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It is quite puzzling that cultures across much of the northern hemisphere have chosen the season when the earth's tilt provides for much darkness and quiet as the time to be out and about, shopping for gifts, frequently tripping over each other in the pursuit of the last minute deal. Wouldn't it be more intuitive, even logical, to adapt to the earth's rhythm, shed our external leaves, tune into the winter landscapes of our mind, and embrace the more scarce but meaningful treasures in it? To look inward, appreciate what we have, and make connections on a non-material plain?

On the other hand, it makes a lot of sense that a society engaged in a mad race to avoid silence and reflection has left no resource unextracted and no marketing plot untouched to throw the proverbial kitchen sink at dreaded entities like mystery, uncertainty, and impermanence. I have trouble coming up with a better reason for why we're so hooked on an economic system hell-bent on perpetual growth and material distraction other than this debilitating fear of the gloriously rich and expansive world within us — a world that encompasses both our greatest hopes and dreams as well as our deepest wounds and worries.

Could it be that our inner demons are wreaking havoc on the outer world because we're afraid to dance with them?

As the planet's finite resources are shrinking and the effluents of our material consumption are rapidly altering the Earth's atmosphere, I'm at once perplexed at why we would want to keep speeding up our daily trans- and interactions, yet also eternally optimistic about our capacity to be more aligned with the natural ecosystems of this little round ball we all share and depend on.

The mere act of looking and listening is often all it takes to reclaim a healthy realignment with the rhythms of the natural world, and just this week some old friends of mine appeared on my cosmic radar to remind me of those simple beads of wisdom.

Hop over the orange oca to get the real dirt on Farmer John...

Farmer John and his ancient tubers!

John Glavis with a box of freshly harvested red and orange tamarillos (tree tomatoes… Cyphomandra betecea).

For the past eight years my friend John Glavis, a botanist and spiritual seeker who I used to ponder the ecology of the universe with, has been researching and seed-searching nutritious indigenous Andean food plants on his BoTierra Biodiversity Farm in the coastal town of Bolinas, CA. There was a reason I hadn't heard from him, as he had been deeply immersed in the pace of plant life, away from the gratuitous hustle and bustle that seems to be the price of admission to modern day life. When I saw him the other day for the first time in years, it felt as if — in order to truly understand the natural cycles of underground roots — John himself had morphed into a tuber.

Holding a variety of Mashua, aka root nasturtium: the taste of creamy potatoes with a hint of spice...

John tickles my own affinity for tuber creations with lines like these:

"December is tuber time…and we are busy opening the earth filled with the Solstice gifts that were originally planted at the beginning of 2013. It has taken eight years of research…..seed-searching….…plant trials…...variety selection… propagation strategies…and experimental production techniques ….to arrive at this beautiful abundance. And now it's time for the JOY of incorporating these ancient, under-utilized, culturally rich, nutritionally dense, and widely adaptable indigenous food plants ...plants that have proven their promise…into our local/planetary diet…."

Yes! There is an abundance and joy beyond words emanating from these deliciously rugged and mysterious ancestral roots. Not the linear abundance of mass-produced and chemically fertilized commodity crops, but a deep-seeded abundance of healthy soil, life-giving nutrients, and meaningful connection to the boundless world of living breathing organisms.

I once wondered whether God was a Mushroom, but I am now also considering the possibility she's a Tuber. Most likely, both.

Varieties of Oca, aka root oxalis: tastes like sour-creme filled fingerling potatoes...

John says that many of the Andean tubers like Oca, Mashua, Ulluco, or Yacon as well as the tree tomatoes he's growing predate the Inca, surviving the onslaught of colonial forces that devastated the intricate food systems of the ancient world. You can sense his deep gratitude and humility in being a link in the chain connecting the past to the present, and his excitement in sharing the fruits of his eight year incubation.

"It is difficult to express the deep gratitude I have for the many hands across time that guided the selection and development of these ancient heirlooms. I find that the best way I can heal the terrible pain and loss of our indigenous connection is to bring these sacred Native foods to the foreground, celebrate their exquisite nutrition and bring their delectable flavors to our tables."

One of the Ulluco varieties presently in trials at BoTierra Biodiversity Research Center

And so I sit here on the longest night of the year, marveling at the magic of all that is slow and patient and rooted. I feel grateful for the darkness that enables distant lights to be visible and gentle whispers from yonder to be audible. I feel hopeful that we humans can reclaim our appreciation for the heart of it all and reconnect with the same wisdom that mattered thousands of years ago. Most of all, I delight in the decorative beauty of all things Pachamama, while I sit there and watch her breathe in and out.

Just in time for the Holidays: red tree tomatoes, aka tamarillos! Soon to be served up as the richest delicious cranberry sauce you've never had...

I will leave the last words to John, accompanied by sweet sounds from underground...

"And to sit together with long lost friends sharing a savory supper of these delicious plants with a story is spiritual fulfillment beyond measure."

- John Glavis

Happy Solstice!

Update: liberatedspaces and I just planted some of John's tubers in our city backyard! Let's see what happens. Here's the Mashua going in the pot...



crossposted at A World of Words

Originally posted to Ecomusings by Sven Eberlein on Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 11:42 PM PST.

Also republished by Kitchen Table Kibitzing and PaganKos.

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