Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Big Questions

It occurred to me today, whilst changing Indigo's nappy, that I have had a very productive day, and that most of my days are in fact almost as productive. Today I planted out my whole vegie patch (Hooray! Methinks this topic deserves it's own post...), I walked for an hour with Indi in the Ergo to get her to sleep in the morning, I played with Indigo and Mat over lunch (so much fun, giggly chortles aplenty!), I watered my new garden while holding Indi (all bloody 8.5kg of her!), and for the rest of the evening I planned to chop the cat's meat (three kilo's of it), make a lentil vegie soup for our lunches for the next few days, and prepare dinner. It felt like a decent day's work! And I mentioned to Mat that we are both really quite productive in our own ways. I am used to thinking of him as productive - he is a super prolific artist, musician and writer, and the evidence of his productivity surrounds us and crowds his ever cluttered studio (and the garage!) But I am not so used to thinking of myself as overly productive. I usually think of myself as quite a leisurely sort (or at least I did before I became a mum!), who could spend a day lounging around reading quite blissfully. But these days especially I think I really do achieve quite a lot in a day, and most days, with no break at all.

But something else occured to me, standing there at the change table, as Indigo chewed on her foot. Whilst the products of Mat's creativity are visible, audible, readable, the products of my own productivity more often than not end up either on the compost heap or down the toilet! It's kinda horrifying, and a tad disappointing! Well my two main joys are gardening and cooking. So I'm either growing it, or buying it, or preparing and cooking it, or eating it. What we don't eat ends up on the compost, and what we eat, well.... ends up as poo. It's not really what I would consider a life's work. Compost and poo. I really would probably prefer to be remembered for more noble outcomes or products than compost and poo. I mean, sure, we're all kept in good health by my efforts in the kitchen, and we sure do enjoy our delectables on a daily basis (we are not the kind of household that skimps, let's put it that way!). Aesthetically I get to design and create and handle all kinds of lovely foods, and gardening wise I am kept healthy and spiritually whole by my green thumbs.

But I guess the question that inevitably ended up forming itself in my head, whilst standing there changing Indigo's nappy (which was a pooey nappy too, quite apt!), was whether all this effort, delightful and enjoyable as it is, constitutes a meaningful life. A full life. Whether it is enough?

Enough for whom? A good question. Me? Others? Is this about what I think of myself, or how others will judge me? A bit of both I guess. I wonder whether it is enough for me. But also I find myself thinking of how my child(ren?) will view me when they are teenagers. Whether they will be able to respect me, or whether they will look down on me if all I ever do is garden and cook. And occasionally dabble in something creative. While the cake bakes.

I remember a woman in a novel I read once (dunno which one?), quoting her mother, who once advised her to create something that would not be consumed or messed up each day. To not devote one's entire life to making food that would be eaten or beds that would be slept in (I don't make beds, but still). To make something each day that would last. I find this sentence ringing around in my brain after all these years, even though the names of the author and book from which it came are long gone. Clearly it struck a chord.

I think for so many years of my adult life I have struggled simply to be well and happy. I spent my twenties battling addictions of substance and soul. There was no time, or energy, for grand pursuits over and above trying to be happy and learning how to live well. It has taken me a long time to get where I am now, where I am happy with who I am and where I am at, most of the time at least. At this point in my life I scarcely have time for a shower some days, let alone time to find another meaningful pursuit to add depth to my life. But I think once the hustle and bustle of child-rearing slows a little, enough to create some space, some time to sit and think and breathe slowly (dare I say, time to be contemplative), then I think there will be something else added to this delightful mix of seeds, weeds, cakes and soups. I can feel something forming, taking shape in some way, although it is still way too embryonic and amorphous, too new and fragile just yet, to shed public light on.

But yeah, I think one day there will be more depth, and more meaning, to what I do, in a lasting way. But for now, with a baby, and possibly more on the way, I am happy in my garden and my kitchen, and consider my time spent in both as a rich and wonderful backdrop for my kids' lives. I can see that the things I love to do, as well as providing me with endless joy and satisfaction (anyone who has smelled and bitten into a sun-warmed home grown tomato knows of what I speak), as well as making me happy, I can see how these things provide a lovely environment in which my kids will grow and learn, and one that to be honest I am proud to create and provide.


jbie said...

oh nalin! there's so much more to food and gardening than just what remains in poo.
food may not last, but the memories of it shape a person and their view of life and love.
beauty remains forever, even after the thing itself is past; and the imprint of love stays forever too, both with the receiver and with the world that person inhabits..

put it this way.. the work that you do through all your daily tasks is to provide love and warmth and security (and home!) and lovely memories to people.. and if you believe that the soul of a person lasts forever, then the effects of your work will be around forever too.

not to mention that loved and happy people affect the world around them in a very different way from unhappy and unloved (and badly fed) people, so your work doesn't stop with the people you care for.

plus, every bite of food that is eaten from your garden, is a bite of food not produced in the environmentally devastating way commercially produced food is, so you're reducing the (longlasting if not arguably permanent) footprint of your household with your gardening!

and at the end of the day, you're living life as it ought to be lived, with your connection to the earth, nurturing of your and indi's souls... nothing trivial about that!

Nalin said...

Thanks Jacynth! I think I was having a cynical and wry moment, but generally I totally agree with what you say. There is so much love and nurturing poured into what I cook, and i know how big a part of our family dynamics food played when I was growing up. The environmental part of it all is huge, and is what has prompted me to make that extra vegie patch out the front. I really want to grow more of what we eat!
My garden is truly my temple, my own spiritual haven, and I already feel so good about Indi spending so much time out there with me. We both love it!
Thanks for your words Jacynth!

Juniper said...

Nalin, I love reading what you write! I have felt this way many times in the past!

I agree with Jacynth, there is *so* much more to food and gardening than what remains in the poo!

Crunchy Christian Mom said...

Loved this post! I think that quote was in Friday Night Knitting Club. It sounds familiar, and I haven't read any other novels this year. :)

I was looking at my own soon-to-be-garden plot this week, and thinking of it as a blank canvas. Gardening as Art. It made the endeavor of pulling weeds, pushing the tiller, etc., seem more creative.

But seriously, unless plastic is your medium, everything we create will eventually end up as poo anyway. Cycle of life and all.

Nalin said...

Juniper, I'm glad I'm not alone! And yeah, there is so much more than poo in what I do, thankfully! Having just re-read Jacynth's post, she has written about it so eloquently and poetically!

CCM - gardening as art is awesome! I love the image of you creatively weeding, tilling and - the most fun bit - planting! I totally see my garden as an important part of my creativity. And I like your point about the cycle of life.