I am green and it’ll do fine, it’s beautiful
And I think it’s what I want to be- Kermit
Yesterday I cleared out all the old things which had once been new. It’s somewhat of a year end ritual. Objects representing markers of time; cards, books, janky clutter and those articles of clothing that waded through each season like an odd duck making you wonder why you’d bought them in the first place. I do my best to be mindful of possessions, what I will and won’t take responsibility for; who or what I allow to take up space in my life. Despite best efforts we don’t have control over everything. Imagine that? Choosing not to read the news, own a t.v or eat meat helps. My church once did a series introducing us to a website called Slavery Footprint; a concept of global consciousness developed by musician turned activist Justin Dillon. In an interview with One he said: At a very young age, I knew my life wasn’t normal. I came from a suburban neighborhood with the same two parents. Everything I read and saw on TV told me my childhood was privileged. It shaped my soon-to-be-adult world: If you’ve been given a life where you get to have the luxury of choosing your job and choosing a school and choosing what you get to eat, that’s a privilege. And privilege only works if you leverage it for those who don’t have it. Justin is a white American man attempting to own his privilege and share it with the rest of us in his self-proclaimed selfish hope to save the world. Ok.
Before my parent’s divorced I ate all kinds of animals. Unlike most of our neighbors we hunted, fished and had the luxury of growing vegetables in a garden in my father’s mother’s yard. When you work all summer seeding, watering, weeding and waiting your zucchini tastes like a miracle. Our fridge held the permanent smell of venison blood. We ate bass with the frequency other families eat chicken. Going to the woods or ocean to get food makes you acutely aware of how those ecosystems are treated. Best of all they don’t have fluorescent lighting or lines with screaming children draped over racks of cheap chocolate. You want to protect the habitats sustaining you because in our case, the alternatives were laced with yellow 5. Despite appreciating the provision I felt sad holding the warm bodies of dead birds or seeing a full grown buck strung up by its ankles in our neighbors garage. We hung them there to bleed because we didn’t have that kind of space at our apartment. One year we slaughtered a giant pig at my uncle’s. I hid in his barn for the messy part but heard the whole thing and decided bacon just wasn’t worth the crime. Wilbur cries just like a human. My brother insists I had an insatiable love for hot dogs. Bologna. I could however, snort entire boxes of Frosted Flakes.
Two years after my parents had gone their separate ways I started working and making my own money. With this little bit of freedom I decided to stop eating meat. Our mother had made chicken wings for dinner. She set the plate of disembodied parts on the table and I struggled to watch as my brothers tore flesh and tendons off bones with their fingers and teeth. Eliminating one more food group was tangled up with the eating disorder but this decision was rooted less in appearances, which is ironic. As I ventured into the culture of vegetarianism I discovered some people wore this label like a fancy accessory or weapon. Kale juice comes with an invisible, recycled precious metal crown and extra vowel sounds.
Prior to moving I didn’t know the island was a thing. When my mother said we were leaving Rhode Island for the Vineyard I pictured a field of vines somewhere in northern Mass where we might pitch a tent. Oh, it’s an actual island where people live. Didn’t know the east coast had one of those. So it’s warm? It turned out to be nothing like Hawaii. Service jobs are plentiful in the land of plenty so we took them: farming, hospice, landscaping, retail, masonry (you tried), housecleaning, nannying. Side note; regular people have babysitters, upper crusty people have nannies, super mega internationally traveling elite people have aupairs. This stratification can also been observed in the hierarchy of department stores: The DG, Walmart, Target, Macy’s, Nordstroms, GOOP. Brands speak a universal language. It’s almost as if dollar signs holographically superimpose themselves over you telling the blind-sighted world how much you’re worth. Wash-a-shores, off-islanders, a step up from summer people and two steps up from tourist. Rank and file under who’s who and what’s what. It once belonged to the native Wapanoags but a rich white guy named Bartholomew pretend he discovered it. Let the wild rumpus start. Thankfully both his mother-in-law and daughter had the same name, Martha, sparing Bart from the agony of having to choose. Martha threw epic summer parties in her dad’s house, soaked in the sacred, red Aquinnah clay and accepted the dare to sunbathe topless on Lucy Vincent. A few trips around Europe and she might finally decide on a major before her 40th birthday. She still looks 20. Oh Martha. The title of Vineyarder is only issued with a birth certificate. When my niece was born I sent a hand painted commemorative plate encircled with grapes to mark the event. Her dad is a plumber.
The unKind Diet?
From the outside looking in going green made sense. Besides salad, what could vegetarians eat? For a while my diet consisted of saltine crackers which I threw up until realizing sharp foods were a bad choice. Restricting was easier. When I did decide to eat I experimented with early prototypes of wheat gluten hockey pucks which I covered in mustard or tahini till realizing how much fat is in tahini which is probably why it tastes so good. One nutrition label at a time I was learning to link content to value to cost, like social stratification. The perfect choice is subject to context. Taste, aesthetic and actual enjoyment got placed in the frivolous nonsense bucket along with elaborate meal planning. Some of us ain’t got no time for that but your mason jars and bamboo fruit humidifiers are very nice. I was more concerned with healing, nutritional benefits, calories, ethics and budget; things I never gave a second thought when we were eating whole foods next door to halfway houses. Privileged culture has gone to wild extremes to repackage lifestyles that had once been free which is why status propaganda is both ostracizing and seductive. By comparison we become unkind, lazy, flairless, worthless, dull. Is it possible for authenticity to be out of our price range? To be fair, fringe is a fashion risk no matter which side of the Bourne bridge you’re on.
After my last relapse my hematocrit dropped to 8. You don’t have to be frighteningly emaciated to die from anorexia. Stress didn’t help. I’m saying this intentionally as a warning to my young and hungry sisters. If this battle follows you and you don’t decide to pick up your fork and fight the good fight, it will win. My doctor agreed I should be dead, which was how I looked. A grayish shell, like a hollowed out quahog with less curves. He was Egyptian with a fantastic sense of dry humor and suggested I go home and immediately eat beef liver, preferably raw. Throughout my culinary adventures I’ve tried all kinds of diets but found my best homeostasis in a combination of fish and vegetables. I’m a Pisces, grew up surrounded by water and every now and then can’t resist feasting on the sea. When you’re trying to save your life again you’re willing to make sacrifices but this wasn’t one of them. I did buy a chicken breast. Cooked it. Took a bite. Gagged and spent the next three days in the bathroom. Seven years of iron infusions erased any lingering judgement about how people manage their bodies against reality. PETA slogans are as violent and offensive as fast food commercials. We have stop insulting each other with the things that go into or come our of our mouths. Sorry Martha. You dad’s house is wicked nice. Thanks for teaching me about carrot clarity. I had no idea.
Is lacking love for living beings the barrier between us and a more responsible, kind, un-enslaving way of life or are some options simply out of our reach?
It’s an intersection by the dock in Vineyard Haven. With so many ways to go, good communication about where you’re coming from, how you got there and which direction you’re headed become really important. Oh and try to suspend judgments about license plates from out of town. Patience helps but due to the location of these particular crossroads accidents sometimes happen because there’s always at least one person afraid of the missing the boat. Compassion is the only secure investment. If we’re truly living, error is bound to be part of the process. We can’t know what we don’t know until we do. Arguing in the parking lot about who got their first only serves to further the wait. Sometimes I shop at the Gap. Other times I stand in it, look both ways and cross.
“This is Sesame Street. A place where people, birds, monsters all live in perfect harmony.” — Phil Donahue
happy new year. xo