— 10 Things Your Commencement Speaker Won’t Tell You, WSJ Essay
— Bill Mollison (via appletonpermaculture)
Victoria, random stranger-turned-friend at dinner tonight
Costa Mesa, CA
— Masanobu Fukuoka
American citizens are now ready to believe without question that it is entirely good, a grand accomplishment, that each American farmer now ‘feeds himself and 56 others.’
They are willing to hear that ‘96% of America’s manpower is freed from food production’ — without asking what it may have been ‘freed’ for, or how many as a consequence have been ‘freed’ from employment of any kind.
The climate of opinion is now such that a recent assistant secretary of agriculture could condemn the principle of crop rotation without even an acknowledgment of the probable costs in soil depletion and erosion…without acknowledging the human — and, indeed, the agricultural — penalties."
Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America
— my friend, Anais
My dad sent me a good morning birthday e-mail with two quotes that made my day. It is especially meaningful given how my career path is about to change drastically.
“Go for it now, the future is promised to no one.”
“You’ll see it when you believe it.”
Live and die by this. 26 is going to be a cuh-razee year.
— Howard Thurman
- Me: there's this huge food revolution going on right now
- Maryann: that's so rad
- Maryann: i think eating is the new drinking :)
- Maryann: people want to get chocolate wasted or food wasted
— Maude Adams
With the new year finally upon us I find myself reflecting on all that has transpired in 2011… and how I have grown as a result. If you asked me at graduation where I expected myself to be in 3 years, I definitely would not have answered, “Living in my 5th city since graduating, engaged, with adopted pet, and questioning everything I ever thought I wanted for my life.” Yes, I am in the quicksand of a robust quarter-life crisis. But much needed vacation time these past few weeks has allowed ample time to declutter my mind and find closure to this nagging unhappiness.
One of the greatest milestones of last year was adopting a rescue puppy in LA over Memorial Day weekend. For about 6 months I pestered the roomie about getting a dog. He contended that a pet is a huge responsibility (truth) that would most certainly put a cramp on our twenty-something lifestyle - thereby inhibiting our spontaneous weekend exploration of random west coast cities. But when I came across the cutest, white fluffball on Craigslist - of all places - my mind was set. I was getting that baby despite all of my man’s “practical” reasoning.
Not only did having our puppy, whom we affectionately refer to as “The Bear”, make our weekend trips more exciting, but raising her together matured our relationship tenfold. Overnight we became “parents” and seamlessly assumed our shared role in her life. Instead of complaining about how hard having a puppy was, he dutifully cleaned up after every accident; took turns taking care of her during lunch to accelerate the potty training process; showered her with love when he got home from work. Seeing how his relationship with the bear blossomed further reaffirmed my decision to be with him for the rest of my life.
Shortly after we adopted The Bear we got engaged. She was there for the proposal; sitting on my lap in the passenger seat, with a view of the deep blue Pacific framed by Crystal Cove State Park. It was a gorgeous June afternoon and afterward we headed to my favorite restaurant in Corona Del Mar.
I cannot speak on his behalf, but I knew he was the one ever since he suggested an elaborate “virtual date” to bridge the gap between our 2,000+ mile long-distance relationship. From our respective kitchens in San Jose and Chicago we set up our Gchat video chat on our laptops. After cooking a meal together (this one from the famed Chez Panisse) we moved our video feed to the dining room where we “ate” together (his face was on my screen, and vice versa).
I noticed him wiping his brow and frequently leaving to fill up his water glass. He said the dish was really spicy - I had no idea what he was talking about, mine was delicious. Trying to remember what was in the recipe, I asked how much cayenne pepper he put in. “Half a cup.” “The recipe called for a 1/2 teaspoon.” After dinner we concluded our night with a game of bananagrams, our favorite speed-scrabble game.
Ten months later, when he would quit his job at the height of the recession and move to California to be with me, I knew without a doubt. There were non-believers and naysayers, but when you know, you know.
Volunteering has always been an important part of my life, but it took on a new meaning in 2011. Being at the farmers’ market in SoCal provided an outlet to satiate my love for all things food. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to have worked with so many passionate and dedicated foodies and farmers. This experience single handedly inspired my decision to pursue an urban agriculture volunteer stint in Chicago.
I cannot describe the feeling I get from being on the farm. Last week, when it was about 25 degrees on a cloudy Saturday, I harvested mesclun greens - a.k.a. gourmet baby lettuce mix. It was actually still growing in a hoop house and remained a vibrant mix of green and maroon, despite freezing conditions. They are little Vikings. THEN I was encouraged to try a piece of lettuce. HOLY COW.
I never knew how lettuce is “supposed” to taste like. The flavor was strong with a slightly bitter finish. The texture was crisp and tender all at once. The scent was much more intense than any bag of salad mix you can buy at the grocery store. Harvesting was a slow, delicate process, which I enjoy a lot - though this grandma-speed would never fly in a real farming environment. Nevertheless, this peaceful, calming activity is the only thing that completely restores my sanity on a weekly basis.
With the death of Steve Jobs’ late last year a flood of quotes from his inspirational Standford graduation speech overtook the digital world. One of the most compelling quotes to me was,
“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
This had an impact on me for several weeks following his death, but then faded into the back of my psyche as I let the daily grind take over. Then a few hours before leaving for New Years Eve dinner I received a text that a fellow co-worker had died from a motorcycle accident. I went numb.
He was an anomaly: a super cool, funny, IT guy capable of normal human relationships. He was someone who would give you the shirt off his back; go above and beyond for any request you had - whether it be fixing some issue on your computer, grabbing you a lunch on a busy day, coming to your birthday dinner despite having made other plans.
The breadth of his personal network, and a true testament to his knack for building strong bonds, was evident at his funeral, which I attended this past week when I traveled to California for work. There were over 150 people there on a Wednesday, in the middle of the work day at 2pm. It made me happy to know that so many people made the time to see him off, but given the person that he was I should have expected nothing less.
On our ride back to the office we talked about our favorite memories of him. My favorite was a Friday lunch in August. Four of us had ventured to a sushi joint in Dana Point - it was my goodbye lunch before I sailed off to Chicago. It was his idea to go. And we had the most hilarious time driving there and back, sharing personal stories and ragging on each other, a hallmark of our friendship.
He had made a comment that day about me deleting him from my facebook account. I have no recollection of ever getting an invite from him. A few months ago, he friended me “again.” I do not normally befriend coworkers in my virtual world, but he was a true friend. And I am fortunate to have known him.
CALCULATED RISK TAKING
With all that 2011 brought, this year will be one of monumental change. I finally feel the courage to pursue my dreams without regard for what anyone might think. And for that I am thankful to my fiance and the special, few friends who have inspired me to do so - to start this blog, to explore the possibilities, and to live a life defined by my own personal happiness.
And to them, for their 2012 resolutions, I leave this quote from Mr. Apple:
“Stay hungry, stay foolish.”
“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want.
You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it.
And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view.
I hope you live a life you’re proud of.
If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, letter to his daughter