Notes from the Glebe

The Local Culture Blog

2490 days ago

Glebe: n. 1. The soil of the earth, regarded as the source of vegetable products; earth, land. 2. A portion of land assigned to a clergyman as part of his benefice.

Click on the title of a post to view and record comments.

---

Dear Naiads of Rock Island, How Are You?

2586 days ago

by Vernon Meidlinger-Chin

Ancient Greek myths spoke of nymphs: spirits of trees and streams who took the form of beautiful women. They were guardians of nature. They were as delicate as the natural order. And a nymph’s curse was as terrifying as a nymph’s blessing is wondrous.

Now at some point along the way, some scientists a little more myth-savvy than I decided that the word “nymph” ought to be used to refer to the immature forms of certain insects. Specifically, the larval form of any insect that does not pupate is a nymph. And in accordance with Greek mythology, nymphs that lived in streams, brooks, creeks, springs, and ponds would be termed naiads.

These two visions of naiads are really not that different. True, if you go digging around in a streambed, you’re going to find multi-legged invertebrates, not maidens with magical powers, but that’s just appearance. At the heart of the idea of a naiad, both mythologically and ecologically, is the idea of delicate creature suffering under human thoughtlessness. When we pollute and redirect waters, we kill the naiads of the waters.

Augustana’s slough is such a body of water. It flowed as a stream long ago down into the Mississippi, and like any other Illinois stream it would have teemed with dragonfly, mayfly, stonefly, and dobsonfly naiads. But when Augustana was built, that stream was diverted into the modern day slough, and a combination of stagnation and pollution killed the naiads. When I recently checked the slough mud for insect larvae, I found not a single naiad, but only the maggots of midges and blackflies.

We have replaced water nymphs with parasites. And while the wounded naiads cannot act as nature’s guardians, rise from their watery realms and deal out judgment, we still have the duty to protect, and not harm our precious freshwater resources. If we want to avoid the curse of environmental degradation we are rapidly bringing upon ourselves, we can take a local step and preserve the naiads.

---

A Perennial Crop of Small Producers and the 4th Annual Farm Crawl

2596 days ago

by Ashley Flattery

The wedding of farms and bar crawls seems, at first, a disharmonious union; as it turns out, a “farm crawl” provides a veritable smorgasbord (-orgasbord, -orgasbord) of local fare: creamed honey and creamy goat cheese; Golden Delicious apples and delicious apple pie; Simply Red wine and red bell peppers, hidden a hoop house. As Templeton in Charlotte’s Web devoured the ripe carnival refuse, so I satiated my craving for all things small-scale and savory.

Seven south-central Iowan farms and numerous vendors hosted over 1,300 people on October 3. “What’s the point of a farm crawl?” you ask? Among the most important goals is to make people aware that there are nutritious, affordable foods available in the Knoxville area, products wherein the value derives from the ability to shake the hand that feeds. Because time did not permit, my cousin and I did not make it to all seven farms, but we did, however, explore thoroughly (Thoreau-ly?) three: Reichert’s Dairy Air, Blue Gate Farm, and Schneider Orchard.

Shortly after eleven o’clock, my cousin Jenn and I were bouncing down a gravel road to Reichert’s Dairy Air. Lois Reichert, a prize-winning cheesemaker, raises her goats at the end of a winding, barely one-laned drive south of Knoxville, Iowa, my hometown. Much to my delight, there not only was cheese (oh, was there cheese), but also a local vintner, Grape Escape Winery, offered samples of their drinkables, raised from vine to wine in Marion County, Iowa. Had I not been in the presence of kids, human and goat, I might have stayed there all afternoon, indulging in Bacchic revelry. A helping hand at the Grape Escape table proffered a list of wines with descriptions for even the most uncultured patrons, such as myself. After some faux scrutiny and a pause during which I read the menu twice and narrowed the options by words I recognized, namely “Riesling,” I chose a semi-sweet white wine and Jenn chose a blush; at the very least, the two we tried were pleasing to our palates and our pockets. Grape Escape Winery was a complementary and welcome guest at Reichert’s Dairy Air.

