An Orange in December...

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An Orange in December...

Despite my complete irreverence towards the story, something my mother mentioned several times when I was growing up managed to stick with me. And as things go (darn it!), the older I get the more I come to appreciate the message behind her words. :-/

She grew up in a tiny town in Denmark in the 40’s, and in those days, not much besides potatoes, potatoes, and more potatoes (ok, and some cabbage) grew or was available in the wintertime.  Her family made due with the simplest of meals, with whatever they’d managed to put up.

Yet each Christmas, each child (totaling 11!) would put their wooden clogs at the door, and receive one orange each, tucked into those shoes.

Oh the Joy!

The juice would explode into their noses, the sharp fragrance of citrus overtaking the whole wintertime room for just this one day each year.

The simplest of pleasures, and grandest of gratitude. The kids couldn’t believe their luck.

Fast-forward 60 years.

Not only are oranges now available year round, but we can get whatever we want, whenever we want it, no matter how far away it was grown.

“I’m hunnnnnnnnngggggrrrryyy!”, I used to whine to my mom for snacks when little.  “There’s oranges and apples…”, my mom would respond. 

“I don’t wwwwaaaaaaaannnnnnt fruit!  I want chips!”.

And then would come the story, “You know, when I was young…” Blah blah blah, yeah yeah yeah, just give me the chips.

My transformation as I began eating local

Well this month something unexpected occurred.  As I have begun my “Local Eating” adventure, I’ve been busy in the kitchen canning up jars of Apricot Jam, Watermelon Lemongrass Jelly, Peach Compote, Dilly Beans, Marinated Roasted Red Peppers, and other fun stuff.  The shelves in my basement are quickly filling up with neat little rows of beautifully colored jars.  My new freezer has several loaves of zucchini bread, as well as flash frozen bags of more beans, shredded zucchini in portions pre-measured out for winter loaves, cubed pesto sauce, and a few other things.

Have I gone crazy?  Have all of us “locavores” lost our marbles?

Wasn’t a huge benefit of industrial agriculture and convenience foods that they allowed us women to get out of the kitchen and into the more important workplace, away from those pesky tasks involved with feeding ourselves? And besides, I can just run down to Whole Foods and get whatever I want all winter long, right?

…But “whatever I want” in the winter will be from very, very far away.

It will have traveled an average of 1,500 miles, will be lacking in nutrients, and will add almost nothing back to our local economy.  (A stat said that if each person in a city of around 100,000 people ate just 10% locally, it would add a whopping 35 MILLION back into the local economy each year).

I’m shooting for 80% or so local which means, no, this year I won’t just run down to my local health food store and buy whatever I’m in the mood for.

And you know what that means…?  That jar of peach compote is going to be tasting mighty darned special right around the end of December…

…About the same time of year, as a matter of fact, that my mother used to savor the unexpected delight of her Christmas oranges.


Er hem…I think I finally understand the value of her story… (darn it…)

When we have so much, at any time we want it, we stop appreciating what we have.

Even if what we have in all this excess is lacking in quality, we don’t seem to care. Everything is disposable, from our food, to our technology…even our relationships and families.  Life starts losing its passion and shimmer.

I’ve discovered something else, too. 

Because I know that what I’ve got is what I get, I take much better care of it.  I don’t just let my produce go bad.  I savor the flavors of summer which last but a short time of the year.  I know what I have now won’t be around forever so I put away what I can so that at a later date, I can enjoy the fruits of my effort.

And I imagine that come January, the attention I put in now will make it all the more special then.  My meals will be FULL with life, memories, and the energies of my community joined together to make this whole healthy food-system work.

I give thanks that we have farmers that are growing such beautiful and nutritious food for us, and with so much love, care, and attention. And this isn’t some rote prayer I say before I eat, going through the motions because I think I’m supposed to. 

No…this is a feeling that sprung up within me out of nowhere…a sudden epiphany…a sudden moment of OH!

The OH! is the sweetest of all sweet things…the heart-opening feeling of gratitude.
So for one last word of wisdom from the Fire Element before we head into the Earth Element which is right around the corner, I’d like to put the call out for gratitude.

Gratitude is an energy that comes from our heart, which is the Fire Element’s organ.  When our hearts are filled with gratitude, things look much brighter and there’s an intangible warmth to life–and we’ll want lots of practice with conjuring up bright feelings when there’s no brightness and warmth to be found outside!  Especially for those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

I know it sounds painfully trite because we’ve all heard it before; but if one little girl’s gratitude for a simple orange in December can somehow travel through 60 years to remind us to open our hearts to our blessings, then think of the possibilities of what may unfold in our current and future lives by us simply opening our heart to gratitude as well.

Your Fire will thank you, and you will be filled with contagious joy!

Tags: 5 Elements Fire element Five Elements gratitude