(written in August 2009)
My heart is so full if I don’t let something out I will burst! I have spent the past three days out in the country on our family’s organic farm, Abanitu, learning from my uncle, its steward. As he put me to work on the farm, he taught me, and I sat at his feet and listened, intently. It wasn’t much of a conversation, more like a reversion back to Africa, where the elders were revered for their wisdom and the young ones took each word as a drop of gold.
He taught me about the land, the soil itself, the ecosystem that Abanitu is and how that ecosystem encourages life and enables the best food to grow with no chemicals, no pesticides, no gmo’s. He taught me to make trellises to support the vineyard that would exist, soon. He taught me to till and to weed, to make compost, to prune, to harvest,and to saddle, groom, and ride a horse.
In his lessons he weaved stories of his youth, my father’s youth, and my grandmother’s mighty strength that continues to see her through. He taught me about the kind of blood that runs through my veins: Obie blood, and what that means. He showed me the trees he used to play under. I saw the place where my grandfather was killed, 25 years ago to the day. This land that my father farmed and his father farmed and his father’s father farmed. My land. Our land.
He told me of a time when we needed each other to survive. If everyone did not do their part on the farm, the family would not eat in the cold months. I think about this, now, and imagine countless scenarios where I might starve to death if that were the case today. I cried last night about this–how far away from community we have become, how disinvested we are in each other’s futures, unless we see a benefit for ourselves.
Today, it is acceptable–nay, American–for people to go without affordable health care, for the homeless to stretch out along the streets of our nations capital,and for our children to be miseducated.
We are not our sisters’ keepers. We do not value “family values” as we claim. We do not love community. We love houses, cars, clothes, shoes, diamonds, money, money, money. As my uncle said to me, “We are so drunk with materialism that we have lost connection with the two things most important: a relationship with God and a clear conscience.”
Our hearts and our souls are not healthy because our physical bodies are not healthy. We are feeding ourselves food poisoned with all sorts of unnaturalness meant to profit its maker, not its consumer. And our minds suffer for it. In the name of the dollar our food is plumped, fattened, and engineered to be just enough poison to sustain us a little longer–until it kills us. Our individual realities sustain us–until they kill us. Because we cannot grow until we see that there is one reality: that my life is intertwined with yours, and yours with another’s, and another’s with another’s. We are all “food for food” and all connected through Jesus Christ.
My uncle told me of his life. A hard life. A pained life. A beautiful life. A life that surely could have left him bitter and searching for ways to benefit self–but God! Instead, he breaks his back day in and day out to bring the farm of his youth back to life, and with it, the hope that the legacy he is building on will catch fire in the young ones and we will take up that torch and build with him and together keep building long after he is gone for the sake of our children’s children’s children.
As my uncle and I harvested grapes and figs, I ate them off the vine and was made full from the purest food I have ever tasted: the wisdom of my uncle, the gift from my ancestors and communion with my God–all through that land. Our land. Straight from the Heart of God.