work

Last night, I went to bed knowing the post that I would write this morning. I’ve been wanting to tell you about this beautiful recipe from a book I’ve been loving, and I will–next week.

I woke up today to the sound of two things; one outside my head and one inside. Outside, there was rain, blessed and beautiful rain falling on the dying garden and the dying plants, and now (2 hours later!) it’s still falling. Inside my head, I was thinking about politics.

I don’t talk too much about politics here for a few reasons, the first of which is that writing about politics (or really any thing else) doesn’t flow as easily for me as writing about food seems to, and I know that on the whole, most of you come for recipes and stories about food, and I love to share them. I also know that we all have food in common, but when it comes to politics, it is entirely possible that we might differ, and even argue, and so on the whole I like to stick to our common ground because it’s the coming together that continues to inspire me.

I know that we all have different views to bring to the conversation. I’m guessing that if I could find a table big enough, we could have a pretty good chat about the issues that are flying around right now, about energy and global warming, gun control, health care, marriage rights, income divides in the country, and women’s reproductive rights. Man oh man, that would be a conversation. And on top of it, we’d eat well. I know that for sure. Because however you feel and I feel, there is always a seat for you at my table. And I’m guessing (and hoping) there might just be a seat for me at yours, too.

I’m just over two years into a three-year term as a selectman in my town, a position that makes me 1/5th of the governing body of the town. I don’t talk about that much either, because I’m an elected official, I have to choose my words carefully (not my greatest strength), and honestly right now, it’s the hardest part of my week. But a couple of days ago I ran into someone, a young mother who moved here a few years ago, and she said that she was thinking about me because just that week she had decided to run for school committee. And I said (with passion in my voice that surprised even me) that I thought it was so good that she had made that decision. I said that in a small town, especially where we are governed by volunteer or near volunteer committees and boards, I think that each person should put their time in, at least once. Whether it’s the selectboard or the school committee or any other office, I think everyone should serve a term. Because it needs to be done, and we need new people to do it. But also because once you start to take responsibility for the system, my hope is that it’s hard to let go of that responsibility.

Every year in May, we have Town Meeting. All important town issues go to Town Meeting, from the budget (directly impacting each resident’s tax rate), to zoning changes, to more philosophical questions like how the town relates to farming or sustainability. Small towns in New England really give Town Meeting the ultimate authority–they can vote up or down on the budget or most major decisions that face the town. On the best and most impressive of years, 10% of registered voters show up at our meeting–but usually less. Most are older, and they’ve gone to Town Meeting forever. There are so many reasons why young people don’t come to Town Meeting–they’ve got little kids and it’s a school night, they don’t know about it, they don’t care about it, they’re just too busy, but at the heart of it all is the truth that those who don’t come are losing the chance to exercise some major power in the community.

I’ve missed Town Meetings, too. Before I was elected to the board, I only went to one or two, and all the above reasons were true for me at some point. But now, whether or not I’m on the selectboard, it will take some extreme circumstances keep me away from Town Meeting. My time so far as taught me that, at least.

This morning, I woke up to news of the shooting in Denver. Joey’s family and so many of our dear friends are there (and Batman fans) and so there’s been some back and forth that has calmed a little, learning that someone was at a concert, or someone else would have gone to a different movie theater for the premier. I was on Facebook, waiting for responses from Denver, and while I was there I noticed that several friends had linked to this article from the latest Rolling Stone, where Bill McKibben writes (again, and just as convincingly as ever) about the extreme dangers of our current path to global warming. It’s an extraordinary article–I urge you to take the time to read it, but there was one sentence that I can’t get out out my head:

Since all of us are in some way the beneficiaries of cheap fossil fuel, tackling climate change has been like trying to build a movement against yourself – it’s as if the gay-rights movement had to be constructed entirely from evangelical preachers, or the abolition movement from slaveholders.

