Today is the Feast of St. Isidore the Farmer, a frequent lifeline for small family farmers who rely entirely on the grace of God in the form of much needed precipitation. Rozann Carter, having grown up on a ranch in New Mexico, is acquainted with St. Isidore, and she talks about how farming—and praying for rain—teaches us to be a people who "practice the Resurrection."
“I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds - achievements won by the present and past generations of agriculturists; in the promise of better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years…”
This is the opening paragraph of the FFA Creed. “FFA” stands for Future Farmers of America, and long before I associated blue and gold with my beloved Fighting Irish, I wore the “national blue and corn gold” corduroy jacket of this organization of emerging agrarians. We FFA members spent our high school extracurricular hours “judging” dairy cows and chickens, competing in Farm Business Management contests, practicing Parliamentary Procedure and learning the skills necessary to successfully manage a small farming or ranching operation, most likely passed down from our parents or grandparents in the rural communities where we grew up. But not too many of us needed formal instruction. We had grown up on horses, had driven the “feed wagon” since we could hardly see over the wheel, and had harvested rows on combines right alongside the rest of our siblings, passing the time by making jokes over the CB radios from tractor to tractor...
"In a few days I will be dead. No." She put up her hand. "I don't want you to say a thing. I'm not afraid. When you live as long as I've lived you lose that, too. I never liked lobster in my life, and mainly because I'd never tried it. On my eightieth birthday I tried it. I can't say I'm greatly excited over lobster still, but I have no doubt as to its taste now, and I don't fear it. I dare say death will be a lobster, too, and I can come to terms with it."
Death will be a lobster, too…
In the above paragraph from Ray Bradbury’s classic novel, Dandelion Wine, Helen Loomis comes to terms with the inevitability of aging and death by comparing the phenomenon to eating a lobster. She conquers her fear of the ultimate unknown in a mundane and shoulder-shrug sort of way, by routinely relegating this experience to just another necessary, fanfare-free “to-do.” Lobster? Check. Death? Meh. Does it come with melted butter on the side?
This excerpt immediately came to mind last Tuesday when, on my thirtieth birthday, I serendipitously received the gift of… a live lobster.
In the mail.
On the precise day of my trip over the hill.
An enormous, antennae all over the place, pinchers-pinching, cooler full of some-assembly-required seafood straight from Maine’s “Lobster Man” to me, courtesy of some incredibly thoughtful friends in Texas… who knew nothing about this literary association between death and the crustacean family.
After all of the sly comments about how I wasn’t in my twenties anymore, about how I should be wearing purple, about how it was all downhill from here, could someone actually be making an obviously not-funny joke about the proximity of 30 to the capital-E End by sending me a grim reaper lobster?...
Ah, the dreaded "routine" visit to the dentist. Rozann Carter finally made hers last week, and the dentist's x-ray discoveries taught her a little bit about the process of dealing with the effects of sugar sin.
“Do you have a mint problem?”
A mint problem?
What the heck is a mint problem?
Do I take 3-8 peppermints every time I leave a restaurant?
Is that a problem?
“Do you floss regularly?”
With regularity? Yes. Every month, on the month.
Oh, you meant frequently? (Silly adverbs.)
No, I don’t floss frequently. What gave that away? The fact that my gums are bleeding because I flossed 20 minutes before I came in to your office?
“Let’s take a look at these x-rays.”
Uh oh. Here we go.
The smell of blue rubber gloves, the feel of the mini grim-reaper sickle against enamel, the sound of the whirring, splashing lipo-esque suction that disposes of extra saliva while your mouth is stretched open just awkwardly enough to garble every answer to the 27 life questions posed by the friendly neighborhood hygienist. Good to see you again, fake-plants-and-murals-on-the-ceiling dentist office. It has been too long...
Who doesn't want to operate at their very best? What if striving for the best comes at the expense of the growth and wisdom that is achieved in the incremental "better"? Rozann Carter explores her path to self-improvement as Lent approaches, and discovers that "best" is not always, well, best.
I am an overly ambitious alarm clock setter.
My late-night self has way too much faith in my early-morning self. Right before I go to sleep, I become a daily workout fiend, an avid holy hour keeper, a homemade omelet maker, a morning person that would shame the likes of Mr. Folger himself. In the delusional stupor of midnight, I confidently set my iPhone alarm(s) for a lofty 4:30 (4:35) (4:40) am to get a head start on that book I am writing and send out 12-15 heartfelt thank-you notes while a week’s worth of lunches get rationed out from the slow-cooker.
Then, at 6:30 am, there are xylophones, pinball machines, and old-fashioned phones making one heck of a racket in my apartment. What?? How did this HAPPEN? Again? Livid and full of self-loathing, I scramble to get the day started with the backburners blazing, still with ample time but with a “Welp, the day is ruined” mindset. Lazy sloth me struggles to recover from the deflation of another fervent but unachieved goal. My opportunity to be the person I had pictured in my mind went right out the window… beside that iPhone blues musician.
With Ash Wednesday approaching, I realized that this “alarm-clock delusion” is an example of what seems to go wrong with my yearly approach to the Lenten season. It betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of “good, better and best,” which are not simply three measurements on a flow chart that vary in degree. Let me explain...