Oh what a day, glorious.
The sky was New Mexico blue, the sun warmed the tan skin of the earth, and the breezy air brought the promise of change through the crevices of the foothills.
[Got the open sky above me and the earth beneath my feet]
In the morning sun, I gathered produce from farmers at Market and couldn't wipe the giant grin from my face. There's something about being surrounded by the hand-made, the earth-made, and the human-scale that creates an infectious, joyful energy. Seeing the hard work local farmers put into the land to sustain community is both humbling and inspiring. The rainbow of veggies, from radishes to chard, tantalize the tastebuds and spark conversation about how we are going to use the produce this week.
[All is well, this is a friendly mystery]
As soon as my bag held so many veggies it turned into Mary Poppin's purse, I left Market for the trails. Making my way to the Cerro Gordo trailhead for an Earth Day Prints & Plants workshop, I reflected on a conversation with a farmer from earlier in the week.
We were weeding lemon balm together, a therapeutic and meditative process. In our age difference she reflected her wisdom and I shared my dreams for the future: to combine art, food, and education into one vocation that strengthens community through joyful appreciation of the land; that provides opportunities to develop tools for self-sufficiency; that encourages elders to learn from youth, and youth to learn from elders. A vocation where we break bread to break barriers for vulnerable connection. All in a world where we are covered in ink and soil.
When she found out I was hosting this workshop, she said,
"You are going to educate the world!"
I looked at her and, without plan, we both said simultaneously,
"One carrot at a time."
This conversation flowed through my mind as I unpacked veggies and ink beneath the open sky. My mind drifted with the wind to a quote that has been a mantra for this journey from the seed of an idea a few years ago:
"The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set of a revolution."
- Paul Cezanne
This quote reminds me of the necessity of art to change our way of seeing. Art can make us notice things that we normally gloss over in order to show us everyday things in a new light. Georgia O'Keeffe expanded flowers because she understood that when we take time to look at a seemingly minute element of nature, it reveals the world.
When the station was set up, I perched on a wooden post, and waited.
Breathing in the fresh air, I thought about what happens when we really stop to look at a carrot, to be with it, to notice its colors and patterns, to think of all of the growth it went through in order to feed us, all of the energy the earth gave to the seed, and all of the energy the farmers gave to the soil to provide for a community. All of these layers reveal themselves when we pause with a carrot. And when we bite into it, we participate in the cycle.
[The waning moon Our cycle is almost complete]
Thich Nhat Hahn talks about how, in this way, one piece of food holds the whole universe:
"If you truly get in touch with a piece of carrot, you get in touch with the soil, the rain, the sunshine. You get in touch with Mother Earth and eating in such a way, you feel in touch with true life, your roots, and that is meditation. If we chew every morsel of our food in that way we become grateful and when you are grateful, you are happy."
A few visitors coming off of the trail after a hike brought me back to the present moment, and after a brief explanation of the printing process, we began making art together.
[We’ve got good friends to the left of us And good friends to our right]
People wove in and out of the process in curiosity, excitement, and hesitance. After all, it's not everyday that you make prints with vegetables in order to get free vegetables. What's the catch?
The catch is this: When we use a few veggies to make prints, we can shift the way we interact with the land, food, and local community. We begin to see the patterns of produce in new ways and recognize how their shapes mirror other parts of nature, even our own skin. When we walk home with a bag of produce and a print, maybe we will remember the joy of tapping into the intrinsic creative power we each hold. And as we eat those veggies, maybe we will fully appreciate the nourishment and flavor fresh, local food provides.
As people printed, one man in particular remained quite hesitant. It was as if there was an invisible barrier between him and the table that prevented him from making a bookmark or a card. Even with the offer of a free bag of fresh, local food in exchange, he still seemed skeptical.
After some moments, something shifted and he picked up a veggie to print. It was beautiful. He filled the space with stripes from a carrot, lines from a potato, and a multitude of color to create a mini-masterpiece. Once he started, an energy fueled him so much that it didn't seem he would stop. He lit up.
That's just it: hands-on acts of creativity, from art to cooking, break us out of our inhibitions and into the freedom of artful exploration. The beauty of diverse perspectives revealed itself in the people's creations:
When the man finished his print, I gave him his bag of produce, and he looked at one of the veggies in a puzzled way,
"What is this?"
"A purple carrot," I responded.
"A purple carrot?! I've never seen a purple carrot!" he cried incredulously.
"Yeah! Purple carrots actually used to be more common and it was only later that orange ones became the norm," I said.
Another woman looked up in the midst of printing a carrot and said,
"Oh yeah, I actually read this article that talked about purple carrots being healthier because something in the color helps our body absorb and digest the nutrients better."
A conversation began all because we took time to look at the carrot.
With a smile on his face, a print in one hand, and a bag of produce in the other, the man said, "Ah, what great ingredients for a salad tomorrow!" and walked away. A few moments later, he returned with his camera to take a picture. Seeing the shift from hesitance to enthusiasm was incredibly moving and the words exchanged with the farmer echoed in my mind:
"Educate the world, one carrot at a time."
I grinned as the crowd slowed down and the light shifted into the golden hour.
[Got the open sky above us And the earth beneath our feet]
A slight chill settled on my shoulders and told me it was time to pack up. As I made my way home, I felt an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and contentment for celebrating with community and the Earth on her day.
[Home is believing
Home has wings of faith
Home is a clear river of perceiving]
Though, I still wonder how only one day can be designated "Earth Day" when, if we do not treat every day as such, we will lose the opportunity to treat any day as such.
[Never fear-the birds are singin’ Even endings can be sweet]
Energized, I glanced down at my palms while cleaning up the materials and noticed the crevices filled with a multitude of color. My pants had new additions of ink and my cheeks were sun-kissed. Heart-full, I sang,
Oh, what a day!