(Please hit the jump to recipe button above to head straight for the Vegan Pumpkin Pudding!)
I know I’ve been talking an awful lot about this pandemic, and maybe you were even secretly hoping that this week I’d take a short break from it all. (You were, weren’t you?) But I can’t, not quite yet. My head is too busy trying to process multiple thoughts, and for some strange reason, this is where they often come together. There have been so many times that I’ve sat down with only a vague topic in mind, but then once I start to write, weird things start to happen.
I find myself in unexpected places and exploring little dark corners of my mind that I didn’t even realize were there (or maybe I did, and have just gotten really good at studiously ignoring them). Sometimes I find things I like; sometimes I find things that I want to quickly shove back into the shadows.
But somehow the blink of a cursor prompts my mind to organize itself and frequently grants me brief bursts of clarity. And my hope in the sharing is always the same: If it can help me, especially through this crisis, then it stands the chance of (possibly) helping others. Or maybe it’ll prompt a dig through your own shadows and prevent you from making the same silly mistakes that I have. At the very least, it’ll give you something to read during these quarantine days.
So yes, I’m back and ready for Round 3. I think I know where I’m heading with this, but we’ll see where the cursor decides to lead me today…
Last week’s post was something of a personal eye-opener, giving me an awareness of just how deeply we humans are all connected. But while this week’s topic also involves an observation, it’s more about me taking that information and making some actual (and physical) changes in my life. Which, truthfully, I’m ready for; being proactive gives me something useful to focus on and a direction to move in. It gives me at least a semblance of control. And being productively busy has proven to be excellent–probably even necessary–for my balanced mental state.
So last week when that connection realization arrived? Well, it strolled in holding hands with another. And while the human connection epiphany felt warm and cozy, this one leaves me feeling a little less cozy. And a little bit more like I want to do something, anything, to remedy the discomfort.
Because when the awareness of our universal brotherhood dawned, it also forced me to see just how much I depend on everyone. For virtually everything. How much I rely on a functioning society, country, government, human race to keep my small world running. To take care of my needs and those of my family. Honestly, in the face of this pandemic and the understanding that we don’t know exactly where it will lead us, it’s tough for me to accept my dependence on something so clearly undependable.
If you’re familiar with astrology, then all I have to do is tell you that my Capricorn moon is a strong, possibly even dominant, part of my personality. But if you’re not familiar, just know this about me: I adore structure and routine. I’m practical, organized, and methodical. I have a strong preference for doing things on my own and am not above making and following my own rules to get there. I’m relentless and steadfast in reaching my goals (again, on my own), whether they be material or spiritual. Making sure my family is taken care of is a top priority.
And while Capricorns have a reputation for being tough (and not always liked), I adore my goat-y traits. They help me to stay strong, focused, and to persevere; they’re the perfect and grounding balance to my watery Piscean heart.
And while all of those aforementioned traits fit me to a tee, there is one Capricorn characteristic that I’m pretty sure I’ve identified with since birth, and that is their fierce independence. And this one specific facet of my personality is currently making COVID-19 a significantly moderate challenge for me in that it has clearly shown me just how very, very not independent I am. Which makes the goat in me want to ram something. Really, really hard.
More Shadow Thoughts
Because maintaining my independence is (often unrealistically) important to me. As humans, it sometimes seems like we’re almost designed to lean on one another–for comfort, love, validation, and material support. I reserve casting judgment on this, but it is something I wrestle with, because did God intend for that or did we just evolve into it? Does it make us weaker or stronger? Anyway, that’s completely off topic (one of those shadow areas I mentioned), but let me share a story to illustrate my struggles with this whole dependency thing.
Soon after my husband and I tied the knot (almost twenty-six years ago), I started my own home business grooming dogs and cats. It was fabulous, and the perfect fit for me, but what I liked just as much as spending my days with animals was the money I made. I was easily bringing in more than Scott, who, with three years of trade school under his belt, was now working as an aircraft mechanic. Honestly, it felt great; like I could totally take care of myself. And I loved it.
