This is a special and holy time for many of the world's people. With the celebrations of Passover and Easter, ordinary activities give way to special ceremonies, rituals, and meals to commemorate events that occurred thousands of year ago. Food plays a major role in these celebrations. A continuity through the ages can be seen in the extensive symbolism of the foods served at the Passover Seder and in the Easter feast following the Lenten fast. Shared meals connect members of families to one another and to ancient traditions.
These holy days celebrating deliverance and resurrection occur at the same time the cycle of the seasons brings us to the rebirth of spring, and to planting time around here. The act of faith implied in placing a small, seemingly lifeless seed into the ground, rewards us later with growth and nourishment. This ritual of planting can be accompanied by as much ceremony and mystical feeling as some religious celebrations. It is another way of honoring our past, and redefining our connection with and dependence on something greater than ourselves.
Food is, after air and water, our most important connection with the Earth. Our bodies run on the solar energy collected by plants and are nourished by the nutrients they gather from water, air and soil. This sustenance comes to us either directly or through animals. The traditional grace or blessing before a meal voices our awe and thankfulness for this wonderful Earth and its productivity; its nourishing wholeness.
The growing, gathering, catching or hunting of food, and its processing and preparation provided a significant portion of our ancestors' activities. Many metaphors of our religious or spiritual lives come from the relationship our ancestors had with their food supply. Gardening encourages this relationship and provides important and practical lessons about the nature of the world. The care, humility, faith and understanding fostered by gardening are valuable personal resources.
But today, although we can still put together a ceremonial meal, the connection to the source of food for many of the Earth's people is long and tangled. We have come to the point where people think they don't need to know how to grow food, or how to cook it. Our culture says it's just as good to plunk down your money on the fast food counter, or to open a prepared, packaged meal, slip it into the microwave and push a button.
Mexican novelist and screenwriter Laura Esquival says,
"The food one cooks and eats takes one back to the food's source. You put a package into the microwave, it takes you back to the factory where it was all made. You don't go back to Earth, you don't get reminded of your nature."
There are still connections, of course; everything is in fact connected to everything else. It's just that with the emerging global food system, the significant relationships are hidden behind brand names in the supermarket. The connection to the Earth happens at a great distance, and to an ever larger extent, is ecologically disastrous and socially unjust. Much of our food depends on women and children who labor in pesticide - contaminated fields in third-world countries for about a dollar a day. The great bounty of grain and vegetables produced in this country comes with the cost of severe depletion of soil and water resources. The plants and animals which nourished our ancestors are now being genetically manipulated to achieve greater control over and higher profits from our food.
It's no wonder that interest in gardening and small farms as well as organic and local food is increasing as we learn more about the destructive nature of the industrial food system. This season, in vacant lots in New Haven, schoolyards in Bridgeport, Hamden and Wilton, and in gardens and farms all over the region, children, women and men, rich and poor, are reconnecting directly with the Earth that inspires and sustains us, by planting seeds.
This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth
This page and its contents are copyright © 1998 by WSHU-FM, Fairfield, CT, and by Bill Duesing.