Looking Ahead

Reader Contribution by Erin C
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2016, you’re being mean. No seriously, enough is enough. I have tried to sit down and write for a month now, and I have found myself unable to even create a blog about my chickens. I lost my cousin recently. My husband’s grandmother went into hospice. We lost our first chicken to a predator. A massive wildfire destroyed Pigeon Forge and the forests of East Tennessee, which was devastating to that area and cost 14 people their lives. Hurricanes Matthew and Hermine caused quite a bit of damage. The Standing Rock pipeline and resulting protests have shown many of us that when it comes to water rights, big companies tend to get the upper hand.

And there were some real losses to the world via celebrity deaths this year: Abe Vigoda, who our rooster was named after; Alan Rickman, who was one of my favorite villains to ever set foot on a movie set; Harper Lee; Muhammad Ali; Gordie Howe; Elie Wiesel; the list goes on and on and on. We lose celebrities every year, people who we don’t really know, but who hold some strange place in our lives. But really, 2016 sucker-punched my childhood. 2016 went straight for my happy memories; Prince, Leonard Cohen, Merle Haggard, and David Bowie all brought beauty to the world through their music. Robert Vaugh, who many people remember from The Man From U.N.C.L.E., but who I remember watching for the first time with my dad in the Magnificent Seven (my favorite cowboy movie ever) as a flawed hero. Gene Wilder who was a favorite in so many movies that I loved as a child and into adulthood. Kenny Baker, who played R2D2, passed away this year; seriously 2016? You couldn’t leave the droid alone?

So when I say it has been one thing after another, we all know that, right? From small upsets, like a stranger who made movies passing away, to major catastrophes, this year has had a lot of bad news to spread. I have to admit that I was feeling a little overwhelmed and sad. Bad news is nothing new, and usually I bounce back, but 2016 was just not having any of that.

But positive things happen in our lives, too, and they have a way of balancing out the bad. Because life isn’t really all good or all bad, but a mix of the two. I was at work the other night when I was reminded of this by a coworker who, without even realizing it, lifted my spirits. I work in an ICU in a large hospital in downtown Memphis, TN. I work with nurses who travel from the northern part of Missouri, with nurses who travel 10 minutes down the road, with medical assistants that walk to work, and medical assistants that drive 45 minutes. I work with people from every kind of background, socioeconomic class, gender, race, and culture. I work with vegans and die-hard carnivores, people who can’t boil water, and gourmet chefs. And so many times that I’m at work, I’m also talking to these people about food. I love to talk about food, and I love to talk about how and why we raise our own food. I genuinely enjoy bringing a dish for the whole unit to try, talk about how the majority of the ingredients came from my backyard, and how it was prepared.

The medical assistant that we were working with that night doesn’t usually float to our floor, but she’s trying to come down more often. She was born and raised in apartments in Memphis. She is a city girl through and through. And this past weekend, she couldn’t wait to share her news with me: she just signed a lease on a house for the first time. She is going to have a yard and a large kitchen. And she told me that I had inspired her to make this change; she told me that she wanted to learn to grow her own vegetables. She was so excited for this change to happen that she had started planning the herb window box that she was going to plant as soon as she moved in.

This conversation lifted me right out of the funk I had been in. I inspired someone to try growing vegetables! Growing and raising food is something that I am truly passionate about, and I enjoy sharing this with others. We have gotten so far away from our food that it’s hard to believe that, just a couple of generations ago, it wasn’t trendy or strange for people to have a couple chickens in their backyard; it was normal. Canning and gardening were just a part of the routine. There has been a resurgence the last few decades of people “getting back to the land.” I think the popularity of homesteading waxes and wanes like the cycles of the moon, but some people live this lifestyle because living any other way is not an option. And I think we need to show people who don’t naturally embrace the farm life that they can grow some of their own vegetables, too. Taking an active role in their own food prep is not only exciting, but worth the work of planting and harvesting when you cut into your own ripe tomato.

I realized this weekend what my husband has been trying to tell me all year: That while we have some things to complain about, there isn’t much, and we certainly have much more to enjoy and be thankful for. And my friends and coworkers reminded me that I can’t control everything, but I can make a huge impact on some people. And that’s what counts.

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