As I strap my baby daughter to me and fit her with a hat, I snap the leash on the dog and set out for our late-morning walk. Today is recycling day I notice as I walk up the street which was once nothing more than a narrow dirt road lined with white pines. I can't help but peer into the blue boxes perched on each side of the smooth pavement as we stroll by. It happens this way every other Tuesday; I casually glance at what each household has consumed over the last two weeks and inevitably end up pondering our food system.
Unlike other weeks, the persimmon tree we pass along the way is dropping its fruit onto the same pavement lined with blue boxes. Most of the fruit has been squished by the unforgiving tread of vehicle's tires. Some I'm sure has been carried off by squirrels and other furry creatures. I usually give the trunk a hearty pull or two in hopes a few persimmons will fall on the nearby grass. This is when my thoughts of the food industry's success in getting us to purchase the majority of our food from grocery store shelves or from the windows of fast food joints turns to the success of nature's bounty. Here in the middle of a suburban neighborhood this humble looking persimmon tree is throwing its harvest at no one in particular, but doing so dutifully.
Other fruit trees across the region are doing the same while weighty butternuts fall from their vines, the pumpkins and hubbards following suite. This is a time of year to reap from a season of growth while storing the excess for months ahead. But most of us won't. Most of us will go on having our pizza delivered or microwaving a frozen puck of nonsense for our nightly meals. We will go on purchasing our own demise from grocery shelves, claiming we just can't get through the day without "treating ourselves" to a diet coke.
Someone close to me recently took on a pizza delivery job while finishing his degree. He drove twenty miles to deliver a pizza to a man in a mobile home who answered the door in a wheelchair and was clearly missing one leg. This saddened me as I reflected that this man could have enjoyed a simple nourishing meal on half of what he spent on the pizza. The issue here was means. Maybe he is unable to maneuver around his kitchen. Perhaps he needs assistance grocery shopping? Maybe he is unfamiliar with cooking a pot of beans and steaming some rice? But what is the excuse for the rest of us? Why is it so difficult to eat simple food intended to nourish us? Part of the answer goes back to the success of our food system. We have somehow allowed it to answer the question "what's for dinner?" when in actuality, the seasons, region we dwell in and our relationship to our garden or closest food producer should be telling us such.
I am baffled by a whole recycling box filled with empty bottles of water. Have we been so successfully campaigned to that we prefer to not only pay our household water bill but also buy single servings of bottled water distributed by soda companies and packaged in a petroleum by-product?
How far do we have to fall down the rabbit hole before we are able to lift the veil from our eyes?
I may be an optimist, but perhaps it could begin with getting a household water filter and gathering ripe persimmons.