garden

The Sacredness of Food.

tomatoes

I am one of those weird people who finds cooking therapeutic and relaxing. When I tell this to people, they often stare through me, as though I am speaking another language of sorts. Sometimes people mumble back to me, “how do you have time for all that?” or “I just can’t be bothered…too much work!”

I get it. I really do…there are many days that I feel like take out is the best option. But there is something so mystical that I get lost in during the cooking process. Somewhere in the rhythm of chopping, mincing, and mixing, I get a little lost from the thoughts that plague the reality of my life. I get lost in the sacred ritual of it all.

For me, cooking is very definitive. It has a beginning, a middle and an end that usually happen in hours - as opposed to the days or weeks some projects can take. Whether you are baking a chicken or making a cake, the results are instantaneous and tangible. While I can make a cake in an afternoon, it could take days - even weeks and yes, sometimes months - for me to plan, shoot, edit, and deliver photos to a client.

Mostly though, it’s the end result. Feeding someone is giving them a gift you made yourself. When I cook, there is a sacredness to making the meal…I think about what people love, what they need…what they crave. I put energy into sourcing ingredients - where can I get the most delicious produce? Who has the best meats? Who has the “right” food for the meal at hand? The mere process of combining flavors, textures, and smells together makes it feel like art - like a painting coming together in all it’s vibrancy. It’s carefully crafted and created just for them.

So next time you sit down to a meal that someone has made, give pause and think of what went into making it. Or, when you endeavor to make your next meal for someone, think of the gift in the creation of it all. There is a sacredness in the food itself. There is a sacredness in the presentation and the process.

And then, after you think about all of that, dive in with love.

The Human Experience

My sweet little garden, on a particularly gloomy spring day in Charleston.

My sweet little garden, on a particularly gloomy spring day in Charleston.

If you follow me on social media, you know that this spot is one of my favorite spots in my yard – or really in my whole world. I don't know why, but it seems to symbolize everything I love about this space – the yard, the privacy hedge, the chair, and my futile attempts at gardening. It's an intimate snapshot of all that I have worked hard for and become over the years.

And yet, it's imperfect. The chair needs a good cleaning and some fresh paint. Weeds are growing through the crack in the pathway. The hedge is out of control with vines and overgrowth. And I have an unplanted hand-me-down pot sitting there, full of leaves, debris and actual trash.

The thing is, this used to bother me. I wanted life to be perfect. I wanted the perfect house, the perfect yard, the perfect family, and the perfect life. I wanted the social media life everyone was selling me. I wanted a spouse that loved me purely. I wanted to enjoy the sunny southern weather here like my friends on their boats and in their backyard pools. This seemed to be the recipe for blissed-out perfection. So in my mind, if I could just get my life to look perfect, it would be perfect.

We all know that's a lie. Yet, somehow we fall into this trap over and over again.

And the trap is deeper that the superficial things. It's about more than a pretty house > pretty yard > pretty life. It's about having life in the palm of your hand. It's about owning every challenge that comes your way. It's about not looking like your world is rocked when you are climbing out of a crisis or depression or another loss you can't bear. You have it together in your sunny, colorful, insta-life.

These superficial ideals are more dangerous than ever. We are living in a time where we aren't embracing the Human Experience.  We aren't accepting the bad with the good. We get depressed when we have a string of too many cold days in a row. We get frustrated when we have to wait in line at our local Target with a cart full of possessions we don't even need. We get mad when the barista doesn't get our order right. Or the traffic light hangs us up another 60 seconds.

In the current landscape of social media, we have been trained not to overshare. Don't tell me the bad stuff. I just want to hear the great parts of your life. I have been told not to tell you that my kid is struggling with school, ADD and depression, but I can tell you he loves rugby and is kind to all animals. I can't tell you that the past 15 years have been the ultimate struggle for me because life is hard, y'all. I can't share my fear of failure as I send a proposal for a new assignment out - I just have to ROCK THAT SHIT and OWN IT! Because we all know that leads to success, right?

The problem is, we are losing all sense of why we are here - flesh and blood walking around on planet earth. We are here to experience it all. That doesn't just mean jumping from airplanes or living the sweet life in a van traveling back and forth across North America. (but by all means, it can mean that!) It means doing the dishes, running out of gas on your trip and forgetting your passports. It means leaning into the rainy days. It means living through grief and pain – even if it lasts for years. (Because honestly, sometimes it does last for years. And I am here to tell you that it's okay.)

The Human Experience is what we are here to live through. Leaning into the days and moments that aren't so great is part of why we are here. We aren't meant to be permanently happy and blissful. We need all of it to make our time here on earth meaningful. The good is there... it's just waiting for you to find it. It's hidden in messy bedrooms and piles of laundry. It's lurking at the bottom of your sink full of dirty dishes. It's hiding behind the clouds on a grey and gloomy day. It's in all of it. You just have to be patient.

The rain will soon end, but the sun never stops shining. It's there all along. For now, I am going to watch the raindrops and lean into this beautifully chilly spring day.

 

 

 

An early spring

radish

It feels like we are having an early spring this year.

As much as I want to say "praise the maker," I am stuck. It's the same feeling you get when you didn't get long enough to spend in bed on the weekend because obligation rang. Or when a party ended too early. Or when you just weren't quite prepared for your guest arrival.