Behind the Grape Escape table stood Lois’ immaculate barn, opened wide so the visitors could get to know her lovely ladies, both veteran milk producers and youths marked for their first milking season. Children squealed and giggled in the pen as they came face to face with the kids, their quadruped counterparts. Outside, Lois and friends sampled and sold a variety of cheeses from Cranberry Pecan Chevre, a creamy spread, to Robiola di Mia Nonna, a firmer breakfast cheese which Lois learned how to make in Italy. Lois’ cheeses sorely tempted even us, indebted up to our eyeballs or more; as we left, I clutching two of the basil-bearing varieties, Pesto and Sun-dried Tomato Basil Chevre, and Jenn the Cracked Black Pepper Chevre, I felt that those might have been the easiest ten dollars this frugal college student had ever parted with.

Saving Dan-D Farms and Pierce’s Pumpkin Patch, which are both regularly open to the public, for a later date, Jenn and I wound our way down a dusty country road toward Blue Gate Farm. Blue Gate provides certified naturally grown produce, pastured eggs, honey, and preserves to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members in the Knoxville area and to the Des Moines farmer’s market. CSA members pledge their support to a farm by fronting the money for a season’s fill of produce given to them weekly (For more information on CSAs, look at Blue Gate’s webpage). During the Farm Crawl, the folks at Blue Gate were kind enough to let everyone crawl all over their farm; Jenn and I took full advantage, sneaking peeks into the hoop house and closely inspecting the salad greens.

Blue Gate Farm had invited Megan McKay Ziller, co-owner of Peace Tree Brewing Company, a year-old micro-brewery for which I worked over the summer, to sample and to share their root beer and three of their brews. I had to go behind the table to see Megan; such was the throng waiting for a taste. We managed to swipe a couple of root beer cups before embarking for our final stop: Schneider Orchard.

Jenn and I plunged farther into rural Iowa with every bump in the road. Each car took its turn on the one lane bridges, drivers thanking each other with a customary Iowa wave. Along the way I mused, passing perennials bursting with purple and gold flowers: perhaps I could deal with the inconveniences of living down a gravel road. A Schneider representative had claimed to us that they’d had a rough year, so our hopes weren’t really hopes at all. After finding a parking spot beside those fall flowers lining the road, trees laden with apples greeted us, and we smiled. The Schneider family appealed to the adults with gift baskets and kelly-green tees, and to the rest of us with face painting and apple pie a la mode. We sat on the grass overlooking the orchard, basking like reptiles in the sun, enjoying the pie and dried apples, watching children take wagon rides between the trees.

Brimming with pride that only comes from a place, not any place, we returned to our residences—houses in the distant Quad Cities—but not our homes.

Feel free to peruse the webpages of these hard-working, home-loving Iowans. Perhaps find them, pick their brains, even “friend” them, on Facebook, if it seems appropriate.

Links for curious folks:
http://farmcrawl.com/
http://www.reichertsdairyair.com
http://www.bluegatefarmfresh.com
http://www.peacetreebrewing.com
http://www.schneiderorchard.com/

---

The Academy is No Place to Talk of Place

2619 days ago

by Local Culture Journal Alumnus, Nick Borchert

My tentative plan for life after graduation, pending a one year detour, is to pursue a doctorate in English language and literature. This past week I visited the campus of the premiere research institution in my home state to visit with some of the professors there and get a feel for the nature of the program. In the course of a conversation with one of these professors, I mentioned that I would like to study at this school because it is located in a place that, for me, is near home, and to which I feel connected. This elicited the facial response of one preparing to gently correct the false opinion of a friend. He offered that, in this discipline, it is unwise to hope to stay in the same place for long. Because of job constraints and the far-reaching nature of the opportunities that do arise, “You really have to give up any ties to a specific region.”

Now, my rational mind knew this to be the case. Very few of the professors who taught at my undergraduate institution in Illinois grew up or went to school in Illinois. Still, in my cheating heart, the part that traffics in ideals rather than facts, I had dared to hope that I might stay home and yet somehow still travel the itinerant path of the academic.

I suppose that the most disturbing part of this professor’s counsel was that it was offered in the paternalistic tone of the sage, rather than the lamenting realist’s. Had he sounded at all remorseful that this was the case, had he vilified the system that turned our teachers into wayfarers, I may have been able to more easily swallow his prescribed physic. But none of this was the case. He was trying, with all the best intentions no doubt, to get me to see the truth: that there is no reason for an academic to become overly attached to a specific place, both because it is unrealistic for him to expect to stay in that place, and because what is truly important is not This Place but anyplace—that is, any place that will pay you to carry out your important work.

