Friday, November 5, 2010

Recognizing the Good

As I sat in my kitchen enjoying the beginning of the November sunlight, I kept having to deal with the inner nagging to do something with the last of the harvest from Whippoorwill Farm, our community supported agriculture venture. I have to admit, I have run out of ideas for what to do with yet one more batch of kale, one more set of twins of the butternut squash variety, one more mountain of beets. The harvest has been bountiful this year and I am at the point of resenting the accumulation of steaming, peeling, chopping, freezing and pickling still waiting to be done.

Alongside the inner nagging and the feelings of resentment comes the whisper of new Hebrew words in my vocabulary - - hakarat hatov-- recognize the good. The whisper lays down the challenge. I need to regroup – recover – rethink. I look at the pile of beets waiting on the kitchen table. Long roots tangled with each other. Layers of mud from newly moistened fields – a real mess. Hakarat hatov. Recognize the good.

In the run-up to the mid-term elections, recognizing the good has gone missing. Kevin Cullen, in the Boston Globe summed it up this way: I don’t know about you, but this election cycle has been more depressing than any I can remember. Depressing in that so many dollars have been spent on advertising that creates the impression that everybody running for office is a lunatic or a criminal or both.

In the presence of so much unpleasant, negative, and destructive political discourse, it is all too easy to lose sight of the good. In the process, something violent is done to the soul of the voting public. I have heard too many people question the value of voting at all when the rhetoric is so poisonous. I even find myself wondering at times. And then the wisdom of the sages whispers hakarat hatov – recognize the good. The large majority of people running for office are not criminals or lunatics, huge advertising budgets to the contrary notwithstanding.

Hakarat hatov – change my lenses – recognize the good. A huge pile of muddy beets, roots entangled, greens withered - - not an altogether appealing sight. There is messiness here. Dirt, juice that stains everything it touches, roots to be trimmed and discarded, greens to be either salvaged or composted. Hakarat hatov! A little energy begins to stir. I can do this. I can deal with one more mound of beets if I recognize the good - -the pungent, earthiness, fresh from the soil; the astounding red that emerges once they are boiled and peeled; the sharp fragrance of vinegar and onions and cloves and pepper; the unspeakable beauty of sunlight filtering through the ruby spaces in the sealed jars on the kitchen counter.

Today the beets are a metaphor that helps me see a little more clearly how to bring my pen to the ballot in the face of so much negative campaigning. Recognize the good.

Vicki Hanjian

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