Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Corn for our seeds

     In today’s Common Prayer – February 22 – we read this prayer:
“Lord God, extend our faith so that even when we fail to see the fruit of our planted seeds, we may have the assurance that every inch of soil overturned will lead to a harvest some day.”

     Last summer our organic farmer friends gave Anita bag of seed corn that was a year old. Joe and Becca said plant however much you want, we can’t risk low germination from old sweet corn seeds. They also generously gave her space for six 100 foot rows. It has always been her dream to grow enough sweet corn for eating delicious golden kernels all winter. The thing is, you might have a good harvest off the ten to twelve corn plants you put in your small urban garden, but that’s still only three ears per corn plant? Three dozen ears altogether? Unless you have room for a lot, it’s a waste of time and space. So the possibilities of corn through the roof had her hungry-eyed.

     This is what happened. We had so much corn we could have begun a factory farm of feeder hogs. We raved over the sweet, tender ears, we ate them like chainsaws – sawdust flying, protective goggles over our eyes.

     It had reproduced itself five hundred fold with wild energy. We ended up freezing 46 quarts and giving away at least 20 dozen ears. For the first harvest we picked three or four wheel barrels full and pushed it up to the yard where we set up a little canning factory. Anita picked, Denis shucked, I cut the kernels off the cob, and together we heated it to boiling point on a camping stove and then put it all in zip lock bags. Tato, the dog ate cobs as he could and all the leftover greens and cobs were dumped over the fence to the chickens and pigs. And that was just the first picking. It’s almost March and we still have plenty of corn to eat.

     thought a lot about that harvest and everything that had to coalesce under sunny days and warm nights to make it so darn good. This rarely happens in life. Sometimes. But rarely. You invest and invest and once in a blue moon you get to see where that seed went and what it did. The prayer above is mostly how it is. Maybe years later you get a facebook message thanking you for all the pizza you served the youth group and how they’ll never forget listening to Purple Rain and thinking about Ferris Buellers Day Off in your living room. We need to keep stumbling down the row year after year because you never know when the corn will come home. But even if it doesn’t, we are assured by God that he grows a great harvest that will overflow all our wheel barrels and burst our freezers. 

Anita and I picked the first load.

Denis did the shucking while I began cutting it off the cobs.

Anita took a turn with the knife while I began blanching the corn.

The Chickens feasted on all the leftovers.

We made a huge pot of corn chowder on the camp stove in the yard and ate it with Joe & Becca and all the interns. All fresh - even the milk came out of the Jersey cow that morning.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Perils of Pride

This week (Feb 6) TheNew Yorker published a humorous essay –  “Flight of the Concord” by Jeremy Denk, a classical pianist. It’s not about the French Concorde, nor the Flight of the Conchords, the crazy New Zealand music-comedy duo – it refers to a sonata by Charles Ives and Denk writes about the perils of the recording studio. Really worth reading, even for folks who have no idea what it means to "lay a track."

A critic heard Denk play Concord and insisted he needed to record it; “You’re having A Moment with it, and one never knows how long such things last.” Suddenly, Denk is prey to the idea that he can do this better than any other. And maybe he even did. He writes, “You might imagine that making a recording is a lovely occasion: you go to the studio with your entourage; there is banter; you lay down tracks, locate our groove; the producer gasps in admiration…”   

It’s that gasp of admiration I recognize. Denis gave me one at supper last night, about a pretty little thing. I’d gone to the kitchen about an hour before, looked in the pantry, pulled out wild rice, dried apricots and cranberries, a few other ingredients, toasted some pecans and dished up a savory main-dish salad. It gave me a flash of pleasure for having hit it just right. But that he concurred? Even better.

Is this universal?  That we have moments of thinking we can distill 50 lifetimes of thought and practice into X better than anyone else? I don’t think it’s wrong to find genuine pleasure in doing something well, or in receiving recognition for it, but I think my problem is hungering for that gasp because it cancels a sense of self-doubt. I don’t like to admit it, but it’s a sneaky form of pride.

Bruce Ray Smith’s insights during his battle for humility at least give me hope that I’m not alone in the struggle to ferret out the wounded pride that just crops up everywhere – in writing, raising children, or just living. I even want someone to tell me how well I pay the bills! In WinterLight, He writes,

“As for my pride, what is it I renounce? Myself: that grand self I imagined, an illusion, something which does not exist.
            I said no, I am saying no, to nothingness.”

And so, as we head over to a L’Abri conference that begins tomorrow morning I will be aware of that Grand Self that accompanies me. We will listen to a roster of eloquent speakers, people who love God and love to love people. One of my heroes, Jerram Barrs, will be there. I will plunk myself down among folks who’ve seen every relevant movie, read all books published in the last decade, understand quantum physics and how it applies to postmodern art – and oh, they can also remember all the details – but I will admonish the Grand Self, “You’re listening to a demented voice. They haven’t. They don’t. We all have broken hearts and that’s what this Christian thing is about. We can’t fix ourselves, but we can get a few pointers on which way to go for help.