Now I happen to think this is problematic; you can draw a short line between this type of thinking and the homogenization of local cultures. It’s hard to care that Sandy’s Diner, Woody’s Auto, and Dave’s Grocery are all being run out of town by the Wal-Mart when you never knew they existed in the first place. It is exceedingly difficult to be a responsible citizen in a place at which you’ve only just arrived, especially when you don’t intend to stay any longer than the next grant or promotion. What’s more, it seems to me that it is equally difficult to be a great professor of literature without having one’s feet firmly planted in the community in which one teaches. Can we speak meaningfully of love, death, and purpose without speaking of the people we share them with, or are we destined to devolve into a lot of deconstructionist prigs, murdering literature to dissect it, filling pages with clever but vapid analyses of the postmodern condition?

What price do we pay for our ambitions? It is all well and good to edit the local culture journal as an undergraduate, but when push comes to shove, am I destined to transience? I sit here this morning, the hypocrite as usual, mere hours from boarding a transatlantic flight for a seven-month sojourn in France. My great uncle has passed from this vale of tears this very evening, and I will not be here for the burial. No one in the family is disappointed in me; indeed, they can hardly wait to tell me what a grand opportunity I’ve been given. But to think that my absence from this place could become the rule rather than the exception, well…it has me reconsidering everything.

---

Transmission: Apples

2622 days ago

by Jaron Gaier

This morning, as we rode up to Stone’s Apple Barn, my family and I remembered past apple-picking years. Last year’s forays into the Mutsu and Empires. The year before’s trek around the bog, into some Red Delicious. Wagon rides, only a few years ago, as infants in baby-backpacks. We’ve been going for a long, long time – and this is something that puzzles me. Today, I couldn’t pick out memories from one year or the other. I remember Jude, my brother, as an infant in a blue jumpsuit and curly-cued blonde top, gnawing on Jonathans. I remember Gianna, my sister, as an infant sleeping in a sling ‘neath my mother’s arm stretched up to get a low-hanging fruit. I remember Eli, my brother, running barefoot to grab my hand to pull him up, face red and hands cold, onto the John Deere’s hay-baled wagon. But I sure couldn’t tell you which years these all happened to fit in. There is a time, I know, that we hadn’t ever been. Granny Smith virgins we all once were.

But I don’t know when that time was – and I’m usually pretty good about ascribing dates to spaces and times; it helps to have siblings’ births evenly spaced throughout my childhood years. We’ve been picking them-apples for as long as some of them have been born. Probably three or four of them suckled starry-eyed on the Winesap of East Moline, Illinois, and the two eldest of us now get to do the annual collegiate chow on something we’ve not tried yet – Jonalicious.

And I think I kind of like it this way. I like not knowing where one memory stops and another begins. I appreciate the haziness. My memories are sort of labeled (“I think,” said the tractor driver today, “that the pink ribbons are Jonathans”). They certainly follow a pattern, and they certainly go in rows. Though they get gnarly and yawn with age, they’re definitely still all there, whether I can place them or find them or drive a tractor to them or not.

Perhaps this haziness of memory, this uncertainty of exact locus is what often accompanies all family tradition. My family doesn’t have too many traditions, I would admit (at least, none that I can brag so wholeheartedly about as apple-picking), but this haziness, of course, is what accompanies all memory. You would think, though, that if it were a tradition, a family’s transmission of habitual actions or beliefs, it wouldn’t be so hard to define and defend from the grasp of time and age. I’m certainly not aged (Dylan once quipped: “It’s took me a long time to get young and now I consider myself young”), though watching my younger siblings run around and do the things I used to do makes me realize that I’m older than ever. And that I won’t be doing this for all time. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be picking apples every year with my young family, whether I will be around this time next year, two years from now – can it stay a tradition without the whole family?

I’m forgetting, I have to admit, that tradition acts also as a verb. To tradition a set of beliefs or habitual actions unto another could be just as good as actually acting in a tradition yourself, right? It is valuable, yes, to pass along knowledge and customs to another generation – as I like to think that I’m doing when I raise my youngest sister upon my shoulders to reach a high-hanging tart one – and hardly anything is more important than benefiting the youngest among us with the best of values. But there’s something about actually being there yourself, actually participating in the tradition yourself, that seems a bite more valuable than solely passing it along down the line, only to watch it put in the growing bag by somebody else, even if it is your Grandma or your kid brother. I ate probably five or six apples in an hour and a half’s time today, and I would not have it any other way – I need to continue benefiting myself with these best values before I can bequeath them all to the little’uns. So, in the tradition of my mother and grandmother before me, I’m going to bake some apple pie, mash up some apple sauce, cook some apple crisp, and push it all on my neighbors. I’m going to keep an apple a day to eat the doctor away. I’m going to throw apples into the sky, towards Old Main, at the squirrels. And I’m going to continue telling my fambly about how great this all is, how awesome that hill looks, how ominous the clouds loom, and how full these darned apple trees are this year.

