And Now Let Us All Contemplate…

Way back in the 70s, when eating whole wheat bread marked you for the commie pinko hippie you were, my parents embraced composting with the sort of energy you’d expect if composting created… gold… rather than, well… dirt. We were newly moved to the South, I was having a good old time starting first grade the year the elementary schools in our town were being desegregated (nothing like learning a song called “Glory, glory to old Georgia, the South will rise again!” and being laughed at because you say “you guys” to encode skepticism about the South into your bones) and my mother concluded that the way to turn approximately an acre of hard red clay into a flourishing garden was to amend it with compost. (38 years later, she turns out to have been right: patience is a virtue).

My parents had owned a house previous to buying the one that over the years became the family manse, but I’d been a baby, my brother hadn’t hit the scene yet, and that house had had starter house scrawled all over it. This house, which they bought when my dad started his professorial career, was the real deal: solid, brick, front yard, back yard, lots of bedrooms, basement and attic, and even doors that sometimes swung open of their own accord.

Taking produce scraps out to the compost was a chore meted out throughout my childhood:  I remember doing it even as a slouching teenager, when I showed my distaste for the whole process by simply flinging scraps onto the top of the pile, rather than covering them with leaves (and then sneaking a cigarette in the backyard).

Given all this, it stands to reason that as soon as I hit thirty I became genetically incapable of throwing away apple cores — as soon as the Husband and I settled down in one place long enough we set up a Family Bin.  

And even the most skeptical have to agree that there’s something seductive  about composting:  I may not be able to spin straw into gold, damn it, but I can turn garbage into dirt like nobody’s business!
Elder Girl’s school also composts, and recently she RECOILED IN HORROR when she saw me put orange peels into the compost bin.  

Citrus hurts the worms’ stomachs!  she cried.  
Every morning I prepare grapefruit for the girleens and because of my upbringing, very fiber in my being shrinks from throwing those peels into the garbage can.  My hand hovers over the bowl for scraps for the compost.  But…those poor worms, their stomachs eaten away by acidic citrus!  I’m damned if I do or damned if I don’t, which, now that I think about it, is an example of an either/or that seems to be becoming a uniquely 21st century dilemma.  
The trend in women’s magazines this year seems to be the sort of article that bemoans the fact that the holidays are weighed down nearly to drowning point by consumeristic crap.  These articles cozy right up to advertisements for all manner of beautiful, luxurious and useless things.  Oh, yeah, I vow, reading these articles, this year we’re going to simplify!  
Then, of course, I slam the magazines shut and head for Target.  
Because The Husband and I are the sorts of parents who want to do right by our children, at least one Sunday a month we drag our formerly agnostic selves to church, and this past one, the Simplification Message was delivered from the pulpit.  Yes, yes, I thought.  We’ll metaphorically unplug the Christmas tree this year!

Then the sermon ended and we were reminded that the Cathedral Bookstore had books for sale in the Parish Hall and 10,000 Villages was displaying its wares in the library.  
This what it means to be liberal at the dawn of the 21st century:   continuously bombarded by philosophically irreconcilable messages. About EVERYTHING.  All the time.
Don’t know about you, but I’m off to do some conflicted Christmas shopping.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Katherine,
    So great to find this blog — Eggs For Young America is one of my favorite collections ever, and I’ve Googled trying to find you every couple months for a long time. I run a fiction site called and would be amazingly thrilled if you happened to have a story that needed a home. Some great people are up there and you can see everything in the archive on the site. I’m running out of room but would love to tell you more. Email me at and I’ll do anything I can to talk you into it.

Comments are closed.