But then I had to do something crazy and bring three little girls into the world, one right after another. And by baby number 3, I was tired of juggling copious amounts of pet hair as well as copious amounts of diapers. So I made the decision to close down shop, converted the space into a schoolroom/playroom, and subsequently rendered myself completely dependent on my husband. Huge gulp.
The Ridiculous Part
And you want to hear the really ridiculous part? Twenty years later, I still occasionally struggle with it. So obviously, being comfortable in my dependence on others is not really a part of my personality. And if I can’t fully relax into being dependent on someone who has consistently demonstrated how dependable he truly is, then can you imagine how I feel putting myself at the mercy of other humans? Who have shown me–all too often–the exact opposite? Humans who clear supermarket shelves with no thought to others who have the exact same needs? Dependent on that? Yeah. Thanks, but no thanks.
Except…I’m left with no other real choice now, am I? And my stubborn Capricorn tendencies are just going to have to deal with it. Or compromise. Or something.
Like It or Not
Because it’s a moot point whether or not I like it; this is where we are as a society and what we’ve evolved into. And while I’m definitely not about to start bringing animals into the world only to kill them, I’m also definitely not about to start growing enough produce and grains to feed my family of five, either. We live in a highly specialized world now, with each of us doing a very small part to contribute to the much bigger whole.
And I feel like this crisis is granting us all more of a God’s-eye view. As my guru, Yoganandaji, says: “Distinctions of ‘important’ and ‘unimportant’ are surely unknown to the Lord, lest, for want of a pin, the cosmos collapse.” And hopefully it’s not just the Lord who can see this now; we’ve all been given ample opportunities over the last several weeks to see how we depend on each other in critical ways. Those often overlooked and “menial” jobs are what–in large part–are keeping our society afloat.
A huge example of that in my own life (and virtually all other lives) is that without the “pins” of countless farmers across the globe, my whole microcosmic world would collapse (from starvation). And while I already understood this, seeing it so clearly highlighted over the last several weeks is kind of hard to swallow. Especially because this pandemic has shown me how quickly things can become unstable, in what was just yesterday a stable society. Sure, I can find food today, but what about tomorrow?
So the independent streak in me balks, or maybe even freaks out a little bit. Because even though on most days I feel fairly self-sufficient–by our current standards, anyway–how deep does that self-reliance really go? Sure, I can and do prepare all of my own food, I could sew my own clothes if needed, and I grow a miniscule amount of my own produce. I whip up all of my own cleaners and beauty supplies. Just the other day I gave an impressively decent haircut, and by the time this is posted, I may have scissored my way through another.
And then there’s my husband, who can fix anything that breaks–from washing machines to cameras. He tackles all house and car repairs. When I need something built, he can whip me up a bookcase/table/barn of beauty. Together, we make a moderately self-sufficient team; in a world where you don’t actually have to make anything on your own, we make a lot. And like it that way.
Back to my Roots
And yet…in order to bake that bread, I need someone to grow the grain. Another someone to transport it. And then another to sell it to me. And that is only a highly superficial picture of all the someones involved. Sure, if necessary I could fashion my own clothes, but first someone has to weave me the cloth. And Scott can build me a shed, but not without the wood-choppers and the millers. (Wood-choppers is a highly technical term, by the way.)
So while I can claim independence in some ways, I’m still devastatingly dependent on the skills of others in all other ways. And this pandemic has made that glaringly obvious and leaves me feeling significantly out of sorts. And irritatingly insecure.
So what is the organized, methodical, and practical Capricorn part of me going to do about it? Obviously, make a plan. And I’ve called it: The Get Back to my Roots Plan. (And if I was smart, I’d probably spend a little time trying to figure out what foolish part of me ever thought it was a good idea to walk away from those roots in the first place.)
I Love the Eating Part
Everything about 2020 so far has been highly unanticipated and nothing like what I’d so carefully planned for (and that is the understatement of the year). But the past three months have been riveting (and relentless) in showing me where I made wrong turns. Quite a few of them, honestly. These turns had been carefully thought out, but obviously miscalculated just the same. And I’m continually finding myself turning back around to pick up habits and behaviors that had been recently discarded. One of those discarded things that’s been quickly scooped back up? My trusty green thumb.
