Nothing special but also nothing lesser.


Even as a child, I understood that families like mine, poor rural farmers, were low in the pecking order. Television shows and movies portrayed us as buffoons and hicks, always the butt of the joke. Our presumed incivility, and even monstrousness, was suggested in conversations, often to laughter, by humming the banjo tune from the 1972 film “Deliverance,” present in many VHS collections during my 1980s childhood. “Squeal like a pig,” some jokers continued — a reference to that film’s infamous rape scene.

We didn’t need those cues to know that society held us in low esteem, though. All we had to do was look at our bank accounts.

We worked the land and killed animals so that others would eat, so that we would afford propane for the winter, and so that the rich, rigged industry we supplied grain to would become a little richer.

The profound humility instilled in me by my upbringing left no room in my worldview for exceptionalism of any sort. It also left me troubled by the ways that most humans calculate the value of things — animals, plants, land, water, resources, even other people — according to hierarchies that suit their own interests.

More than once, while wrapping meat, I sliced my finger on the sharp edge of the butcher paper. There was nothing special about my blood. It was red just like the pigs’ and the cows’. It was clear to me that there was nothing special about me or my family, either, doing that most essential work of feeding others. Nothing special but also nothing lesser.

Sarah Smarsh, excerpts from an essay titled “What Growing Up on a Farm Taught Me About Humility” (NY Times, December 21, 2022). Smarsh is the author of “Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth.” (Named a Best Book of the Year by NPR, New York PostBuzzFeedShelf AwarenessBustle, and Publishers Weekly)

Encourage all to read the entire essay….

Seared into Flesh

cow-hug

This insomniac is scanning the early morning papers. It’s becoming a 3 a.m. ritual.

My right index finger swipes through the Photos of the Day. Another ritual.

I freeze here. Right here on the dairy farmer from Budapest.

And like Marilynne Robinson in Housekeeping, where every memory is turned over and over again, and eventually becomes flesh.  Or Jim Harrison in Golden Window where memory is more vivid than life. Memories begin to roll backwards.

The dairy cows laying under shade trees in pastures lining I-77 S.
The docile cows chewing their cud on the side streets in New Delhi.
The black dairy cows on the towering mountain hillsides in Geneva.
The dairy cows (“Maggie & Betsy”) on our hobby farm growing up, waiting for their 5 a.m. milking.

But no, it wasn’t these memories that seared the flesh.

It was this one.
[Read more…]

Let’s just say: “Oh”

meat-water-vegan-vegetarian


I had to validate. I did.  See water.usgs.gov for fact check.

And this “theme” has been top of mind following a passage I read in Elizabeth Strout’s new book:

I asked if my brother had a job. “He has no job,” my mother said. “He spends the night with any animal that will be killed the next day.” I asked her what she had said, and she repeated what she had said. She added, “He goes into the Pedersons’ barn, and he sleeps next to the pigs that will be taken to slaughter.”

~ Elizabeth Strout, My Name Is Lucy Barton


Source: Thepoetoaster

I can’t do anything / Contradictions / Blown by the wind

cow-calf-mother

8:06 p.m. on Friday evening.
I’m getting off the train returning home from a long work day in Manhattan.
T.G.I.F.
Susan and Zeke greet me at the train station for our walk home.
Zeke’s tail is wagging wildly, his head on a swivel searching for a present to bring to Dad.

“Eric had a bad day.”

I’m still winded from walking up the stairs from the platform.
The weight of the work week lifts, and anxiety flushes in.
My pulse starts to race. I’m gulping for air.
Bile rolls up my empty stomach and sits gnawing in my throat.

No. Please, no. Not my Son.

“He went to a bull fight with his friends.”

Panic begins to ease. Ms. Drama’s overstatements, or my fatigue misinterpreting degree of “bad day”?

“They left before half. He said there was one bullfighter. The matador has six ‘assistants’, 2 mounted on horseback, three flagmen and a sword servant. Six men looking to kill a single bull. He said it was barbaric. Sickening. He had to get out of the stadium.” [Read more…]

I’m not one. But this stopped me in my tracks today…

Vibrant Produce

“The risk of hospitalization or death from heart disease is 32% lower in vegetarians than people who eat meat and fish, according to a new study from the University of Oxford.

Heart disease is the single largest cause of death in developed countries…The new findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggest that a vegetarian diet could significantly reduce people’s risk of heart disease…This is the largest study ever conducted in the UK comparing rates of heart disease between vegetarians and non-vegetarians. The analysis looked at almost 45,000 volunteers from England and Scotland…of whom 34% were vegetarian. Such a significant representation of vegetarians is rare in studies of this type, and allowed researchers to make more precise estimates of the relative risks between the two groups.”

Source: University of Oxford


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