You have caught me today, walking in my mucky barnyard boots among newborn lambs, feeding my leftover recipe tests to a sow named Sally, and heading over to an elementary school to help build a vegetable garden. You have caught me today, cooking and writing and piecing together a living as a food writer on a small New England island, more than a year gone by since I left my stressful job as chief Editor of a national magazine and my highly mortgaged New York suburban life. You have caught me in a new and happier world, where I feel—at last—a sense of community for which I didn’t know I was longing.
I guess I am an early adopter or just a good trend-spotter from all those years in the magazine world, but my own personal spiritual and moral crisis conveniently arrived a little ahead of the economic crisis. In truth, it didn’t just arrive, it erupted—in the form of an addiction I’d not wish on anyone. And yet, for the grace it’s brought me, I’d wish it on everyone. Oddly enough, now that I’ve begun to stop navel -gazing and I look around at the rest of the world’s fears and addictions, I see that my own crisis was just a tremor before the quake, a ripple from the storm surge of fear and loss now washing over us all.
I have to laugh at myself, taking so long to figure out it wasn’t just me—that we’re all connected, that the very most tangible evidence of flourishing spirituality is connectedness. And that if I’m ill, my neighbor’s ill. Just imagine a whole world of sickly folks, everyone decaying and hollowed out by misguided materialism and ego-driven, soul-surpressing pursuits. You don’t have to imagine, we are there. Billions of little shattered pieces.
For me, healing began when I connected not just to other people, but to myself again. I had to stop spinning, be still, and listen to my heart. How is that possible? The heart doesn’t exactly have an instruction manual. And yet, by simply abandoning my complete reliance on my ego, I found my own true desires welling up and guiding me to a new place. In my case, not just a new spiritual place, but a new physical place.
Slowly, I’ve come to realize that I came to this place, this island, to heal the deep chasm that had opened wide between my love of food and cooking and the place where it all starts. And slowly I’ve come to realize that my disconnect with the natural world -- with the land -- wasn’t just my own personal cross to bear, but also a manifestation of this modern blight, this malaise of nearly epidemic proportions. And I have realized that what I really wanted, what everyone wants, is to be part of a community, one where people freely share their skills and knowledge, and even material goods (and yes, overgrown zucchini), with the common belief that only by giving something away can you truly keep it.
In my new (physical) life, I live in communion with the people and animals and land around me. In my new spiritual life, I live—or try to live—in communion with the Holy Spirit within me. But really, they are one in the same.
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