I can fill out grant proposals and reports with number of people served, participant hours, and percentages of this that and the other thing, but these do not hold a candle to the ‘stories lives tell.’ I borrow this phrase from a book of the same name by Witherell and Noddings that was influential to me when working on my doctorate two decades ago. It affirmed, as did my wonderful mentor Sonia Nieto, the power of stories to convey lives, struggle, change and meaning.
One of our youth leaders posts on facebook a picture of a huge, ripe heirloom tomato—that chose to pick and take with her from the SOL Garden at Seeds of Solidarity—a space where she’d spent many days in circle with peers, hearts and minds open– to her first day returning to college. She said bringing then eating this was one of the best ways she could think of to remember to stay grounded. This symbol, this story speaks so much to me and I will share it with others and draw on it (among other stories) to illustrate the impacts of our youth program.
We’ve heard many stories this summer, often around the fire—stories from those here for our first retreat for women in recovery from addiction, to those enjoying a meal after a beautiful Brazilian drumming workshop just the other night. The day of being in the garden and creating art opened women healing to share back their personal stories, plus their wise insights about the pharmaceutical industry and perpetuation of addiction. More recently, Ricardo led a group gathered for an Ecology of Sound workshop in rhythms that conveyed the stories of the Yoruba pantheon of deities carried by enslaved Africans to Brazil, and Capoeira rhythms to mask rebellion as dance, and the rhythms of found materials, sounds in nature, our own bodies. We didn’t need many words.
Herstories and histories are often offered when sitting around fire or food or grain threshing or art making. I recall reading about an avid young anthropologist wanting to hear creation stories from indigenous elders in the Amazon region. Repeatedly he asked to be told some, and the women good-naturedly laughed at him, encouraging him to just come make a basket. He finally gave up his attempts at interviews, and joined the basket making circle. Over time, over weaving, the creation stories emerged —not for his benefit per se, but to be woven into the baskets and shared with the next generation to carry them on and while learning the craft he was privy.
As the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival approaches its 16th year, it is common for the organizers to share ‘remember the time’ stories while we are setting up tent or constructing tables for yet another year. Most of the best stories involve mud and crazy antics. Not only do we retell them often- which naturally brings new volunteers into the festival creation circle, but we make new ones to add. The stories we hear, the stories we make, and the stories we share are what make life most precious.
A Soup Recipe
Summer Garden Story Gazpacho
Inspired by Cassandra bringing a fresh tomato to college, here is a recipe for Gazpacho.
Disclaimer: I do believe the best way to eat a great tomato will always be one thick slice on a piece of crusty bread with mayo or olive oil, coarse salt and a grind of pepper, but that said:
Blend a hot pepper, 4-6 cloves of garlic, and a small onion in a food processor. Put into a big bowl. Add a chopped (chunky or fine, as you wish) a large cucumber and a green bell pepper. Dice then pulse 4 or 5 large tomatoes- a combination of sauce style and slicing tomatoes is fine- this is a good way to use tomatoes that need a bit of bruise cut off. Mix all prepared veggies in the bowl. If you wish add some chopped fresh herbs—choose from basil or parsley, or a little oregano- or even mint or cilantro depending on your flavor preferences and what you have. Season with a little olive oil, a dash of balsamic, a drizzle of honey, a small splash of fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper, to taste. Chill. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt.