Little Light

2014-11-23_1416750470I decided to plant herb seeds in November. There was a sunny, warm afternoon and I prepped the pots out on my porch. I planted parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. I carried the pots inside and lined them up in my bedroom, right in front of the glass sliding door, where I hoped they would capture enough light.

I received a mix CD a few days before Christmas. It was from one of my very best friends, Lesley, who was also my 2014-12-29_1419869817college roommate. We were both transfer students, placed together at random by the housing office. On the day we moved in we marveled at the way my blankets complemented her art, her teacups mingled with my books, and our CD cases were long lost soul mates. Soon after we moved in together we realized that we also shared the terribly annoying habit of playing a new favorite song over and over again.

I always think of Lesley when I’m in a one-track loop. The winter CD that she sent to me had a few songs that I played over and over again, but none so much as “A Little Light Within” by Sturgill Simpson.

2014-12-06_1417893825I was at a group meditation in December. It was right around the holidays and the conversation was about winter, darkness, and how hard this time of year can be. We talked about the false light: sparkling white lights, plug-in candles in the window, Christmas music, forced cheeriness. I left thinking that even the Buddhists get sad in the winter.

I’ve become very attached to these seedlings. I rotate the pots so that the stems bend from side to side, yearning for the sun. Recently, with temperatures below freezing, I move the pots away from the window so that they don’t get too cold. I worry that they’re not getting enough sun but they’re growing slowly–with even just a little light.

Process, Work

Actually, First I Make Pickled Radishes

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.

IMG_4434I 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.