Last night after dinner I realized there was nothing in the kitchen to pack for lunch today, so I pulled my boots back on and drove to Winchester, steeling myself against the confusion that afflicts me in stores like Martin’s, where every choice is multiplied a dozen times, and the criteria for selection are written in such small letters that I have to hold the labels at a certain angle or I can’t read them, and the angle changes from label to label for some reason, perhaps because I’m tired, or because the different colors make different demands on my eyes; and since I’ve come without a list, I have no sound basis for deciding which of those aisles to brave — 17? 24? — so the chances are good I’ll either buy things that will make me kick myself when I get home, or I’ll put my basket on the floor and walk away from it, bewildered, which I was about to do when I realized that the next day would be Friday, and I’d be checking the status of our kale, which meant I wouldn’t need to pack a lunch, so I bought a box of peanut butter cookies to compensate myself for taking all that trouble which it turned out that I didn’t need to take, and I drove home.
Since things slowed down here on the farm, I’ve had time to think about how to explain the nourishment I get from eating food right off the ground. It’s true that there’s a devil in me that still likes to defy my mother — “Ish!” she would have said. “Don’t eat food off the ground!” But angels walk alongside that devil when I go out to check the kale, which is waiting where is was a week ago.
I realize that it’s there because Mark planted it in August — it didn’t just appear — but that’s the most complicated aspect of its existence. For months now, it’s just been there, dwelling in the inverse of confusion — no choices to make whatsoever but ‘where should I start picking?’
I focused on the tightly-crinkled leaves today, eating one for every one I put into my bag, like Sal from that book about blueberries, and by the time my bag was full, my stomach was too. That was lunch.
I know enough chemistry, biology, and physiology to understand why the lunch I ate today was better for my body than anything I might have bought at Martin’s last night would have been, and I’m beginning to understand why it was better for my soul as well: because for months now it’s just been there, its goodness contained in itself, with no human input required.
The complicated apparatus of a place like Martin’s scares me sometimes because it depends entirely on human input: so much attention, so much investment, so many lives to keep all those lights shining on all those choices — thousands and thousands of products! It seems like a miracle that all those energies can intertwine so thoroughly and hold their charge so long. But it’s not a miracle: it’s something people made. A lot of people.