kindred spirits

veru11_30_18I enjoyed a happy moment yesterday with the discovery of a kindred vegan spirit.

Chance threw us together. We were making friendly small talk. As time passed, we discovered more and more shared likes and experiences.

Finally, as the conversation somehow turned toward food, he quietly started a sentence, “ I’m a vegan, so…”

I stopped him right there. “Wait. You’re vegan?”

“Yes,” he replied with a tentative nod. He was probably bracing for the inevitable well-how-do-you-get-your-protein question.

Instead, what he heard was a very delighted, “So am I!”

With a look of happy surprise, up came the hands for a high five.

Gotta admit, despite the fact the vegan population is definitely on the rise, coming across vegans in the wild is a pretty rare experience for me. Wandering as a vegan through the heart of meat and potatoes country can be a rather lonely and sometimes alienating experience.

The alienation has its roots in the defensive posturing that some people feel compelled to launch once they discover you’re vegan. Sadly, it’s also the case that sometimes you fly quietly under the radar just to avoid to the predictable, tiring challenges that you are occasionally forced to gently work through with insecure, heels-dug-in meat-and-dairy eaters.

So when you chance upon a kindred soul, it’s a pretty cool thing.

Then, you can happily chat about fave dishes and books and apps and oh, just all the other doors this shared choice opens up. Because the choice to be vegan is not fundamentally about food. It is a very deliberate, practical choice toward exercising compassion. It is an ethical stance about animals, people, and planet.

All the healthy side effects of such a choice are icing on the cake, so to speak.

Online, I see that there are more and more folks on the vegan bandwagon all the time. In the stores, it is clear that corporations are working to tap into this growing market as more vegan processed options keep popping up. Restaurants, too, seem to have a budding awareness with more of them including a vegan, or at least vegetarian, option on their menus.

Estimates in the United States indicate that the vegan population might be roughly three percent. Who knows, though? I think some other countries are definitely ahead of us in this lifestyle.

The numbers are still scant. Working through those uncomfortable conversations is worth the effort when you have the energy for it, since you might touch another soul in a way that winds up mattering some day.

But when you actually discover a fellow traveler out there, there’s just a little moment of heart sparkle. You find both recognition and connection, and, even better, inspiration.

lone vegan attempts to cook again

veru11_24_18aEven though I have a lot of interest in nutrition and eating healthy, I struggle to make myself cook. I’m fine with breakfast and lunch since I long ago established go-to meals that are easy and quick to make, without actually, ahem, involving much cooking.

Dinner is another story. By the time I get to dinner, I have exactly zero interest in preparing anything for myself. I am so disinterested in cooking for myself that sometimes I just skip the whole thing altogether or eat something that’s really not ultimately good for me just because it’s there and I don’t have to cook it.

This dinner thing has been bothering me. So I decided recently to make the effort to learn a few recipes for dinner meals that could be prepared and served for two or three dinners, or for entertaining.

Little did I know exactly how rusty my cooking skills had gotten!

My attempt this week was inspired by the vegan Neatloaf I enjoyed in San Diego at the delightful Jyoti-Bihanga restaurant. That neatloaf was awesome. With mashed potatoes and gravy, it’s the perfect winter comfort food, too.

veru11_24_18.jpg

I found a recipe on A Virtual Vegan’s website, including both the loaf and the gravy. Perfect!

The recipes aren’t too complicated, the ingredients are reasonable, and she gives detailed instructions and great photos.

It was my own lack of cooking habit that had to be confronted. I cooked for many years, and certainly had the tools and the expertise to put things together. Years of disuse, however, took their toll.

My first problem was pretty basic. I had gotten so bad about cooking that I never unpacked many of my cooking supplies when I moved into my current location. Hence, I had to root around in boxes looking for some elementary items like: a bowl and a loaf pan. I never did find either one, but I improvised. 

Then, there was the whole thing of actually, you know, preparing the dish. This is fundamental stuff. Chopping onions, garlic, mushrooms. Cooking lentils. Measuring spices, etc. (It took awhile, but I found my measuring spoons, yay!) We’re talking routine kitchen activities here; nevertheless, it was as if I was doing it all under water.

At any rate, I was not deterred. I actually did make the loaf, mashed potatoes, and gravy. The only thing I tweaked on the recipes was that, not having a blender around, I just used the chopped the onions and mushrooms for the gravy without blending – and actually, that is the way I would do it again.