---

The Much-Delayed First Augie Acres Glebe

2688 days ago

Where to start?

It’s been two months since becoming the caretaker for Augie Acres, Augustana’s campus garden, and I’ve spent many hours picking (fruits and vegetables), pulling (weeds – mostly crabgrass), pushing (wheelbarrows), pruning (tomatoes), and praying (for the natural death of vermin). It’s been a summer full of near-perfect weather for the garden on 6th Avenue – I’ve only had to water once – and only yesterday did it really feel the 90-something degrees Fahrenheit. We’ve had a variety of volunteers for “Pickin’ and Pullin’ Fridays at Augie Acres” – plenty of students, faculty members and their children, and local community members have come to weed, chat, and lend a miscellaneous hand. We took out all the Burdock around the Cottonwood tree. We cleared the vineyard hill. We put up a fence. We’ve done our best with the Japanese Beetles that prey on the fruit trees.

And I’ve succesfully procrastinated this blog for long enough – but no more! I’m going to try and make this a regular deal, at least once a week. I find myself having something to say every once and a while, as I’m ankle-deep in mud, or eyeing down seven – yes, seven – groundhogs, or wheelbarrowing produce to the Farmers’ Market, or bicycling home.

So, hear from me soon.

---

Notes from a Western Farm

2856 days ago

by Dan Hadley
Dan Hadley is a 2009 graduate of Augustana College

I’m anxious, ready for spring even though winter isn’t even halfway over, anxious to stretch my legs and enjoy that sweet sunshine and the sight of birds returning from their much warmer hideaways, and anxious to get my hand dirty again, to feel tired after a long day of work. For those of you stuck indoors fighting the cold, eyes and hands glued to the screens and keyboards typing away at those papers (they never end do they…), wondering what’s next after the four year party ends, here might be some food for thought.

No doubt many of you have figured out by now that we need to start rethinking the way we grow and eat food; that is to say, we need to start thinking and acting locally, growing food that is based on ecological limits and a local economy, and producing food that actually tastes good! If you have the desire to eat healthy food and want to participate in that wonderful act of growing something delicious out of that mysterious soil we all so depend on, then here are some things to check out.

This past summer I worked on a small 20 acre organic farm in the Williams Valley in southwest Oregon. Consisting of the hills and valleys of the Siskiyou and Klamath Mountains, this region is known for one of the highest diversity of plants in the U.S., its extremely complex geology, and its numerous microclimates. It’s this diversity of rock, weather, and plants that has made this region home to so many
unique small-scale farms, with each adapting to their own local conditions, producing things of real, healthy value. The farm I worked on is one of several farms involved in a program called the Rogue Farm Corps, which is a program that places interns on farms for a season and gives them the opportunity to learn many different aspects of organic growing. By offering classes and tours at other farms throughout the region every few weeks, students get a chance to meet other interns and to learn about the farms they are working on and the people crazy enough to run them, and to learn other aspects of food production and sustainable living. So while I learned about vegetable production and raising chickens on the farm I worked on, I also toured a bison ranch, learned about ecological straw bale building techniques, crop and livestock rotation, and how to brew beer. The farms are also part of a network called the Siskiyou Sustainable Cooperative, which contributes to numerous CSAs, restaurants, and farmers markets in the region. More information about the program can be found at http://www.roguefarmcorps.org/.

You can also check out internships and apprentice programs on sustainable farms and ranches throughout the U.S. at the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA) website (http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/internships/). This is probably the most comprehensive list of internships and work opportunities on small scale sustainable farms within the U.S. out there, along with publications and information on sustainable agriculture. For those of you with a more adventurous spirit there are also farming opportunities throughout the world found at the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms website (http://www.wwoof.org/).

---

American Pioneers

2905 days ago

by Nick Borchert

A few days previous, I happened to perceive both that my hair had exceeded acceptable length (even by my lax standards) and that there was a lovely snowstorm occurring outside my window; thus I determined to use the occasion of the former to pursue a more intimate relationship with the latter. The walk was pleasantly uncomfortable, as anticipated, but the spirit of it was somewhat ruined, for I must confess that, having in my possession an inducement nigh-irresistible to the college undergraduate—a $2-off coupon—I bypassed several local barbers en route to—apologies, Fr. Peters—the “high-overhead chain just up the street” known as Big League Barbers. Herein, in lieu of the small-talk that traditionally accompanies the shearing process, I enjoyed the dubious privilege of watching ESPN over the buzz of the clippers.

