I’ve never been one to read a book the moment it hits the shelves. JK Rowling had finished penciling book 4 before I jumped on the Harry Potter bandwagon (and devoured, with great joy, all of them several times). Other than JK, I usually prefer my authors dead and buried somewhere in the vicinity of London. About a century or two ago.
Generally the books I’m reading are things no one else has ever heard of, never mind read. Perhaps that’s why, despite my interest, it’s taken me so long to read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (AVM) by Barbara Kingsolver. I recall seeing it on the shelf at my library and saying, hey, I need to read that! But walking away with Drood instead. But this weekend, for some unknown reason, I went to Borders specifically for that book. Something told me it was time.
I believe there is a natural chain of events that happens in our lives and for me, things have to be just right for ideas to stick. I am not a firm believer in anything, so reading one book on a subject will not make me a follower of anything. I have never been good with diet books; the simple idea that eliminating certain foods is good for you when I know from nutritionists, doctors and general knowledge that it is not good for you, well, it doesn’t settle with me. I don’t take anyone’s word for anything. Perhaps that’s why I’ve always had an issue with religion as well. Call me a skeptic, but in reality I’m just a historian.
Just recently I’ve begun to see a pattern to my madness. Whereas I once saw myself as unfocused and procrastinating, I’m beginning to see that my last few years were building layers. A foundation to what is to come. Blasting away on the keyboards, in notebooks, in the margins of reference books, I spent one year completing a novel. And then, like a switch pulled, that desire was gone, replaced with the driving need to be outside. I wanted to hike every waking moment and tackle every mountain in my path. I focused on nothing else. I couldn’t bear to spend a morning typing when the woods beckoned me. I replaced my hour writing with two hours of hiking. Not a day went by when I wasn’t outside in some pursuit. Then, like all good things, it tapered off to a normal amount and now, this year, I chastise myself for not doing enough of either. I write intermittently and hike when the feeling strikes. Not that I’m slacking by any means: Mt. Washington, Cardigan, the Greenway 10 mile trail, countless hikes after work. I am even writing again. But neither activity receives the focused drive I had in previous years.
But this, I’ve just recently realized, is not something I need to feel guilty about. My years of single minded passions is melding perfectly into the right balance of both. I’m reminded of why I hiked in the first place. It gave me a sense of peace and made my words flow. I write because it gives meaning and purpose to the life surrounding me. Just like Jo in Little Women, I have cut my hair to buy presents when the rest of my family has sold their possessions to buy combs for that same beautiful hair. I’m always going all in on something at the cost of something else. Only now (perhaps due to age) am I seeing the passions in my life blending, playing off each other, and becoming the meld that makes who I am. As I look around me, I see all the elements coming to fruition: my love of the outdoors, my love of the local, and my love of writing.
The tag on the book was right. This book has changed my life but not only in the way had it intended (if there really was any true intention). Sure, I plan on seeking out local foods and being as sustainable as possible on my little one acre of Heaven. But it goes much deeper than that. Reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle made me see the balance that is happening in my life. While the focus was about local food and the difference even one family can make, it seems like a metaphor for so much else. For the same reason I love reading Harry Potter over and over again, I enjoyed the layered messages in AVM. Like all books ingested at the right time, I’ve taken from it things the author probably never even knew was there. To me, it really is about so much more than growing a garden, raising some chickens and getting to know your local farmer. It’s more than learning moderation, curbing desires and caring enough about your fellow man to give up bananas. The biggest lesson (for me) was about finding the middle road that is comfortable and natural for you; the simple fact that we don’t have to be purists to make a difference. You don’t have to go all or nothing in life. I don’t have to go all or nothing, I should say. My happy place is a perfect merge of flavors, if you will: a little writing, a little nature and a lot of perseverance.