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I just got off the phone with a dear friend of mine who is in treatment for breast cancer. Before getting cancer, she had been a raw foods gourmand, acupuncturist, healer and midwife. She thought she had it all figured out, that if she just did all the “right” things and walked a “righteous” path physically, spiritually and emotionally, disease would just pass her by. It did not. Now she says, “I can’t believe I was ever so arrogant to think that I had such control.” The real trick, she has discovered, is not trying to control everything but to accept with grace whatever your journey might throw your way.

“I am not a cancer survivor,” she says. “I’m just a person on a journey that includes cancer.”

I understand all of what she says because I’ve been there. I was a vegetarian for 16 years, took supplements, did yoga and walked my own “righteous” path. But my clean living was not enough to protect me from getting lymphoma at age 30. I felt for a long time as if I must have done something wrong, that perhaps I just hadn’t been “good enough” to avoid cancer. That’s sad, isn’t it? At a certain point, though, I stopped asking “why” because it’s such a waste of time. I had cancer, and that was just part of my journey. Read the rest of this entry »

I just read this post today from The Christian Science Monitor about how the Oxford English Dictionary, one of the fundamental reference leaders of the English language, is dropping nature-related words from its junior edition.

As a writer and a mother struggling to give my son direct experience of the natural world in a culture over-saturated with electronic media, branding and advertising, I can’t tell you how much this saddens me.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my computer. I own a TV. I am grateful for the convenience that my cell phone has brought to my life. But I also believe that more important than all this technology is a fundamental connection to the wild (or at least semi-wild) spaces of our landscapes. Today I don’t see children as having freedom to explore—or in some cases, even access to—such places, which I found to be essential to the development of my subjectivity; senses; and spiritual understanding that I am a living being who is part of something fierce, beautiful and so much bigger than myself.

Thus, I find the loss of such language from this preeminent dictionary as a sign of a much larger extinction.

Our front yard: Its days may be numbered.

Our front yard: Its days may be numbered.

I am plotting a murder: I want to kill my lawn.

I’ve been turning the idea around in my head for a couple years, and I think—with drought conditions worsening here in California and another long, hot summer on the horizon—the time has come.

I know that it is the right thing to do for so many reasons. We will conserve water, which will be great for our parched state, as well as our water bill. We will be able to plant vegetables in part of the yard, turning the land to productive use and possibly saving money on food. We will be able to do away with the polluting lawnmower.

But still, I feel a little sad.

Part of it is just the idea of killing something so established—it seems kind of wrong. And part of it is my resistance to change, which is particularly strong right now because we have neither a definite plan for what we will plant in place of our grass nor much money for new landscaping. But I also think that killing the lawn is a bit like letting go of a certain version of the American Dream, so linked they have become in our consciousness. This feels to me a little like jumping off a cliff, an uncertain thing in already uncertain times.

But that grass just ain’t green, and so it must go. What will come next is still unclear.

Red daikon radish from my CSA box

Red daikon radish from my CSA box

I am obsessed with food. Not in an unhealthy way (at least I don’t think so). I am obsessed with where my food is grown. How it’s grown. What is in it. What is not in it. How fresh it is. How much it costs. Lately, that last detail has been driving me absolutely crazy.

I returned home today, having gone to two grocery stores to scout out deals. One, a local food cooperative. The other, a chain. I tried to get everything on my list at the highest quality and for the lowest price. Going to the chain store first, I gambled that it would have the lowest prices on most of my items. Not the case, as I found out moments later while scooping up the rest of my items at the co-op. Indeed, with the exception of a rotisserie chicken, EVERYTHING was either the same price or cheaper at the co-op.

I was surprised. I usually shop almost exclusively at the co-op (supplemented also by staples from Costco) because it has the largest variety of locally grown, organic and specialty food in my community. But lately I have left the store staring aghast at my receipt. I thought it must be because of where I was choosing to shop. Hence, my experiment today, which proved the grass is not always greener on the other side. Read the rest of this entry »