Oh that the buzz had been louder! I had just convinced myself that making NFL Live’s “Twitter Tuesday” the subject of a public tirade would be both curmudgeonly and uninteresting when, at a commercial break (which on the contrary offered no reprieve at all), I was obliged to see Walt Whitman’s “Pioneers! O Pioneers!” being used to tout Levi-brand jeans. In the commercial, an austere voice reads the opening stanzas of the poem while sweaty young men and women, presumably of the “youthful sinewy races,” run about wielding torches, dashing through the wilderness, doing back flips, riding horses, cuddling, coupling, and looking generally athletic, as catchwords like “strong,” “capable,” and “America” flash across the bottom of the screen.

Now it is true of course that Whitman is to some extent receiving his just deserts; after all, the poem in question does contain the following stanza:

“We primeval forests felling,
We the rivers stemming, vexing we and piercing deep the mines within,
We the surface broad surveying, we the virgin soil upheaving,
Pioneers! O pioneers!”

And though I would forget it, we must also remember that it was Whitman who gave us the abominable “Song of the Redwood-Tree.” But he elsewhere instructs that “You shall not heap up what is call’d riches, / You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or achieve” and calls us to “Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn’d!” If the Good Grey Poet was sometimes caught up in the capitalist spirit of the young nation, it was only because he perceived in that spirit leanings toward the “divine magnetic lands” of which he dreamed. When Whitman thought of “progress,” he thought of spiritual and moral progress, an eternal march of the American people toward “inseparable cities, with their arms about each other’s necks.” The enterprising, pioneering American spirit seemed to him exactly the disposition needed for such a journey, but no level of material success was ever the goal: “Have you outstript the rest? Are you President? / It is a trifle….they will more than arrive there every one, and still pass on.”

When Whitman offered that “The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it,” I rather doubt that what he was searching for was that the American spirit which he so cherished be spent in the never-ending pursuit of wealth. But that is what happened in the main, so now the urgent words of the “lonely old courage-teacher” are being used to sell designer jeans. But the marketing gurus over at Levi Strauss & Co., if they had any ends beyond the creation of a successful product, would do well to heed these words of the Camden Sage:

“This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others…”

But all things considered, Dr. Peters is correct, and the real travesty of the day was that I consented to set foot in the chain barbershop in the first place simply to save a few bucks. Therefore, if you chance to be the next unfortunate soul to hear me moralize about the superiority of the farmer’s market to the supermarket, I hereby entitle you to scoff. But the next time, so help me Walt, I’m going local, where at the very least I won’t have to chance twenty minutes in front of a television.

---

The Local Value of Studying Abroad

2916 days ago

by Margaret Foley

After weeks of planning and anticipation, the students of Augustana’s Spring 2009 Vienna Term held a reunion. We ate schnitzel and bratwurst at a local restaurant specializing in German food (as close to Austrian as we could get) and then partook in other favorite activities, including eating some delicious homemade apfelstrudel (apple strudel), and playing several rounds of a favorite Italian card game impersonating the old American West (cowboys and duels and all that jazz) named ‘Bang’ we frequently played at night and on Sundays. Although the turnout was fairly small, the nostalgia hung in the air, heavier than the scent of the sugary desert we loved so much.

And how is this local? It may seem a bit backward but hopefully not uncouth to examine a foreign experience in respect to local matters.

Our group of 36 students lived together in a hostel for three months in the 6th district of Vienna. We took classes offered by three Augustana professors. We went to parks, restaurants, museums, concerts and karaoke bars together. We traveled to foreign cities on the weekends, including Prague, Krakow and Amsterdam. We learned the value of getting lost, eating new foods and conversing with complete strangers. We saw the Hofburg Palace together, we saw the Vienna Philharmonic together, and we saw Auschwitz together.

And now we’re home. I still see many of these people regularly; during the intense period of time we lived and studied together, we formed a community of our own which has continued at our college. We have jokes and stories and memories and experiences that could not have been replicated anywhere else. Studying in Vienna allowed this unique group to exist, and this transplanted community has been invaluable to me since my return.

