three stories;

(1) It starts with June, a woman I met in China who had lived all of her life in Beijing and then London. Reaching an older age, she returned to China after her good friend started a retreat center in a picturesque rural area near Guilin. The retreat center focuses on training new organic farmers, healthy lifestyles, and cancer prevention. We got the change to stay their for a few nights during our program and it was so peaceful and picturesque – especially when we contrasted it with the hectic, polluted time we spent in big cities like Beijing and Nanning.

Anyways, June came with us on on a few farm visits and on one bus ride I got the opportunity to sit right behind her and absorb her speech. She spoke English with a high pitched British accent. She often made grand gestures to accompany her words. She had a lot to say (David, my professor who was sitting next to her, was obliged to listen and respond while I just got to sit back and enjoy it.) One particular ah-ha moment that she was dealing with stuck with me…

She spoke of her move to a rural setting for the first time and of how she pictured it as a transition into “the simple life.” Like separating herself from the bustle and rush of city life would all of a sudden make life simple. She said, “well, I have been here for 3 months and that certainly is not the case.” She explained how now she has to travel much farther to get to a store and locating things that she needs is much harder and that everything is so much more spread out. “Life is just not simple,” she realized. It doesn’t matter where you are in life or in space, life is not simple. June was so in awe of this realization and I find it incredibly worthy to recognize. It’s not easy, it ain’t simple, and we’re just human.

(2) Yesterday was Tu B’Shvat or “the new year of trees” in the Jewish tradition. Today I attended the Tu B’Shvat celebration at Carleton. I haven’t attended a lot of Jewish ceremonies but from those I have been to I have recognized that Jews do an amazing job connecting subsistence and spirituality through the medium of food, and I love them for it.

At Tu B’Shvat we first ate a fruit with a tough shell (pistachios, almonds, etc) we talked about protecting yourself and times when having a tough exterior serves you well or gets in the way. Then we had a fruit with a pit – “that contains within itself the tools for its own rebirth” but in order to become something new it must “crack open and sprout new roots” – and we were asked what in life we have had to let go of in order to grow. Lastly, we ate a soft, edible fruit and we talked about the power of vulnerability – of loving whole-heartedly with no guarantees, of accepting and embracing imperfection.

So I am sitting here thinking on my computer, with pistachios and dates and figs digesting in my stomach, and I am wondering what I should guard myself against, what I need to change in order to grow, and how I can make myself more comfortable with vulnerability and spread more love.
I am getting sick (and regretting not getting the flu shot), so I think I should guard myself from some things. In terms of my growth, just like in farming, it is all about soil quality. Right here at Carleton I’ve got a lot of fertile minds to support me and its up to me to suck all the good stuff up. As for accepting vulnerability… uncertainty… it seems to be out of my control, that I shouldn’t think about it in order for it to happen, I should actually think less. Love more. Accept that “life is certainly not simple” and proceed to be in awe of it.

(3) And lastly, I made empanadas this week with a lovely Farm team – Liz, Iris, Marty – and they were yummy. We used this dough recipe – and then I did some farm food improv for the filling. It was something like this:

6 cups lentils cooked, 1 large bag of kale, 5 small winter squash, 1 bag of frozen corn, cumin, cinnamon, new mexican chili powder, and salt to taste.

On the side: spicy tomato salsa – 1 lg can tomatoes + some pickled jalapenos, boiled down together.

I was especially proud of this meal because the kale, squash, tomatoes, and jalapenos were from this fall’s harvest and the cornmeal, wheat flour and lentils were grown and packaged 2 hours SW in Welcome, MN (at Whole Grain Milling, a farm I toured for Agroecology class). Its rewarding to taste these earthy Midwest ingredients when we can’t even see the soil anymore.

And to wrap it all together, I will use my sous-chef Iris. She is an old friend (I am using that adjective in the youngest sense). We ran into each other at a party and made plans to make dinner on Monday at 5pm. We didn’t speak of it again and we didn’t even have eachother phone #’s. When she arrived on time, we were both pleasantly surprised to see each other. She said, “isn’t it great how we can make plans and not have to worry about texting or calling eachother.” It was so great. It was also great how we still loved sharing space even though we hadn’t in a long time. And she was so positive and wonderful.


So even though I worry about staying in touch with my friends, contact makes it simple.

Balancing my protection/growth/and vulnerability — now that’s a challenge.

& food helps me make sense of things, just like the Jews.




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