I’d made the decision to toss it because I’d kind of lost my flare for gardening in recent years. I mean, I love the eating part, it’s just the rest of it that I’d grown tired of. Even though there will always be something magical about planting a teeny tiny seed and then watching it grow, it still wasn’t enough incentive. If I could plant the seeds and then not have to touch them again, that’d be just fine. But in my experience, loved and tended plants grow much better. So when I presented myself with a decision and then made a choice? Well, apparently I didn’t make the right one.
But it’d become really hard (I’ll refrain from whining here) to squeeze everything into an increasingly short day–especially since my return to blogging. And by the end of last summer, I’d decided that next year (now this year) I wasn’t interested in growing many vegetables. Instead, I was going to toss around a medley of flower seeds, step back, and smile as they bloomed. If the bugs nibbled at them? Fine. We could share. My garden would be more about the enjoyment and not so much about a measurable profit. Just the magic of growing, without hardly any of the work. And not much of the eating, either.
Some Flowers, Too
But then this health crisis happened, and I quickly decided that was a stupid idea. I mean, we dined on frozen garden green beans (that were delicious) for much of the winter, and we still have butternut squash lying around. So I decided that ditching the garden was an dumb plan and definitely an impetuous one. COVID-19 has been aggressively reshuffling my priorities for weeks now, and getting back to growing some of my own food again unexpectedly found itself shuffled right back to the top of the list. If something has to go to make room for it, then so be it. (Based on my past patterns, that will likely be Instagram. ha. ha. ha.)
One of the silver linings of this pandemic is that it’s been great in highlighting the few ways that I actually am independent and self-sufficient. Seems strange to me that I would have treated them so flippantly and tossed so many of them by the wayside. Consequently, the garden is back on (and what perfect timing), and not only am I planning out my vegetables selections, but I’m also enlarging my space. My focus will be on the things that will store well: green beans, winter squashes, and beets are some of my favorites. My organic tomato plants have already been ordered (bring on the hornworms), and I’ve decided to teach myself something new: the art of canning. Just some more of the self-sufficiency that I love.
But I did also make the decision that abundant flowers will be thrown in, too. Because they make me happy, and there’s no reason that beautiful and practical can’t happily coexist.
A Practical Planner
So the first of my resumed habits–gardening–focuses around the subject of food, and as it happens, so does the second. Because keeping my family fed has been on my mind a lot these days. Obviously, as vegans, we eat an awful lot of fresh fruits and veggies, and their shelf life is generally short; it’s been a challenge to store enough produce for five adults when now shopping only every two weeks or so. (There will probably be more on this next post…) But even before the gardens made their triumphant return, something else had reappeared. Or, more accurately, been resumed.
See, I’m a planner. A practical planner (which is another of my Capricorn traits). Planning ahead just seems smart to me, like commonsense behavior that everyone should have. I mean, like it or not, a disaster is always a possibility. Consequently, I invariably have one or two (sometimes even three) plans in place for just about every contingency that my little brain can come up with (and I’m very imaginative). Although to be honest, I never ever thought to plan for a toilet paper shortage. Live and learn, I guess.
Stop Doing That
Anyway, as an important part of my emergency plan, for many years I kept two freezers in the basement. But they weren’t there only in the event of some future apocalypse, they were there because they’re practical. Living organically means that food is frustratingly expensive, and buying in bulk just makes sense–economically and environmentally. Plus, they save me considerable time, and that’s something I always deeply appreciate. Daily cooking means moving through supplies quickly, and I hate the constant task of reordering.
And no matter what arguments others have against it, my freezers and food storage didn’t feel at all greedy or bad to me. It certainly never felt like a hoarding issue or one contrary to my minimalist views And I was perfectly content with them humming away down there, making my life easier and our paycheck go further and allowing our planet to breathe easier. It was all good and I was happy. Until I read…a book.
