I have to be at the farm at eight in the morning, which leaves plenty of time to swish a series of questions around in my mind: Where do I want to live? What kind of work do I really want to do? Is the way I’m living working? What does it even mean for something to be “working”? Is it okay to have a second cup of coffee? Do I eat too many eggs? When you see a new doctor and they ask for your family’s history of disease there is one influential genetic flaw that they overlook—the ability to spin complex webs of worry from thin air.
The worry is like the sound your mom makes when she chews her food or the incessant barking from the dog next door—it’s there but you just have to keep living your life. So I arrive at the farm on time, worry in tow. We’re harvesting radishes, which I do with supreme slowness. I love to dig my fingers around in the top two inches of soil feeling for the larger of the round tops that bump against my fingertips. Once I pull up a root I can’t help but rub away the dirt. I’m harvesting Cherry Belles, that are perfectly round and red, and a longer variety that is a red-and-white two-tone called French Breakfast.
I work quietly, my feet placed under me and my legs curled into a frog stance, ready to leap. And I think along a labyrinth pathway, circling but heading somewhere. Recently, life feels especially unclear, unplanned, and unpredictable. When faced with the vast unknown, every era and every culture has its own way of dealing, often through myth, superstition, or religion.
In the Middle Ages they thought radishes contained evil spirits and people said radish prayers to consecrate the vegetables before eating them. In my world it seems to work the other way around—as I pull radishes from the soil the routine of touching these plants seems to consecrate my thoughts—soothing them to a low background hum.
So, in honor of the radish and worry, I’m saving the less-than-perfect seconds that I pull from the ground and, in another routine that seems to soothe my mind, chopping the roots into quarters and quick-pickling them in Mason jars where they turn the most unnatural shade of pink. Sour, crunchy, brightly colored, the pickled radishes are a hands-in-the-dirt-afternoon-in-the-kitchen alternative to myth and religion. Or, it’s in the steps from dirt to refrigerator that I see the vastness of the world and the smallness of my worry.