What do you think the sex(es) of the twins will be?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

farmer in chief

I heard about this open letter on Fresh Air this week. In this nine-page letter (read it!), Michael Pollan (author of In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemma) calls for a new food agenda to replace the broken one in place right now that is eating up fossil fuels. Pollan says, "There are many moving parts to the new food agenda I’m urging you to adopt, but the core idea could not be simpler: we need to wean the American food system off its heavy 20th-century diet of fossil fuel and put it back on a diet of contemporary sunshine."

Changing our nations food policy is not just something for the liberal agenda. Pollan says, "Writing of the movement back to local food economies, traditional foods (and family meals) and more sustainable farming, The American Conservative magazine editorialized last summer that 'this is a conservative cause if ever there was one.'"

Pollan ends the article talking about how he would like to see that big lawn in front of the White House turned into a garden, "...as deeply as Americans feel about their lawns, the agrarian ideal runs deeper still, and making this particular plot of American land productive, especially if the First Family gets out there and pulls weeds now and again, will provide an image even more stirring than that of a pretty lawn: the image of stewardship of the land, of self-reliance and of making the most of local sunlight to feed one’s family and community."

The more I research how our country produces food, the more it feels disgusting and unwholesome to me. It feels so wrong to take animals off of farms and put them on feed lots. It feels wrong to rely on pesticides instead of crop rotation. It feels wrong to catch fish in Alaska and then ship them to China to be filleted and then ship them back to the U.S. to be distributed. It feels wrong to use up fossil fuels to produce our food when we really don't need to. The death of the family farm and the switch from agriculture to agribusiness makes me sad. Whatever happened to sunshine and tilling the earth and eating dinner around the kitchen table? What happened to preparing meals with fresh ingredients instead of buying frozen faux-foods with a million unrecognizable ingredients on the label?

I believe in dinner around the table. I believe in food bringing people together. I believe in family farms and animals being let out of their cages to graze on what they're meant to graze on (how did feeding corn to cows ever seem like a good idea?). I believe in spending a little more money for humane, local food. I believe in gardens. I believe in the transformative power of a good meal.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

al gore and a new library card

Dan & I saw Al Gore speak at Harvard on Wednesday as part of the Harvard Sustainability Celebration. Harvard just launched a new greenhouse gas reduction plan. Here's an article about it. Al is a Harvard alumnus - apparently some of his grades weren't too stellar, though.

I liked when he quoted this African proverb: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” And then he said, "We need to go far, quickly." I also like how he ended his speech: “With American leadership, we can galvanize the global commitment to solve the climate crisis. We have everything we need with the possible exception of political will. But political will is a renewable resource.”

His speech was inspiring. I only wish things had gone very differently eight years ago.

And also, I got a free t-shirt that says, "Green is the new Crimson" and a Sigg water bottle that says the same. Gotta love free stuff (or stuff that's disguised as free, anyway - I'm sure Dan's tuition paid for a large chunk of it). They were also serving delicious apple crisp, soup, hot chocolate and apples - all served on biodegradable plates with biodegradable utensils.

The other exciting thing that happened on Wednesday is that I got my very own Harvard library card for $5. I was supposed to get a "special borrower" card for spouses of students. I think they messed up, though, because they put "research assistant" on mine. It makes me feel kind of fancy. Hurray for libraries!

Monday, October 20, 2008

three women

I took my first Creative Writing class in eighth grade. The teacher was Ms. Edvalson, a thin thirty-something woman with short hair and a long rat tail. As a fourteen-year-old, I loved words. I must have read at least two books a week. In that class, I began to feel the thrill of putting words together in beautiful ways. I remember Ms. Edvalson calling me out into the hallway one day with one of my stories in her hand and saying, "Lisa, this is really good." I remember her reading my stories aloud to the class and, even though I was incredibly shy and embarassed, how good it felt. Ms. Edvalson made me want to write more stories and after the class was over, I took more and more English classes and creative writing classes. Ms. Edvalson remarried, I think, and eventually left Butler Middle School. I wish I could find her and tell her how much her encouragement meant to me. I'd like to tell her that I'm doing a Master's degree in writing and that I love it.

In college, I had another teacher who I owe so much to: Melanie Rae Thon. Melanie is one of the gentlest, wisest people I've ever met. Read her: she's wonderful. She made me feel like she loved my writing. She encouraged me to apply to graduate programs. I had so many reasons to not believe in myself, but even though I didn't always believe in my own writing (and still sometimes don't), I knew that she did and that was enough.

I tell you these stories because I really don't think I'd be writing and in a Master's program if it weren't for the encouragement of these two women and my mother. My mother loves words, like me. I don't really remember many of the toys I had growing up, but I remember the books. She read to us all the time and made up stories about little people who lived inside sand dollars. At night she had us squint our eyes closed and pretend we were on a big magic carpet that took us on adventures all over the world.

So, I dedicate this post to all the good teachers in my life (but not the bad ones, okay?). I hope that someday I can give someone else the gift you gave me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

school friends

Last night I got to hang out with Jen, Mary and Lenore - my dear friends from Warren-Wilson who just happen to live really close to me. I love these girls. They are smart, beautiful, funny and oh-so kind. When we get together, we talk about writing and life and the writing life for hours and hours without stopping.

We also had a little celebrating to do last night because Lenore recently found out that she was selected as one of the 100 distinguished voices in this year's Best American Short Stories, edited by Salman Rushdie. Her name was right there on the list along with Alice Munro, Antonya Nelson and many other amazing, amazing writers.