Results? Awesome! It really turned out great. And it really is the perfect comfort meal for those wintry days.  The texture and moistness of the loaf are just right. And it really tastes yummy. If I tweaked anything, perhaps it would be just a little less thyme.  The recipe made enough loaf that it’s going to take me awhile to eat it up – which is exactly what I was hoping.

The gravy is the perfect addition, too. The flavor is there, along with the color and consistency that invites.

Thank you, A Virtual Vegan!

It was a worthwhile exercise, and I had fun doing it. I admit, though, I would never find myself doing this at the end of the day. So cooking ahead is the way to go.

So far, so good. Yum!

a dark season

veru11_15_18

Opening day.

The excitement is in the air. Everyone has been planning for this for weeks. By yesterday, the atmosphere was thick with it. Many have arranged for time off from work. And today’s the day.

Deer season.

Yes, the guns have been cleaned. There’s plenty of ammo. And don’t forget the beer.

This is a time of year to which I have never grown accustomed. The sight of deer carcasses slung across cars, casually driving around town, really bothers me. Or how about the car dealership that has some kind of contest, where there will be a long line of carcasses hanging from a pole, easily visible from the street.

No, although many eagerly look forward to this time, it is not a season I have ever enjoyed. I do not understand the drive that makes a regular person want to get out to shoot and kill deer or any other animals. I have yet to meet a person who does it because they actually need to kill deer to survive. And venison is clearly an acquired taste.

The frenzy over the hunt pervades the entire community. I am clearly in the minority in my distaste for it. It’s more than distaste, though. It disturbs me how people get wound up and passionate about this activity of killing. I know I am the odd one in this feeling.

For me, I much prefer those magical moments of spotting a deer and simply savoring its beauty – of honoring our kinship as beings sharing this earth. I see deer as members of families, parents and children, struggling to survive on this changing earth. I am delighted even to simply come across deer tracks in the snow, wondering about the mystery of their lives.

Spare me the arguments about the need to control the deer population. I think there is a lot at work here in the social psyche that creates this strange holiday and the way people behave related to it. For all the gung ho, festive, all-American patina to it, this sacred ritual strikes me as a dark season.

I’d just like the shooting to stop.

earth on edge

veru10_28_18b

I love nature. I love the ever-changing skies, both night and day. I love this amazing earth upon which we live – the trees, the plants, the animals, the entire amazing array of diverse, mystical life that grows here. I love the waters of the earth – the soul-rushing oceans, rivers, lakes, ponds, and creeks.

I love people. I love the profound mystery that each one of us is. I love recognizing the us in us – that we are connected, that we necessarily and purposefully share this space and the very experience of life. I love our unique capacities for imagination, creativity, understanding, discovery, embrace, cooperation. I love the power of love.

And so I’m worried.

Last week, there was yet another major report out about the state of our planet. The World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Report 2018 advised us of a “60% decline in the size of populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians” during the period between 1970 and 2014.

That’s life on earth – disappearing.

Even in the small samples of our planet that I personally experience, I have noticed things changing in my lifetime. The numbers and diversity of birds, bugs, and other animals has demonstrably changed – even in my own small experience.

The destruction and pollution of habitat is also all too easily observed, whether that’s the vast tracts of monoculture farmed lands, the Superfund site in the vicinity, or the knowledge of PFAs in the water.

This does not bode well for us.

veru11_4_18

We need to stop destroying our planet and the life on it. 

There are things we each can do. Yes, ultimately, we need to hold corporations and governments to account, but corporations and governments depend on us. They depend on us – and so far, we’ve pretty much been delivering status quo.

When we alter our behaviors on a big scale, change will eventually ensue. Couple that with persistent, coordinated, non-violent demands, and change will definitely ensue.

A logical first impactful step is to move toward a plant-based diet.

Industrial animal agriculture is one of the things at the heart of destruction on our planet. Deforestation, pesticides, herbicides, the depletion of our soils and pollution of our waters keep happening because of what we choose to eat and the corporations that are intent on delivering it at the best possible profit.

While easing the pressure on our earth by changing our diets, this step will also help to end the suffering of animals and improve individual health.

Of course, there are other steps to take as well, but this is one practical, doable thing you can do today.

When one thoughtfully changes their diet this way, and gets educated, it necessarily changes perspective on political, social, and economic issues. The whole world looks different. It is a powerful and empowering move towards peace, justice, and equality.

