Today the Wind Blew in Atlanta

This blog asks you to [re]consider health.  Sometimes I discuss health in terms of food, or in terms of body image, but I always try to put these things in a greater context of overall health.  So today I ask you to consider your mental health.  How’s your stress?  Do you ever look up and find that somehow your priorities have gotten completely out of whack?  In the hustle and bustle of every day life, even my best attempts to slow down and take it easy get lost in fits of road rage and prideful tantrums.

As some of you may remember, this blog was born of a project that my family started last fall.  We decided that we had worked ourselves into levels of stress and anxiety that were just ridicculous.  We felt like the world was moving too fast and we wanted off the crazy train.  For us, it meant returning to an appreciation of life that cannot be found in a grocery store line full of impatient people.  And this lead us to [re]consider the very thing that was provided to nourish us: food.

The switch from shopping at the grocery store to sustaining ourselves almost entirely on farmers market produce was breathtaking.  Instead of avoiding the vegetables we didn’t recognize, the person who picked it from his field was there to tell us everything we could have ever wanted to know.  In this way, I discovered kholrabi, among many other amazing fruits and vegetables I might never have tried!  Instead of finding myself impatiently waiting in a slow-moving line, I learned to take my time and appreciate the people around me.  Instead of spending money thoughtlessly, I entered into contracts with other families: my family’s patronage in exchange for another family’s product.  Mutual appreciation.  A handshake and a see-you-next-week that was really a mutual promise to sustain each other.

Learning to shop in this way did not just change our outlooks on food—it changed our outlooks on life.  We have learned in a very real way to appreciate the reciprocity and interconnectedness of people.  Not just because we’re supposed to, but because we see it in action.  From the food we began to branch out and [re]consider all of the other ways that our busy, fast-paced American lives have pulled us away from humanity and toward a materialistic way of life that we weren’t proud of.  We learned to slow down and appreciate a beautiful tree, a fresh breeze, or a perfect lemon.

I'm fairly certain my daughter has never heard the term "tree hugger," so when she insisted on stopping to hug her favorite tree, I couldn't resist the photo opp.

…but then winter hit.  I knew we had started our project too late in the season, but I didn’t realize just how unprepared we were for the cold months.  So we found ourselves at the grocery store more and more.  We found ourselves in more and more of a hurry.  With more an more of an entitlement (“who cares if strawberries are out of season?  I want it NOW….).  And then I got sick.  And then I started a new job that requires a frustrating commute…and the next thing I knew, I had reverted back to my high-anxiety, super hurried lifestyle.

So here I am.  I looked up a few days ago and really saw myself for the first time in months.  I truly didn’t like what I saw.  My road rage was back, for one thing.  But really, the problem was that I had forgotten to value every person around me.  I forgot to remember that they were all people like me with places to go.  I had forgotten to appreciate what I have and be humbled by the times that I didn’t have it.  I had spoken to people in ways that I was not proud of, but I had justified it and that was the worst part.  I had become so hurried and disconnected that I had developed a sense of entitlement that was shameful.  What happened to turning the other cheek?

Am I evil?  No.  Am I admitting to being the world’s biggest bitch?  No.  But I think we can all look inside ourselves and find room for improvement.  If we don’t like what we see, it doesn’t mean we are stuck like that forever—it just means that we forgot for a moment.

For me, the reminder was half the battle.  Once I realized it I had forgotten my priorities, the change was subtle but immediate.  Today as I was walking in downtown Atlanta, cars rushed by.  People rushed by.  Buildings touched a sky I almost couldn’t even see.  And I felt the wind blow.  I bet last week I wouldn’t have noticed.

No recipes today.  Instead I want to share that we recently joined two CSAs—a meat CSA and a vegetable CSA.  We are stoked!  Community Supported Agriculture is important because…well, farmers need capital and we need food.  Here’s how it works: farms will offer a certain number of “shares” to the public.  We (the public—that’s us) buy the shares.  It’s a win-win because the farmer receives our money ahead of time and isn’t scrambling to sell all of the product during the busiest time of the season, and we receive a box or basket each week with a set amount of fresh produce.  The idea is that every week we receive the same amount (typically in pounds), but what goes in the box varies from week to week according to what’s in season and what was ripe and ready for picking.

Now, in case you’re feeling intimidated by the cost of  joining a CSA but you really want to jump in, you have options!  Some farms offer a program that allows you to literally work for your food—in exchange for a few hours on the farm, your CSA membership is discounted.    If you think your kids/husband/wife/partner would never go for it, think again!  If mine did, anyone can!  I truly believe that time spent on a farm or near the source of food can be inspiring for anyone—especially for the kids.  Give it a shot.

If you think you’re even a LITTLE bit interested, now is the time to check it out!!  The farms I know are currently accepting applications for the 2012 season!  I looked it up too late and had to wait for the rest of the year to join. In fact, here are the ones that we know and support in North Georgia, for any of my local friends:

http://brayfamilyfarms.com/

http://twomulefarms.com/

http://www.jacksonlowevegetablefarm.com/Home.html

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