American Independence

Every country and culture has it’s story. And this week in the United States, we’re celebrating ours. Sure, there are fireworks, tacky t-shirts and hot dogs to be consumed on the 4th of July. But it’s also time for a little reflection.

I’ve always been inspired by American Independence. While there are certainly many problems to fix here, I feel incredibly blessed (particularly as a woman) to live in a country where the idea that anything is possible is a vibrant part of our value system.

I’ve spent some time in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and I’ll never forget seeing the city’s oldest cemetery. It’s called Point of Graves on Mechanic Street. It’s a small piece of land dotted with the unassuming grave markers on the burial sites of some of the original Americans, those who made their way to the United States to start a new life. Some of them died in the New World in the 1600’s. Can you imagine the courage, gumption and little bit of crazy it would take to leave familiarity and build a home in an undeveloped land?

Our Founding Fathers and those who came to America in the early days certainly had their flaws. But they had a clear desire for independence and self-sustainability. They had a purpose. Courage. And nerve. Qualities all of us should embrace. Bottom line, it’s a can-do attitude.

So today, I thought I’d share a few of my can-do inspirations. First up, a book I plan to read some of this week:

Founding Gardeners: The Revolutionary Generation, Nature, and the Shaping of the American Nation by Andrea Wulf (Deckle Edge, 2011). The book shares the story of the founding fathers  and their passion for farming, gardening and the environment. They are qualities that take a backseat in most history books, which focus on the political and other social accomplishments of those who fought for the sovereignty of our nation. This guy is on my Kindle as we speak.

I credit The New Moosewood Cookbook with my earliest confidence in the kitchen. Back in my vegetarian days (more on that later), I cooked nearly everything I ate from this book. It’s hand-written and dotted with simple hand-drawn illustrations. And for some reason, that seriously lessens the cooking intimidation factor. The soups were the perfect starting point. I’d follow Mollie Katzen’s recipe for Minestrone to a T the first time. After a success, I’d believe in myself enough to take some liberties. On another note, I beg you to try the Carrot-Mushroom Loaf. Please. I know it sounds awful, but I’m telling you, there’s something amazing about it.

It might sound funny to list a hair-care line among your inspirations, but when I was in college I worked part-time at Aveda. 
It turned out to be a pretty life-changing experience. The company culture profoundly impacted me while I stocked the shelves with Blue Malva shampoo and became addicted to Lip Saver. I learned about environmental stewardship and the impact of toxins on our bodies and minds. Plus, the whole place just smells so darn good. Take a look at Aveda’s mission statement. It’s good stuff.

I even laugh a little bit at myself when I think about this next inspirational piece of literature. Fashionistas love getting the latest issues of Vogue and Elle. And while I do find UsWeekly quite entertaining, it’s the mail day when my latest Organic Gardening arrives that I’m most excited about. I mean, take one look at the cover above and I’m sure you’re not surprised. But really, this is a terrific publication, even for the novice gardener. In one issue I learned about the value of raised beds. In another, the wide varieties of heritage watermelons I’ve been missing out on. And throughout the magazines, there are tales of garden failures and successes. Totally inspiring.

And finally (for today, that is), the book that turned me vegetarian for a solid four years. John Robbins is one of the heirs to the Baskin-Robbins ice cream fortune. But he turned it all down to live a vegan lifestyle and fight for animal welfare. His book Diet for a New America is not for the faint of heart, but I know you can take it. It describes in graphic detail the horrors of factory farming, something I believe is one of the most shameful industries in America. When I read it, I was so impacted by the treatment that cows, pigs and chickens endure during their short and painful life, I felt the only thing I could do was to stop eating them. And more importantly really, to stop buying meat. Today, I’m a responsible meat eater. I only purchase meat that is humanely and responsibly produced. Where the animals and people raising them are treated humanely, with respect and appreciation. I feel strongly that for all of us, that should be a given.

Enjoy and appreciate your Independence this week, wherever you may be!

2 thoughts on “American Independence

  1. I cringe when I think of how those beautiful animals are killed, it’s assembly line killing and it’s disgusting. I grew up on a farm and Dad treated our cows like family members, some were named after our neighbor ladies, or the wife of whoever sold them to him. We eat meat regularly, but I try not to think of how it’s processed, going meatless is a great consideration more of us should try. Yesterday I saw Dr.Oz on the View and he said that if we eat liver, we eat the same tocsins the animals had, and we should never eat it. Vegetables are looking so much better.

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