You Have the Power

With no disrespect for the pig, I sometimes wonder just why I spend so much time trying to make a “silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” In other words, why am I working so hard trying to transform this acre of hard lava into a lush paradise?

I don’t believe I’m doing it only to create something of beauty. I believe I am taking to heart our need to become more self-sustaining in an area of the world that too easily could become isolated from the rest of what we call “civilization.”

As the price of fuel increases, we will be less inclined to pay for the accompanying rise in food prices, if the shipping is able to continue at all. We don’t need the packaged goods that are advertised as a way to “bring families to the dinner table for a hearty, wholesome meal.” We don’t need to rely on food that is grown half-way around the world by people who may be exploited. A great book that helped me with that perspective is Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

When I was growing up in the Midwest, people grew their own foods and whatever they didn’t eat right away was canned for the winter months. I went with my folks to help farmers with the slaughtering and smoking so meat would be available for their families. When everyone came in for dinner, everything on the table had been freshly butchered, preserved, or grown, including the freshly picked strawberries (my favorite).

Many days I spent helping my grandmother pit cherries, peaches and apricots to be put up in glass jars. I loved the “bread and butter pickles” she made to put on sandwiches or eat as a mid-afternoon treat. Beside my great-grandmother, I picked gooseberries and served as her able assistant as she made them into such wonderful pies. This is the same ancestor that my brother, Hilton mentions in his blog .

Because I was born at the end of the Great Depression, I’m old enough to have lived through several eras. In my “hippie” era, I wanted to go “back to the earth.” I was equally concerned about the use and abuse of land, and I embarked into the world of vegetarianism in the mid 70s. The philosophy of Frances Moore Lappé, better known as “Frankie,” made an impact on me in the mid-70s when I read her Diet for a Small Planet.

For the next decade, I was fairly strict with being a vegetarian. After that, I chose to include a little meat in my diet occasionally, still preferring the simple vegetarian fare that I had begun because of her book. In a way, I forgot about Frankie, even while I was devouring her books regularly for tried and true recipes.

About a year ago, I found her again and was amazed at what she had been doing and how many books she had written while I was off doing other things. The book that caught my eye was You Have the Power: Choosing Courage in a Culture of Fear. It was written in 2004, so it isn’t a brand new book. I didn’t find it until 2007. What a treasure it is!

She speaks of the shock and fear that gripped her when told she had a rare but treatable form of breast cancer. From a comment made by a Russian cab driver in New York, she and her co-author, Jeffrey Perkins, realized how fearful we are as Americans.

We are afraid of everything, she says, and we are stopped from doing anything about the sources of our fear. Frankie and Jeffrey write that “…it is our ideas about fear that….can shut us down, or they can allow us to discover our power to create the lives and the world we want.”

Fear is inside, not outside of us, they write, and they give us seven old ways of thinking that put the brakes on our energy and power. They proceed to give us seven new thoughts to inspire us and unleash our energy. You Have the Power had the same impact on me that Diet did in the 70s.

I don’t create my garden out of a sense of fear, but with great anticipation for a better and healthier future for myself and those around me. I do have the power to create that kind of life, the one my grandmother and great-grandmother taught me.

Early Hawai`ians divided the land from the mountains to the sea into parcels called ahupua`a. This enabled them to grow various food items at different elevations as well as get fish from the ocean. Now that is self-sustaining! So much we could learn from that way of life.

An article from The Boston Globe gives us a glimpse of Frankie today. I can hardly wait to read Getting a Grip: Clarity, Creativity, and Courage in a World Gone Mad, published in October 2007.

How did I miss it?

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