enough. If you go back once, twice and thrice. If you ask for directions. If you persist past the overlooked, overgrown appearance of the row. If you hunt among the weeds. You just might discover what you’re seeking.
And the worst case scenario, after time spent hunting among weeds and wildflowers? Even if you don’t find cilantro, you’ve gained the benefit of time spent in the sun and elements. Along the way, you’ve let go of the other stressful parts of life for a little while. It’s as good as yoga, as far as I am concerned, being out in the fields, picking part of your share.
This time, we harvested sunflowers and cilantro to be used in my friend’s favorite recipe for Thai vegetable spring rolls. And as I do every year, I’ll try a bite, always hopeful that I’ve somehow been converted to a cilantro-lover. But that’s another adventure … Today was just the journey of gathering the leftover cilantro from its exile out in the field, its row unlabeled, overgrown by weeds.