Lessons From The Compost Heap

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Bidens still going strong after our first frost

Time For Real Change

As the dust settles after the most explosive, contentious election of my lifetime, I find myself slowly unwinding, releasing tensions I wasn’t even aware of. After four years of fear and fury, anxiety and outrage, many of us have been tied up in knots so long that it may take a while for us to unfurl. I’m balancing daily meditations with stretching sessions that open up shoulders and chest, starting with gentle arm rotations and ending in the ancient posture of supplication called “orante.” Done sitting or standing, this involves tilting the head back and looking upward while reaching up with both arms outstretched, hands open and fingers spread to the sky. Once there, we can sway gently back and forth (listening to Grateful Dead tunes helps), opening the back and spine. Ahhhh. Letting go of the accumulated tension is a great start as we take a little time to relax, refresh and renew ourselves for the work ahead.

There is definitely work ahead and it’s not going to be easy or quickly done. For some 75 million Americans, the election outcome feels like a huge but costly victory; while it’s a tremendous relief to be poised to begin repairs for all the damage of the past four years, it is also horrifying to realize that at least 70 million of our family, friends and neighbors wanted another four years of the current regime. About 239 million Americans were eligible to vote this year, and about 160 million people did, which means around 79 million didn’t. By that reckoning, there are around 154 million of us who are not happy, or feeling disenfranchised or unrepresented, or perhaps not interested in participating in democracy. To me, that suggests that American is way overdue for an overhaul. We need not just to rebuild but to build anew, to make a new and very different country for ourselves, one where we all feel safe, welcome, and able to make a good life for ourselves and our families.

A Revolution Of Kindness

Getting to there from here looks like a high mountain to climb, but yesterday a friend made me think about the path in a new way. When I wondered how we would ever reach reconciliation, he pointed out that if each of us befriended one or two people with very different views from ours, we could help change their world and our own. That’s not just happy talk; there is solid research to prove that kindness can change minds and hearts and make friends out of enemies. Bill pints out that there’s little sense in seeking out a violent skinhead to woo, but plenty of opportunity to learn more about a co-worker or a neighbor. Getting to know one or two people isn’t that daunting a challenge; the current issue of YES Magazine offers a clever comic/primer showing how kindness can create positive, lasting change for you and the recipient:

Some Kind of Wonderful

Transformational Change

I am convinced transformational change is possible after reading Rising Out Of Hatred: The Awakening Of A Former White Nationalist by Eli Saslow. It’s the story of Derek Black, godson of David Duke and heir apparent to the nation’s largest white nationalist movement. When Black began classes at New College of Florida, his roommates engaged him socially and intellectually despite (or perhaps because of) having widely different world-views. To his own astonishment (and the horror of his family), within two years Black had a total change of mind. In a New York Times Op/Ed he wrote: “Several years ago, I began attending a liberal college where my presence prompted huge controversy. Through many talks with devoted and diverse people there — people who chose to invite me into their dorms and conversations rather than ostracize me — I began to realize the damage I had done. Ever since, I have been trying to make up for it.”

How could that even happen? “His transformation is so huge: to go from being the future heir to this movement to now being a rising anti-racist activist,” Saslow said. “Doing that in short form, it almost stretches believability. It’s hard…to do real justice to that transformation.” For me, that magnitude of change reminds me of what happens when we put the last of the slumping pumpkins, garden detritus, food scraps and slimy fallen leaves into the compost tumbler and give it a whirl. The first turn doesn’t do much, but over time-turn, turn, turn-everything gets mixed up. The heat of dissolution and the addition of fresh air turns sullen clumps of rotting glop into sweet smelling, fluffy compost. The rejected, festering materials are now rich in nutrients and ready to nurture plants and soil.

Transforming Pumpkins

The last of the jack-o-lanterns are on their way to becoming compost, but we still have a few baby sugar pumpkins left over. Baked or roasted, each yields about 2 cups of cooked pulp and despite the many savory meals to make with pumpkin mash, right now we all seem to be wanting soothing sweetness. Pumpkin bread was a family favorite for years, but when I started experimenting with pumpkin muffins, allegiance shifted definitively. The recipe I now use was developed when I ran out of All Purpose flour; fortunately, whole wheat pastry flour turned out to be a winner. With less gluten than AP flour, pastry flour creates a tender crumb and adds to the rich flavor of these intriguingly spicy treats, which is delicious when the muffins are warm and even better the next day. The whole neighborhood loves these muffins so they go like the wind, but they will keep and freeze very well.

Practically Perfect Pumpkin Muffins

1 cup cooked pumpkin pulp
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon, cardamom,
coriander and ginger
2 large eggs
1/2 cup avocado oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
1-2/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or AP)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (or chopped nuts)

Preheat oven to bake 350 degrees F and line a muffin pan with papers. In a bowl, stir together the pumpkin, brown sugar, maple syrup, eggs, oil, and buttermilk, set aside. Sift dry ingredients together and stir quickly into the pumpkin mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and pumpkin seeds and spoon into muffin cups, filling them 2/3 full. Bake until set and golden (about 20-25 minutes). Makes 12 standard muffins.

Trumpkin with a black eye

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