The Bigger Life

It’s getting difficult for me to cut the grass.

I’ve never been particularly fussy with our lawn–it seems there’s always something more pressing, or interesting, than clipping grass. But in recent years, as I learn more about wild plants, I’m apt to stop my machine mid-mow, get down on hands and knees and take a picture, or harvest something, or do both.

Wild violets interrupted the task yesterday.

DSCN5549_

Early Blue Violet (Viola adunca) found in my yard. Their fragrance is AMAZING. Violet plants contain large amounts of vitamin A and C and have been used traditionally to treat skin ailments, coughs, and colds.

Belén, collecting violets.

Belén, collecting violets.

Viola adunca. I took this one to show the shape of the leaves and how they hide in a lawn.

I still haven’t mowed our backyard this season. Did I mention we have the most gracious neighbours in town? Whenever I make a comment to Helen about the dandelions, she waves her hand and says, “Don’t you worry, you’ve got plenty of other things to busy yourself with.” Another kindly neighbour has mentioned he’d be willing to come over with a spray bottle and a little 2,4-D. (He’s also the one I’ve found–unexpectedly–with a pitchfork in the middle of my garden, working the soil before spring planting.) I thank him and decline the offer, adding something about the girls being barefoot and chemicals. I don’t tell him we eat the dandelions.

chemical-free dandelions

chemical-free dandelions in my backyard

ingredients for dandelion fritters

ingredients for dandelion fritters: blossoms, eggs, flower, salt, your choice of seasoning, and oil for deep-frying

blossom to be dipped in egg. (Check out my nails. I stopped in the middle of transplanting tomatoes to make these!)

Susanna was a willing helper. She thought the end result tasted a lot like McNuggets.

Susanna was a willing helper. She thought the end result tasted a lot like McNuggets, but she wouldn’t eat more than one. I ate about thirty.

Dandelion fritters with chives and cottage cheese.

Dandelion fritters with chives and cottage cheese. I don’t have a picture of the ones I liked best: individual blossoms fried separately. They were light and crunchy–even with a heavy, gluten-free flour mix.

While walking to the library yesterday, Belén saw a yard carpeted with yellow. The grass was long, dandelions were everywhere, and a sheet hung haphazardly to cover the front window. I thought the house might be vacant. Belén interpreted it differently.

“Oh,”she sighed, “They must have children.”

I knew what she meant. She figured anyone willing to let their whole yard be consumed by dandelions had to be a parent. And clearly, one who had the best interests of their child at heart.

******

After writing part of this post last night, I stopped to read a book about a couple who had four children and then adopted another five. I’d picked it up at our library’s browser table but didn’t think I’d take it home. Despite the intriguing premise, I was wary of slogging through poor writing. (Good stories don’t always mean good writing.) I was pleasantly surprised, then, when I  found myself laughing out loud in one sentence and murmuring over a poignant image in the next.

Near the beginning, the author describes how one of her recently adopted sons would protect his food during mealtime. He ate quickly and defensively, with his arms draped around his plate and cup. Whenever he spilled water he’d cower in fear, expecting punishment. He treated water as a precious resource, disbelieving there would be enough. Finally, she bought her son a canteen to strap on his body to alleviate some of his anxiety.

It struck me, while reading this, that as I post about a handful of dandelions, children are searching for their next drop of water.

While I upload photos and try to think of cute anecdotes, kids are scrounging for something to eat, or rocking back-and-forth violently to self-soothe.

Her story reminds me of the bigger world, beyond my own interests and hobbies. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wild-crafting, gardening, teaching, writing, cooking and raising my own family, but it’s so easy to forget there’s more. More than ME.

I have moments like these, when my blinders come off, every so often. They’re accompanied by a sense of urgency, of wanting to do something radical. And in my zeal, I run through the options: Should we adopt children? Move to another country? Give away all our money? Make huge life-style changes? The urgency smacks of hopelessness and confusion, too. I know we want the bigger life, I just don’t know how to get there.

Last night, when I was at this point, I remembered my mantra of the next step: whether writing a book, spring cleaning, or contemplating careers, all I have to do is finish the next paragraph, wipe the next drawer, or make the next phone call. I don’t have to get it all figured out, just the choice that’s ahead of me.

Today, my “next steps” are:

1. Pray I’ll be sharp enough to see opportunities when they arise

2. Volunteer at the community garden

3. Make supper

4. Write a cheque

5. Publish this post

What are your next steps to a bigger life?

Tricia

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