No one said this was going to be easy. McKibben gets at that in such a clear way–we are so enmeshed in these issues in a way that makes it hard to know what to do, and how to act.  And when I delve into the facts about climate change, when I hear about one more sad person opening fire in a public place, it all starts to feel too big–there is simply too much to work on, and I don’t always feel up for it. Inaction pulls me–it feels safe and quiet and submissive in a way that answers a deep weariness that I think so many people feel.

I’m not making assumptions about what you want. We might stand on opposites sides on some issues, and the same on others, but whoever you support, whatever issues are important to you, and however you feel about this issues, I’m going to ask one thing.

Find a way to engage in your democracy. Sometimes it feels like a joke–honestly when less than ten percent of registered voters show up to make all the decisions in our little town, it feels like we are going through the motions without actually exercising our power. But there are all sorts of ways to do it, whether you’re running for office or simply voting or speaking up about an issue that’s important to you. There are so many of us. Enough to make change. And I fear the quiet–I fear it around me and in me.

Hours later, after all these weeks of dryness, it’s still raining. I’m so thankful for this rain, and… sending thoughts and love to Denver.

 


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24 Responses to work

  1. JennC says:

    Hi Alana,

    I think you can most definitely take comfort in the knowledge that you truly are echoing thoughts and sentiments that most of us have. The feeling of being overwhelmed by everything ‘wrong’ in the world often pushes me to live in the space of everything ‘right’, even just for a while. But then it begins to feel as though I have my head in the sand. What I need to do instead, is take strength from all that is good and pure and light and love, in order to take the issues head on. Sadly, at this point in my life, I must confess, the most involved I am is to vote. I don’t attend town hall meetings, I don’t read the flyers that litter my mail box and I certainly don’t do what you did and campaign for an office. I’ve been involved in the past, but the world seems too scary now and I can’t imagine that I could be effective. So I stick with what I know and keep my own little safe world and the people in it, well and happy. But it’s not enough. I just wanted to let you know that I hear you. My thoughts too, on this rainy day, are with Denver.

  2. Emily says:

    Thank you. That was beautiful.

  3. Luba says:

    Thank you so much, Alana, for this well-articulated call to action. It is so easy to simply be horrified by what goes on around and us and then to do nothing because it all just seems too big…Your call to stay engaged rings very true!

  4. Jessica says:

    You would always be welcome at my table. I have been fully and completely guilty in my absence from the political mechanics of our town/state/country. Last year in our homeschool we studied early American history and it was life changing for me. Everything you are saying here so clearly speaks to what I have been feeling creeping up on me for years – it’s not the problems that are scary, it’s the lack of conversation about how to fix them. Time to get engaged.

  5. Laurie says:

    mmm. Lovely. Heartfelt words for a tough day, indeed. Thank you for putting your thoughts out there. You are a brave soul, but it’s so true that we all need to get involved. I also think the mere act of growing your own food is a political act — even if it has been a drought, and maybe more so since it brings home the lesson of global warming affecting everything, most importantly our food & water supply. Here’s to the rain!

  6. Sarah says:

    thank you, thank you, thank you.
    “smooth seas do not make skillful sailors…”

  7. Rebecca says:

    Thank you for this.

  8. Faye says:

    I hear your compassion and your desperation in the words you write. Yes, we should all be more active in our government, be it local or federal, etc. We should never leave our life-making decisions to just a select few. That’s logically why our country is in the mess it’s in today.
    Thanks for your input!

  9. Nancy says:

    Beautiful. Thank you for this.

  10. Gretchen says:

    Yes, exactly yes. Whatever your views, be busy about them, not sitting on the sidelines shaking our heads and wringing our hands.

  11. Theresa says:

    We the people need to become “We the people” once again. Very well said.

