It’s been a whirlwind of a month, and I absolutely cannot believe that tomorrow marks the beginning of the last month of summer. Incredible. In the midst of visits home, music festivals, road trips, weddings, and joyful time with friends new and old, I frequently have found myself stumbling across the age old tension between thinking and doing, both in personal practice and in overheard conversations and discovered readings.
A balanced life of action and contemplation is both a virtually impossible achievement and one of the most compelling concepts in modern and ancient philosophy. It’s the chicken and the egg, really- do we contemplate our actions or do we act out of contemplation? Nearly every intellectual has something to say on the matter, often taking a side, however inadvertently.
“That pleasure which is at once the most pure, the most elevating and the most intense, is derived, I maintain, from the contemplation of the beautiful.” – Edgar Allan Poe
“Contemplation often makes life miserable. We should act more, think less, and stop watching ourselves live.” -Chamfort
The trouble is (if one can call it that), I find immense truth in both of these statements. Deep joy comes from contemplating life, the universe, and its many inhabitants, but if I didn’t admit to the deep anguish I’ve driven myself to by allowing a moment to tumble around in my brain for hours/days/weeks, I would be a liar most foul.
We must have both, doing and thinking. Acting and contemplating. What balance of the two gives you peace?
Terry Tempest Williams is quickly becoming the newest addition to the ranks of my favorite nature/travel writers. The water and forests of Annie Dillard, the canyonlands of Edward Abbey, and the temperate rainforests of Gary Snyder have captured my imagination previously, and Terry is doing much the same thing. Combining exquisitely detailed observations of the bird refuge near her home with the soul-wrenching personal narrative of her mother’s experience with cancer (not a battle mind you, it’s much more gracious than that), Refuge has touched me in a deeply elemental way. Plus Terry has somehow managed to significantly change my perspective on Mormonism, a challenging task I’m not certain she even took upon herself in the first place.
Good writers draw you into their narrative. Magnificent writers make you want to create your own. Terry must be the latter because I’m finding myself wanting to write, and feeling like I have a centerpoint to start from even. Ben and I are looking for a house, a place to make a home, and while it isn’t an especially glamorous, exotic, or drug-addled experience, the process and resulting contemplations feels worth sharing. And we’re only a few months in.
Stay tuned for house related tidbits, though they may be a couple of weeks in coming since I’m Westward Bound for the next couple of weeks, culminating in the wedding of a dear friend. But then the searching and pre-approval will begin in full earnestness!
Freshly returned from a fantastic 4th of July weekend down at the 80/35 Music Festival in Des Moines, Iowa, I had planned to write a glowing review of both the festival and the city. However, it will have to wait until my friend and co-festival goer Kristin can send me photos to illustrate our grand adventures, because I couldn’t illustrate the joy of being second row at Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes with 100,000 words, let alone the requisite 1,000 that supposedly represent the photo that I will share in the near future.
In the meantime I’d like to share a marvelous discovery: Life Without Plastic. I have a great disdain for fossil fuel based materials, particularly in the kitchen. For both health and environmental reasons I am striving to create as close to a plastic free cooking and eating space as possible, beginning with the cast iron pan and wooden utensils and cutting board requested and received as wedding gifts. Consequently the discovery of the Life Without Plastic website was a joyous and helpful one.
Certain elements of living without plastic are simple; bring a reusable bag to the store; buy ceramic dishes; etc, etc. However a fully plastic and petroleum free life is next to impossible. Once one moves beyond the material makeup of products to the producing and shipping, one quickly discovers that EVERYTHING is tied to plastic and petroleum. But I try to avoid despair in all things, and instead breathe and act. Glass jars are good. Wood, cloth, stone, ceramic, metal- all these materials are beautiful, durable, often used by artisans, and (at least to my skin) much more pleasing to touch and use than anything plastic ever is.
Between the plastic island in the Pacific, the chemical impact of plastic on human (and animal) health, and peak oil, I hope to continue moving toward a plastic-free kitchen, home, and life. Particularly as Benjamin and I continue moving toward buying a house. But more on that later.
How can you live with less plastic today?
My morning started as such:
honey-wheat homemade bread slathered with Hope Butter, honey and strawberries from Earth Dance Farm, and a steaming mug of coffee.
I took off for the co-op after leisurely enjoying this breakfast whilst reading an issue of Mary Jane’s Farm, a magazine loaned to me from a friend. While shopping I not only purchased a week’s worth of groceries, I ran into my friend Jake, an entreprenurial soul who started not only Growing Lots Urban Farm, but the Black Paws CSB as well. So many tasty local delights!
Riding home with panniers stuffed with delicious, I passed by Greg Reynolds of Riverbend Farm delivering veggies near Birchwood Cafe; I hadn’t seen him in months and we chatted a bit about how I missed having my hands whenever summer rolled around (his was one of the farms I worked on during the summer of 2009).
Upon returning home I commenced creating my dish for the monthly First Friday Potluck Ben and I are hosting tonight: cucumber sandwiches.
Atop more homemade bread (this time sunflower seed wheat) I scooped either dill or chive cream cheese/yogurt spread (seen above, covered by squares cut from plastic bags), followed by a few slices of sweet local cucumber, garnished with a leaf of lettuce.
Now off to yoga before the potluck begins! May everyone enjoy tasty simple summer food on this sultry day.