I haven't always eaten kale. In fact, I rarely ate my greens. Admitting that sounds like a confession. It wasn't until I was so desperate to feel better that I was willing to try anything new, but I still had my doubts...I wasn't yet convinced that changing my diet really could change my life. [How ridiculously unenlightened could I be?]
Before being diagnosed with hypothyroidism and fibromyalgia, I had already changed to a gluten-free diet just to see if it would help... and it did, but it wasn't enough. I was only scratching the surface and needed to dig deeper and learn more. I began reading more books and articles and listening to good advice from knowledgeable friends. I then transitioned from a merely gluten-free diet to a full-on organic, anti-inflammatory, low-glycemic diet.
No amount of reading prepared me for the life-changing results I received... the ability to move without pain; to wake with optimism; to fall asleep in a daze of gratitude for a day well spent; and to sleep unburdened... all these were precious gifts restored to me. I embraced them all and wrapped them in the newfound joy of being able to move my body again and to live for days without constant, debilitating pain.
Profoundly grateful for the nourishment that enabled my body to repair and recover, I didn't just want to buy organic, I wanted to learn what it meant to be organic...and so I asked my friend Kyra Hart if she could indulge my quest. Kyra alongside her husband, Matty, farm at Overmeade Farm, the Hart family farm in Lenox, Massachusetts. Their crops are Authentically Grown without the use of pesticides or herbicides and are grown with cover crops and green manures, through crop rotation and soil management.
What I learned from 2 days farming with Kyra and Matty surprised and awakened me beyond my expectations. At the outset my approach was straightforward: I was going to perform an act of physical labor and to learn some really useful things along the way. Nothing signaled to me in advance that I would receive a spiritual wake up call, a veritable "lightening bolt" not from Heaven Above but from the ground beneath my feet.
The beauty of farming with Kyra is that a day follows its natural rhythm. Mother Nature is in the driver's seat and what could be more natural than starting the day off with a Fire Cider shot and bringing my son AND my dog to work with me!? No make up. No high heals and no internal-maternal struggle. As my son, Allott, headed off for riding camp in the Overmeade barn, I met up with Kyra and her 3 year old daughter, Zofia, and together with my dog Trouble, we made our way to the lower fields.
We emerged from the track into the wide-open glory of the fields and an uninterrupted blue sky above. Kyra parked the car and set up the big red sun umbrella, while I did a 360 turn to take it all in, noting the red umbrella as the only flash of color amongst the deep earth tones and greens. In an instant, I could feel myself exhale and release.
The first thing to strike me was how incredibly neat and tidy all the rows of vegetables were. Added to which, there was no fence in sight. I asked Kyra how she kept the fields so beautifully maintained without a fence and her answer was profoundly simple: "we replant. and some times we replant again. and some times we replant again."
Replant. Replant. Replant: a profound take-away from the day. I have thought about this ever since - that no matter what kind of life we lead, the ground can always shift beneath our feet, and quite literally for Kyra, who needs to go to bed each night with a working knowledge of which way the wind is blowing in order to prepare for the next day. There's a reason they call it a Farmers' Almanac, and not a Bankers' Almanac...but the truth is, whether you are a farmer or a Wall Street banker, we all need to learn at times how to adapt and redefine how we go about doing things in order to yield a crop and put food on the table.
Zoe is an amazing little girl and held her own in the heat. The sweetest assignment was picking snap peas and eating them with Zoe, all of us talking as we moved down the tangled line of greens. I was equally charmed by the Coleman hoes we used to carve weeds gently out from under and around the baby lettuce heads. Kyra told me how Eliot Coleman, the now famous Maine homesteader, had developed sharp, narrow tips to insert on long or short handles. Kyra cleans and sharpens her blades each night. It is interesting to see how Mr. Coleman's definition of "organic" has shifted over the years to "authentic."
As I researched Mr. Coleman, I was easily side-tracked when I discovered that his daughter, Melissa Coleman, had written a book on her family's life homesteading in the yet untamed environs of Maine. This Life is in your Hands is one of the best books I have read in a very, very long time. Ms. Coleman is a gifted writer whose prose are both lyrical and level.
While I have no desire to romanticize farming, I can say with confidence that there is nothing so grounding [actually] as getting dirty and "feeling green" all around you. Yes, of course it is Romantic [just read Thoreau] but Farming is about so much more than what we choose to put in our mouth; or what we choose to plant; and how we choose to plant it. It is bloody hard work but it's also one of THE most natural things we could ever do - growing our own food with our own hands and actually connecting with the earth.
I've never been one for the gym, and after a back-breaking day pulling garlic, the concept of going to the gym seems even more absurd: all that energy leaving our bodies and not going anywhere, and not making anything. There is no better place to find strength and to make ourselves strong than when we are closer to Nature. But Farming is no easy or convenient thing - if it were, we would all be doing it... Farming is a temperamental beast ....an elusive practice that is part beauty, part pain; part bounty, part loss; part planned, part unpredictable; part sorrow, part joy.
But in less than one week, farming [with a little 'f'] showed me that I could find so much happiness just by taking time to do a whole lot more with my hands and seeing a whole lot more with my eyes. If I could re-jig my life and make time for this hands-on approach to life, I could live more fully and breathe more deeply. I took this lesson with me, from the Overmeade fields and into my home and witnessed how magical and transformative it is to apply this approach to practically every thing I do...Like many people out there, I am Slow Living.
And that means: no more rushing around for me. Now that I am healthy again, I plan to stay healthy and that means taking time to read labels on food; learning how to make good choices about the food I buy [i.e, just because it's gluten free doesn't automatically mean that the level of sugar is healthy for me]; and learning how best to prepare certain foods.
But it also means no more multi-tasking. My to-do list is now an Un-Do list and it will take years to work through it. My phone is always turned off from the time I help my son with his homework after school until the next morning when we are making breakfast and packing lunches for my husband and my son. It's also turned off when I am walking our dogs, "hanging" with friends, and visiting with my elderly mother. I need that quiet to be present and engaged with what ever I am doing...I don't want one thing more to get in the way or pull me away from what I am doing and experiencing "right here.right now."
Whatever I am doing, l needed to learn how to slow things down and to make time to be in touch with my life. The more nurturing and nourishing things I do for myself and for my loved ones, the deeper my life will be and the stronger, more able I will be when the ground shifts beneath my feet. And the ground always shifts, no matter where you are standing. From now on, it's Hands-On!
Some times, you just gotta' slow down and live slow...