  12. Carolyn says:

    Yes, despite all that is wrong and is going wrong with our beloved country, I believe that deep down inside, we are Amercans. We are neighbors. When things get tough, we pull together. I also believe that the most effective organizing and governing are on a local level, because each town, county, or what you will knows best the concerns and needs of its citizens. A one-size-fits-all approach is pretty clumsy. It’s tempting to look at the mess, throw my hands in the air and declare myself powerless. I think, though, that I DO have some power to affect how things are going on a local level, even if it’s just my neighbors that I’m helping. You gotta do what you can and hope and pray for the best. I vote. I’m a member of a CERT team. I try to encourage, exhort, or even smile at people I come into contact with. You do what you can.

  13. kellypea says:

    I was going through old posts of my own last night and found a link to your blog, then unable to sleep early this morning got up and began to read. I’m glad I did because you’ve really made me think about so much. Writing a food blog takes so much and like you’ve so eloquently said, leaves so little time to express myself about what matters most in life — being engaged in life outside of food. I used to be quite passionate about so much — and you’re right. It’s so big and I’m easily frustrated by the extremes, choosing more and more often to just not get worked up. I rarely feel as if I can make a difference any longer and so I just dawdle along. The magnitude of what happened in Colorado has stunned me — my son and husband attended a similar showing of Batman here, but came home safely.

    Thank you for making me think about so much that has been pushed aside — I have no excuse…

  14. Hannah says:

    Beautiful call to action Alana, thank you. I would raise one point though – I think your distinction between food and politics is completely a false one. Every choice we make about what to eat, buy, serve at our tables is ultimately a political choice, even if we don’t see it or realize it. Your blog – and your wonderful book – in encouraging us all to prepare real food in our own kitchens, are actually political calls as well … because even one meal cooked at home with fresh ingredients is an action, however small, against the industrial food system … and so ultimately is also an act against global warming, against the use of fossil fuels, against the ruination of the soil and the planet. We cannot forget that.

    My heart goes out to everyone in Denver … and I am thankful to hear that your family is safe.

    • Allison says:

      I agree I vote on a daily basis with my food dollar against industrialization,mass production and for the small farmer. That is where we have to start, with our neighbors, our blocks, our local government. It starts with the basics, food, fuel, and family. If we look locally I think it will tell us how to think globally.

      • Hannah says:

        Yes yes! And I should have made more clear – I understand and agree with your sentiment that food is easier to talk (write) about than politics … I just meant, as I know you know anyway, that at the end of the day they really are not separate issues :)

        • alana says:

          Yes, absolutely- I agree with you both! But I think that for me, the challenge is in that step from doing what I feel is right here in my home and with my own family, to taking it out into the world in an effective way. Those central arenas of our lives (food, fuel, family) naturally give way to action, but the shift from the home to community (and then beyond to the greater community and country) can be hard to make.

          • Sherry says:

            Though we have differences in opinion, we need to make our voices heard. How upset our Founding Fathers would be to see that we don’t all take an active part in what they worked so hard to give us. As Benjanin Franklin said, “We give you a Republic, if you can keep it.” If we want ho keep it we have to work at it. May God bless the families affected in CO. Also, I must compliment you not only on your words but your cookbook. Made the granola today, in fact. Smells crazy good! Tomorrow it’s on to instant oatmeal and toaster pastries. How important it is to feed our families healthy food, and to not fill our bodies full of preservatives!

  15. Nancie says:

    Oh, Alana, a wonderfully thoughtful post. Thank you. As for the upcoming book review….oh, my kitchen budget!! I’m working my way through your book…we have loved everything and I feel as if I’ve done a good cross section of types of recipes, but that Maple Popcorn!! Ambrosia.
    And then the People’s Pops cookbook….also working through those with seasonal fruits…fortunately, we are in the cusp of late-spring to summer fruits here due to our extremely cool and wet spring. Lots of options.
    So, thank you….can’t wait to see what you’ve got up your sleeve next.

  16. Pingback: Comfort Food & Uncomfortable Thoughts « mossbetweentoes – adventures in homesteading, with brief forays into politics, geekery, parenting, crafting, and design

  17. Lee says:

    The shooting actually took place in Aurora, not Denver. There is a difference.

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