On the bright side of things, spring is my favorite season. It's gusty winds clear the dust from my aching soul. It's colorful parade of blooms makes me feel like life is colorful and clear and oh-so-alive. The early arrival of spring means a long, lingering season of amazing things...things like fresh, garden grown veggies. Long, lingering days that melt into extended evenings and deep conversations. Bonfires. Delicious meals. Friends. Beach evenings. The best things that life is made of.

Maybe an early spring - crisp and bright like garden radishes, crunching with peppery brightness - is just what I need after all.

Lately

raised beds

I have been more quiet than usual this fall and winter. I have been working on some exciting projects and new ventures. Thankfully, quiet = busy… at least for right now.

One of the projects I have hit the ground hard on is a book on saving seeds I am working on with my good friend Julie of Julie's Garden Delights. I liken this project to a type of step by step for seed saving gardeners which has taken me literally from Spartanburg to Charleston and everywhere in between. I have learned so much on this project - not just about seeds and gardening, but about myself and my work. I love when a project comes along and changes everything, don't you?

Here are some images for you to see. I have no idea what's been rejected, but images of vegetables never disappoint! Special shout out the the folks at Charleston Parks Conservancy for my all access pass to their gardens!

sprouts
chopping
carrots
seeding
magnolia garden-137.jpg

In the middle.

pumpkins

Cultivating things takes patience. It's a lot of work in the beginning. A lot of planning, nurturing and caring for the eventual lovely harvest that yields all the best parts. But what about the middle part?

The middle is where the work really is getting done, but you can't see it. Sure, you can define the measured growth along the way. Pull a few weeds. Do a little watering. But the parts that are really making things happen are a little undefined. Maybe the fruit hasn't started forming on the vine. Maybe it's happening underground in a place you can't see it. But the magic is in the middle.

The middle part is always so undefined...uncelebrated. It's the part we want to be over, so we can see the fruits of our labor. We want to fast forward through this part when in reality, this is the most needed part. This is where ideas incubate and bloom. Where you build the muscle for the product. It's where you refine and redefine what the final outcome will be and how it will look. It's essential in the end product.

We are all in the middle really. We are all watching patiently. Revising. Revisiting. And just watching patiently to see what comes of it all. Be patient here. This is where the good stuff is happening.

Blooming.

Growing...

 

Inner peas.

peas

I have often talked about the joys of my simple attempts at starting a garden. They go far beyond nutrition and digging in the dirt. They seem almost spiritual and tie my love of all things food and farms into my own little homegrown version of gratitude. Each moment around my little raised bed yields some peace in my heart. And I have been aware for most of my life that I wanted some form of massive garden and to work with my hand in the dirt. I was always messy. I was always wandering around my friend's back yard gardens. But lately, the pull has been much greater.

When I harvest my little pea crop from the vines elegantly curling and reaching up to the sky, I am always reminded at the joy of simply growing something you can eat every day right in your own backyard. With pretty minimal effort and not much time, I am yielding a handful of peas to enhance our humble home cooked meals. This is my first experience with peas, but I  already know these little green guys are going to be put into a regular crop rotation. These peas are full and plump and as sweet as the sunshine that helped them grow. They taste like Mother Nature's candy. And the reward of picking them straight from the vine in my yard is beyond measure for me.

So for now, I will plan on my next crop of peas or carrots or beets or Spinach. I will work with a bigger plan to expand what I am currently growing in my humble backyard raised bed. Maybe I'll even plan on a few chickens to wander around back here. whatever the path, I am excited to get my hands dirty again doing it all.  And I am happy to find a little inner peace through peas.

In your own time.

peas

Many things in life are hard work. Blooming where you are planted takes effort and energy. It takes the proper balance of elements to thrive, yielding the gifts you were placed here to give. Gentle care balanced carefully with hard work give up the fruits of your labor to share with the world.

What we forget easily is this: just because we plant ourselves somewhere doesn't mean we will grow strong and bare fruit in that spot. We need to be careful to pick out the appropriate balance of light, water and care.  We need to look closely at the soil we are given and the climate in which we are planted. We need to examine the care and the strength it will take. And we can't just expect to grow with no solid foundation.

If you have ever had a garden, you know all plants fruit in their own time. Some do it quickly while others take great care and time in yielding a crop. Just because the tomato is ripe doesn't mean your peas will be ready too. Everything blossoms in it's own time.

One of my favorite expressions has always been "Grow where you are planted." But after spending some time thinking about this, I really think we need more than that. We need the proper elements to make it happen so we don't wither and die before getting the chance to bare the fruits of our labor to the world. And we need patience to grow as we need to....on our terms. 

 

Planning

seeds

On the coldest days of February, my favorite thing to do is plan a little for the warm sunshine and longer days of summer. Plan on which bed the tomatoes will reside and where the squash will (hopefully) flourish. Plan on what to rotate when. Mostly, I like to plan what will nourish me most and what will sustain me through those long, hot days of summer.

Before the frost

carrots

It's time to harvest and gather. Time to reap what we sow. It's time to duck from the hardships and collect what we need. Preparing for the frosts is never easy. But we do what we can and learn a little more every time.

It's time to hunker down and prepare for the hard freeze ahead. It's time to do the hard work. The real work. The dirty work.