Main Street Project


Life Goes On

passenger-pigeonHello, lovely creatures.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for many of us. I’ve had a hard time writing or focusing on food (other than eating it) or figuring out what this next blog piece would be. There was a bit of good news on the food policy front, as California voted to legalize commercial hemp production and Oklahoma definitively voted down the so called “Right to Farm” act, putting the needs of farmers, the ecosystem, and the public above the aggressive, narrow-minded goals of industrial agribusinesses. That didn’t add up to much of a post.

Then, as I was scrolling through our postprandial Thanksgiving movie options (too dark? too fluffy? too real? not real enough?), I realized that the only thing that excited me was a nature documentary. Which, unfortunately, is not out until tomorrow. (I try not to be bitter.)

However you voted or didn’t vote or couldn’t vote this year, it’s obvious that there is a lot of fear and anger in the US and the world. But nature doesn’t care. Winter has finally arrived in Minnesota with all its slush and beauty. Outside my place, the bright red berries on the dogwood tree are bearded with bits of dripping frost. My dog sticks her nose in every single rabbit footprint when we walk in the mornings. Farms in the Midwest hunker down and gather strength for the growing season, while our cohorts in the South are harvesting the fruits we’ll soon be craving. Birds migrate. Animals hunt or run to stay alive. To every thing blah blah blah there is a season blah blah blah.

It may sound hokey or blindly optimistic to say that life goes on, but it’s simply a fact. Life goes on until it doesn’t. There is pain and joy every day, everywhere. We had the longest growing season in recorded history here in Minnesota, which is both evidence of a rapidly warming planet and an opportunity for more production and/or different crops. I take great comfort in the inevitability of change, on a microscopic, seasonal, and cosmic scale, and in the past few weeks I’ve also been thinking about eternal and universal truths. Nature provides infinite examples of both.

I’m one of those annoying people who is more moved by the death of an unknown dog than at the death of an unknown person, and I think it’s because I consider them blameless. There is an innocence in nature, even in the horrors – the inevitability of life and death, of hunger and fear. And while I tend to root for the furry prey over the predator when I watch nature documentaries, I don’t blame the predator. They’ve got to live, too. I know that even when they seem brutal, they’re simply the products of their evolutionary development and environment. I have to remind myself that we all are.

I don’t believe people are born bad. Every one of us is the product of our genetics and our culture and the millions of little inputs that make up each one of our thousands of days. There is no inevitability to bigotry or greed or cruelty, but they all emerge out of our instinctive needs and fears. We all want to be safe and well. How we interpret that is where the politics come in. If I can look at those who scare me or anger me with compassion and recognition of our shared animal motivations, maybe we can come to a place of understanding and work together to create a place of safety and satiety for all of us. Harness that with our unique human talents and our unique human compassion, and awesome things are possible. While I am a huge fan of logic and reason, my favorite thing about humanity is our ability to care for those outside of our tribe. Or, as Aldo Leopold put it,

We, who have lost our [passenger] pigeons, mourn the loss. Had the funeral been ours, the pigeons would hardly have mourned us. In this fact, rather than in Mr. Vandevar Bush’s bombs, or Mr. DuPont’s nylons, lies objective evidence of our superiority over the beasts.

Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or the National Day of Mourning or are simply living a nondescript November 24th, whether you’re with your own tribe or not, I wish you good food, good company, and peace.

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