Along with this new community of peers and friends I am grateful to have, another major aspect of the experience has contributed to my education: I learned to recognize traits of my own culture with the template that Vienna taught me to recognize traits of its own.

During my time there, cultural observations, at first a novelty, eventually became an engrained part of my unconscious behavior. The term’s umbrella theme was “Dream versus Reality.” Viennese culture and history is nearly more steeped in dualism than schnitzel is dipped in breading. As time progressed and my cultural observations continued, I became accustomed to recognizing and internalizing the duality of facade and reality in every thing and every situation I encountered.

For example, when I attended concerts at the famous Musikverein or Wiener Konzerthaus, I couldn’t help but compare the social constructs which produced the Schönberg piece I heard one night compared to the Mozart I heard on another. Nor could I ignore the historical background that allowed the quick construction of elegant limestone facades over plaster buildings. Or why the Nazi eagles which perch on pillars of the old city gate still exist – and why they were put up in the first place. I found myself almost confounded with my inability to turn off this acquired sense. So much so that even though I was never as totally immersed in Viennese culture as its more permanent inhabitants inevitably must be, I brought this lens of cultural and historical dualism home with me. I now look more scrupulously for the reality behind my own culture’s architecture, art, music and scholastics. I cannot help but see the oil business behind every gas station, the garden deficit behind every grocery store, and the lack of funding behind every run-down public school.

And yes, there is a sense of guilt and hypocrisy when I attempt to reconcile the less environmentally and ecologically sound aspects of my study abroad experience with my reverence for all things local. But what I have gained from the experience is invaluable. I intend on using my newfound characteristically Viennese observational abilities for good, to improve the desperately disparate aspects of my own culture.

And while bringing these new observational abilities home has involved a bit of estrangement along with its wisdom, bringing home the friendships and community as well has introduced a sense of comfort and camaraderie to the transition, soothing this transplanted place memory and these valuable observations of dualism.

---

Dispatch from a Black Friday Conscientious Objector

2917 days ago

by Katharine O’Connor

Perhaps I have just missed out on some common knowledge, but I am willing to venture that others too do not know why we call that all-important shopping day after Thanksgiving “Black Friday.” I have only recently been enlightened on this fact and I will pass along the favor. Up until today, department stores operate at a loss, and do not usually break even, but with today’s sales, they make up for a whole year’s worth of losses, going from “the red” to “the black”. This makes me pretty nervous.

I do not mean to be a complete grouch about Thanksgiving, and so truly enjoy the time I spend with my loved ones, but I can’t help wondering about the spirit of this holiday and how it fits in with a modern American worldview. For the previous year the primary thoughts of a lot Americans has been getting “green,” frugality, and buckling down for some tough times ahead, but this holiday is not particularly conducive to that sentiment. Thanksgiving traditionally represents being grateful for what we’ve been given, that we have survived another year, and that we are pretty sure we’ll have enough food to get us through the winter. It is this last part I am interested in at this moment. We have come to associate Thanksgiving with fecundity, abundance and surplus, and with the classic iconography of enormous obese smiling turkeys dressed up as pilgrims and the requisite full-to-bursting cornucopias. For this one holiday we forget those issues we have been concerned with the rest of the year. “Le Green, C’est Chic” and watching our spending are for a little while set aside, and we celebrate with mass transit and overconsumption. Am I suggesting that our behavior at Thanksgiving is a neat little microcosm for the general American attitude? Not particularly, but I do think that showing restraint in one area of our lives teaches us to show restraint in others.

I am currently spending my day at home with my family, we having sworn amongst ourselves that no deal, however tempting, will in any way induce us to enter any store upon this day. While it is utterly unreasonable to suppose that anyone can stop Americans from shopping on Black Friday, I think a little pause for an examination of how we honor this holiday would not go amiss. That abundance does not mean an obligation, or permission, to consume that abundance without boundaries, and that just because something is available to you at a low cost does not mean that it should be indiscriminately and instantly obtained, are lessons that should not only apply to the holidays in turbulent times, but to our friendships, relationships, eating habits, household economics and interactions with our planet. Until we change our fundamental thinking about how to treat abundance, we cannot possibly hope to change our behaviors of consumption. As I sit here in the post-holiday daze, with my cold turkey sandwich, taking one small step at a time towards a change in that thinking does not appear so difficult.

“Refrain…and that shall lend a kind of easiness to the next abstinence and the next more easy; For use almost can change the stamp of nature…”
Hamlet, Act. II, sc. IV

---

« Older