The other day I posted a request on my sister, Katie’s facebook wall for a “baby bump” picture. Our sister, Hilary and cousin, Jean immediately endorsed the cause. Katie answered with characteristic sparkle that she would post a picture as soon as I posted a blog. So Jean, Hilary, Katie, and Baby Pat, this one is for you...
(Katie also supplied the topic, “fall foods.”)
I ate a baked sweet potato yesterday at Logan’s Steakhouse in Richmond. It was gigantic, dry, anemic and sweet-ish. Bryce got one, too, and our combined leftovers probably weighed 3 pounds. No exaggeration.
We’d been running errands all day and were hungry! Outside it was drizzly, 50 degrees cooler than it had been five days before. I had a fall feeling. Books, blankets, chuck roasts with vegetables, sweet potatoes, leaves, jogging through the woods, hot coffee and cold pumpkin pie for breakfast, etc. Everyone has a fall list. Anyway, I had the fall feeling, so instead of being anxious that we weren’t working on the farm, I enjoyed the cozy two hours we spent in JC Penny, buying clothes for Bryce. The fitting room attendant observed that he was “worst than most women.” To be fair, he needed new clothes, and he wouldn’t settle for less than what he’ll wear until it’s threadbare.
After lunch and grocery shopping, I spent the ride home pondering two seemingly unrelated experiences of this fall feeling; 1) An idealized yet ultimately unfulfilling sweet potato, and 2) A recent flux in the number of conversations with people who believe that the end times are near. “What do these two things have in common” was the name of the game.
My answer? Hunger. We are hungry for what we are hungry at this time of year - for the fruits harvested before the vines die in the first freeze, and for that very killing chill. For death, for a dying back and dying down. If I sound overly morbid, then I probably am. But that’s the point! There is no denying that we have an appetite for destruction, bad news, even apocalyptic forecasts. Next time you find yourself or an acquaintance making grim predictions about the economy, the environment, the neighbor’s marriage, etc. - even if the predictions carry a certain grief about the suffering that will ensue - take note of the predictor’s satisfaction. It’s as if we double-dog-dare mother nature, father god, shiva, karma, or some myth-less natural force, to tear it all down.
I do not say all this to condemn us. I think it’s pretty natural to be hungry for death. We can find fun, rest, perspective, gratitude etc. in little deaths - in Halloween, corpse pose and songs/prayers like, “I’ll Fly Away.” It’s when we don’t know or name our hunger, when we call it something else, that death consumes us. Instead of allowing the decaying crops and and the shorter days to give us our temporary fill, we wish for more destruction, still.
Same with that sweet potato. I might have eaten myself into a stomach ache in search of the quintessential bite - the sweet, melty bite that would have completed my fall feeling - if I had not known that that’s what I was hungry for; if I had not known that I was not going to find it, not at Logan’s, not at a farm-to-table joint with local, hand-cut, organic sweet potato fries, not ever, not anywhere. Not perhaps until I am hungry no more.
So this is what I say to all the death-eaters out there, including myself when I become one: people have been predicting the “end of times” for as long as people have been people. People have secretly wished for the storm, the quake, the judgement, the fire, the end, and knowingly or unknowingly disguised the wish as a premonition, for just as long. Let’s call a spade a spade.
Katie and Pierce Hale are about to have a baby. In some ways it’s the blessed “beginning of times.” Katie, I promise my next blog will actually have more to do with fall foods.