Which told me to stop doing that, because I wasn’t living and trusting in the mindset of: God will take care of me. I don’t remember if this verse was used, but it’s the feeling I walked away with:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:25-26
Did it Work?
Long story short, I got rid of the freezers. Mostly because I have this vague yet persistent yearning to live fearlessly like the apostles did; to sell all that I hath, and live a life of renunciation. And while I do now understand that that’s not for me and this lifetime, the book did make some interesting points (that I can no longer remember…), and I decided to try this guy’s way of living. Which I did, for several years. I was at a critical point in my spiritual path (my guru appeared just as I was reading this book) and knew things had to change, so I gave it a go. Did it work for me? Did I like it? Was it bringing me closer to God?
No. On all counts. In fact, I hated it. (Insert a million laughing/crying emojis.)
Happy as a…Squirrel
It wasn’t the trusting in God part that was hard because of course She took care of me; She always takes care of me, often in the most unexpected and imaginative of ways. My faith was never the issue, and I lacked for no necessity during that time. But was this new way better? Not for me it wasn’t. Especially living on a budget (one income, remember) with a growing family to feed and care for. I decided that while the book made some valid points, I’m much more of a “God helps those who help themselves” kind of person. And I can definitely be proactive about my life and filled with faith at the same time. Gratefully, my guru agrees.
So in January, I made the happy decision to buy myself a freezer and get back to my old and trusted ways. I felt as content patting down my bags of grain as a squirrel seems to feel burying its nut. This was me and where I was comfortable. I was taking care of my family in the best way that I knew how. And even if it was only an illusion of control–and I knew my carefully laid plans could be leveled in an instant–it was still practical. It would still carry me through unexpected weeks of quarantine or some other equally unexpected event. The initial expense is a lot, however, and I’d only gotten through my beans and legumes and was starting on my grains when Corona ruthlessly struck.
In hindsight, my intuition was really revving up, and I’m especially glad now that I listened. Because not only are the practical and independent parts of my nature pleased, there’s also always been this knowing: Something could happen at any time. Living in America, we seem so safe, so secure, but disaster doesn’t ask your permission before it strikes. And while these small measures don’t come close to eliminating my dependence on others (I will forever need those farmers to fill my freezer), it does seem to bring some peace to my riled Capricorn ways. A compromise, I guess you could say.
Are you prepared for an emergency? my brain has always asked. COVID-19 is that emergency. And like the squirrel, I’m most comfortable when my answer is yes.
The Glory of Plants
So the gardens are quietly awaiting their glorious planting days, and my freezer is happily stocked. I’m back to cutting hair and being more wisely frugal. I’m adding more recipes to my Eco stash and am currently working hard on perfecting a homemade mascara recipe that does more than just smudge all over my face. I feel as happily self-sufficient as I can at this point, and I’m not gonna lie–I like it. A lot. Returning to my roots was an unexpected twist of 2020, but not an unpleasant one. So many of my best teachers have come under the guise of ruthless destruction. COVID-19 has been no exception.
Have a productive week, my friends. Stay safe, stay happy. Peace ~ Melinda
- 1 cup raw cashews (soaked, drained, rinsed)
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 12 Medjool dates (pitted & soaked)
- ¼ cup whipped coconut cream (see below)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 can full fat coconut milk (13.5 oz can)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup (or a dash of stevia)
1. Soak the cashews overnight, or for at least two hours. Drain and rinse.
2. Pit and soak the dates for 10-15 minutes or until soft.
3. Add all of the ingredients to the food processor; process until smooth and creamy.
4. Top each serving with an additional dollop of whipped coconut cream and serve cold. Keep any leftovers refrigerated.
1. Place the can of coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight to separate and chill.
2. Once chilled, turn the can upside-down to open and pour out the liquid on top, saving the thick cream on the bottom.
3. Spoon the cream into a mixing bowl along with the sweetener and vanilla. Using a handheld beater, whip the cream until thick and creamy. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.