Reflecting upon these food seasons

For this week’s SAVOR Thursdays session, I revisited pictures from The SAVOR Project beginning in late Winter 2019 through these recent summer months. Many were taken in my edible garden, and others from the dozens of gardens and markets I’ve visited over the past year.

By now, many of us are finally breathing more easily and/or may have returned home if impacted by the latest climate crisis of unprecedented wildfires across the Western region. However, too many individuals and families remain under siege, especially within our Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities. The season for real justice seems distant and I can only hope that with each planted seed of antiracism education, each march and protest, each vote and legal victory, we’ll someday reach lasting systemic change.

So much work to do, so much to tear down and rebuild and amend. The better, the more we are able to grow, if together, imperfectly but with mindfulness and compassion.

This past December contained personal overwintered treats such as Chinese Cabbage, which I’d grown for the first time. Even as I toured community gardens around the city of Portland in the dead of winter, I sensed the possibility awaiting beneath the cover crops and burlap bags carefully placed to protect the soil.

And the early produce is always a delight, isn’t it? Whether purchased from small year-round local farmers markets, or harvested from backyard raised beds or containers placed by a backdoor. The spring chicks, the germinating seeds, the return of pollinators, the lengthening days of sunshine that are so precious, especially here in the Pacific Northwest. And when spring launched itself full-on into summer, even as we all grappled with the devastation of the current pandemic, I felt awe at how the sun still rose, how plants blossomed and fruited, how much beauty and food our earth could produce. Edible gardens and farmers markets overflowed, although not without a great deal of long, hard work. I savored each meal even more, with full acknowledgment of this fact, flavored with gratitude.

We need more. More frontyard and backyard and patio and window sill gardens, more urban and small farms. More community land to grow on, available to those beyond the wealthy and privileged few. More dignity and compensation to those who provide our food.

In the midst of the wildfires, farmers and farmworkers rushed to protect their livestock, their crops, their seed supplies, sometimes under the most hazardous of conditions, too often without the kind of compensation or protections we might expect for ourselves. Have you directly supported a local farmer lately? On our little piece of land, in the middle of it all, one of our new pullets started laying. I tended to our small collection of fall veggie transplants in my KN95 mask, although somedays I simply couldn’t go outside. Some plants died, but others survived. Around the country, kids went back to school – many, like our daughter, returning to a new world that exists mostly online.

Once the smoke cleared, I continued harvesting and preserving and planting more food, and ordering new seeds, for the upcoming months. Even though I have huge heirloom tomatoes that will likely never ripen, the pumpkins are slowly changing color. As are the maple leaves, which are beginning to fall.

Now, a few days into this new season of autumn, I’ve entered a period of spiritual reflection, spurred by my two decades of edible gardening and my heritage as a Jew. I notice feelings of pleasure and grief arising as I look at these food pictures. And I sit with these questions:

What do I wish to plant and grow, in the year ahead? What lessons have I learned? What amends do I need to make to those I’m harmed, either through my silence or my direct actions? Can I better learn to celebrate the joy that is mine, simply by waking each morning alive and breathing and savoring such food? How can I fight to my last day to ensure that other sentient beings also enjoy their birthright to do the same?