Thank you for joining the Partners in Health and Wholeness Book Club. You can officially sign-up here. Through it, we hope to engage people of faith in discussions over why our health matters. Our current choice of reading is “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” by Barbara Kingsolver. We are posting updates through the PHW Facebook page, but our PHW blog page has the discussion posts in full with responses from staff. Just look for the picture of the apple on top of the books and you will find past Book Club entries.
Right now, just days before Christmas, the word “abundance” might bring up such images as snow, eggnog, gifts, stress, sugary treats; but this is all far from the abundance Kingsolver talks about in this chapter. It seems strange to be discussing a chapter that celebrates the, “Hallelujah of a July garden” in this time of year that is cold and dark, lacking the ingredients for an abundant garden. The chill, shorter days leave some of us feeling isolated and lonely in the midst of all the hustle and bustle. We all long for connection: to one another, to God, and to the earth. Yet, it seems that as a culture we continue to become more and more disconnected. We often talk to one another through screens, don’t know our neighbors, and eat food from cans, boxes, and bags. Authentic connection is something that is sadly missing from our culture.
To this last point, Kingsolver says, “many of us who aren’t farmers or gardeners still have some element of farm nostalgia in our family past, real or imagined: a secret longing for some connection to a life where a rooster crows in the yard.” I know I experience this kind of longing and desire for connection to where my food comes from — to the land that sustains my life. I also know it exists in our culture — one only needs to look at a local grocery store. Many of the packages found there will have pictures of farmland — barns and silos, complete with green grass and blue sky. We like to think that this is where our food is coming from, even if the actual farms look nothing like the pictures used to make these products even more appealing. These images are all around us. Reading a book like Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I long to get my hands dirty, to learn to plant, tend, and preserve a harvest. However, I don’t have a realistic view of how much work this actually takes! That is part of the problem with this kind of nostalgia — we idealize something until it is no longer a part of reality, but rather a safe cartoon image on an egg carton.
Adding to the idyllic family farm image, the chapter ends with the image of a community where they never lock doors or gates — except to keep the cows in the pasture and to prevent the neighbors from donating the excess from their abundance of zucchini. That kind of authentic community, grounded in trust and true connection is something that we can strive for – that is the kind of true abundance that we really seek.
- Do you long for a connection with the earth? What do you do to foster this connection?
- What does abundance look like to you? Is it a different image in July and in December?
–Shannon Axtell Martin, PHW Regional Consultant
Partners in Health and Wholeness is an initiative of the North Carolina Council of Churches. PHW aims to connect health as a faith issue. Please visit our website to sign your personal pledge to be healthier, and to find out about grant opportunities for places of worship in NC.