It’s one thing you can do.

Do it for nature. Do it for people.

New kicks

veru10_25_18

It was time.

There were just so many miles on my beloved running shoes. I mean, we were totally bonded. All that bonding took its toll.

My bedraggled, worn out shoes originally came into my life as a delightful surprise. One day, I headed into the running store to meet up and head out on a run. Upon arrival, the store owner told me that, courtesy of my son, I should pick out a pair of new shoes. Turns out that my awesome son had remembered my birthday and managed to think of the absolutely perfect surprise for me. He had called from out of state to my fave store and made the arrangements.

My son may not have envisioned the little impromptu party that went along with it (or maybe he did). Here were my running buddies, all of them also delighted by my son’s thoughtfulness. And then, the ensuing birthday wishes and, of course, shoe shopping. Ultimately, there was a get-together at the local brew spot. It was all very festive.

Those shoes went with me through wind, rain, and snow. They crossed finish lines. They bore witness to my tears, expletives, affirmations, and joyous aha moments. They were there when the geese flew over, when the butterflies circled, when the birds sang, when the alligators made their silent dare.

So many amazing memories, but emotional attachment cannot stand in the way of good, safe running.

Uhm, can it?

As I mentioned, it was time.

In a new-to-me town here, I made my first venture into the local running store in search of new shoes. I came out with just what I wanted, and so far, so good. Got the Altra Escalante, zero-drop, roomy toe box. Kind of weird to feel the cushion in there – feels very self-indulgent, but I think I’ll adjust. And I also understand these kicks to be vegan-friendly.

The shoes are not inexpensive to me, but they are important to me. It is a good thing that I could allow myself to make this a priority.

In a world that seems to be getting a little crazier by the day, it’s important to stay centered and hold peace in intention. Don’t ask me why or how, but my locomotion is part of how I make that happen.

So. Time to break in the new kicks.

peace on the plate

veru9_9_19c

So, apparently, just a few weeks ago was about the time the little turkeys were born who will be featured on plates across the USA come the holidays.

Personally, I do not want to see another feeling being with whom I share the earth slaughtered for my plate. I know that in many minds that seems like an extreme position, but it’s really not at all – unless one considers compassion extreme.

I get it. I really do. Like pretty much everyone else, meat-eating was an unquestioned way of life for me for literally decades. The turkey and all of the accoutrements defined the Thanksgiving holiday.

veru9_9_18bOne Thanksgiving when I was a little girl, my father excitedly told us that he had brought the turkey home and it was in the trunk of the car. He convinced us that the turkey was alive. My brother and I were enlisted to stand at the ready, weapons in hand, as my father opened the trunk. Our job was to subdue and kill the turkey for the family table.

Dutifully, I stood there, shaking and tearful, holding some bludgeoning tool from out of my father’s toolbox. Of course, after much build-up, he finally opened the trunk, revealing the turkey’s carcass.

My father and the rest of the assembled family and relatives had a great laugh over the prank, but the moment rests darkly in my memory – both for the odd personal cruelty of it, and for the way it made me look at the turkey. I finally got it that the food on my plate was once a living, breathing, feeling being that didn’t want to die.

Although I glimpsed that sentiment as a young girl, it would be many, many years before I seriously processed the significance of the food that I eat through the lens of compassion. At long last, I am committed to a vegan lifestyle, albeit still occasionally an imperfect one.

Veganism is a journey. It’s not a matter of flipping a switch, and, voila, you’re done. No, it’s an unfolding, enlightening exploration of food, what it really is, and the suffering involved on the path to your plate.

Once you open your eyes to it, you can’t just unsee it. It pervades every aspect of your life, and calls you to be something more – and less.

It turns out that veganism is really just part of a much larger expedition about what it means to be the human that you are, sharing this planet with other life. It is an odyssey toward compassion, peace, and justice – something I believe to be a worthwhile journey indeed, especially during these days of ever-increasing harsh rhetoric and actions in our society.

veru9_9_18a

I could not celebrate a dead turkey on the table, with an inkling of how it arrived there, an understanding of how it impacts our shared earth to eat this way, and even a consideration of its impact on individual health both physical and mental. There are just so many reasons.

So, like I said, I get it that veganism is a difficult concept for most people in a culture so thoroughly steeped and invested in animal agriculture. I don’t judge people for the way they eat, even though, oddly, it doesn’t always work the other way around.

Still, you might want to think about it.