GNL number 15


a report of doings at meeting #15, Sunday, October 12, 2008
including liturgical notes, major themes, and odds and ends


Earth brings us into life, and nourishes us.
Earth takes us back again.
Birth and death are present in every moment.
—Thich Nhat Hanh


Today’s conversation on Nourishment began even before the talk, with the golden October gorgeousness of the drive over to Adair’s. We all walked in full-nourished from that.

The topic had been Anna’s idea, and her own definition, she said, was a broad one—simply giving pleasure. Like the outdoor world we had just been treated to, and especially the wild outdoors, a bit of which she has encouraged in her own backyard, and simple things, the more natural the better. About food, she and others also spoke of eating as such an obvious source of comfort as to be easily abused.

Adair noticed nourishment could be thought of circular—taking it in and giving it or the fruit of it, back to life. And related to this, the idea of preying on and being preyed upon, maybe not so palatable to us but one that is basic to life on earth. Adair also recommended the witness of naturalist Edwin Way Teale, in his 4-book series on the American seasons, and journalist Michael Pollan’s new In Defense of Food.

Ann too saw the yin and yang of nourishment, the taking and giving, and noted that this is an especially fitting topic in October of a banner fruit year. She passed around in a show and tell, some fascinating pods of water chestnut from the river (which had been both eater and eaten). Not disappointing us, she added some related new 6-wordies, as well as a list of food-using metaphors, and then gave us an insightful review of the old Paul Newman classic, Cool Hand Luke, whose protagonist is both nourished and food in prison. (See Afterwords, below.)

Sue, our queen of quotes, again brought some fine ones that showed e.g., how central nourishment is to the Buddhist teaching of Thich Nhat Hanh, who says, nourish the seeds of faith and love, not the toxic seeds, and learn to see our inevitable suffering, mistakes, and struggles as compost necessary to growth and floweriing. (See below.)

Nancy admitted to feeling nourished by the whole grand and minute splendor of nature, hundreds of people, much music, not to mention anytime she laughs, but spoke mostly about the captivating book she was reading—Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, on her family’s year of local food life. A book, N said, that’s heightened her aspiration to really garden and really cook, and beyond food, to give the nourishment of attention more fully. (She got a second copy to loan out.) Quotes below.

Jack spoke again of his own very nourishing practice of meditative breathing—I breathe in Christ, I breathe out joy, or patience, et al, and he suggested non-Christians could use any name for Spirit or Life that is inspiring–literally and figuratively–to them. He also suggested prayer for others may be nourishment–to those prayed for but as well to those who pray.

And Gail, who couldn’t come, sent word to us that we were a big part of her nourishment.


Earth, water, air, and fire combined to make this food.
Numberless beings have died and labored that we may eat.
May we be nourished that we may nourish life.
—Ojai School

NEXT TIME: Sunday, November 9 (1030) at Sus Spivack’s, 107 Quarry St., Cobleskill. The subject: Less is More. (Still ok and very encouraged to bring brunch bits though)


As usual we were left with lots of threads, one of them a big bright idea that followed from part of the conversation about the Kingsolver book. And this was the prospect of a cooperative food adventure at one of these Skippys—yes, a softcheese-making party!!!!! (Without the goat)

from Ann:

  • Nourishment, in metaphor and cliche
    Fruits of labor, salt of the earth, high on the hog, my little cabbage, milk of human kindness, not worth a hill/row of beans, plum assignment, lowhanging fruit, give someone the raspberry, hot potato, apple of mom’s eye, bad apple, cheesy products, nutty as a fruitcake, piece of cake, easy as pie, breadwinner, bring home the bacon, pie in the sky, hamhanded, act like a ham, fruit of the loom, corny, what am i chopped liver, bread and butter issues, good egg, egghead, salad days, sow wild oats, in a jam, nutcase, cherrypicking, things are just peachy, in a pickle, blushing red as a beet, “God wants spiritual fruit not religious nuts”(observed on bumper sticker), food for thought, cool as a cucumber……..
  • 6-wordies
    -Thirst, hunger, drink, eat, and breathe.
    -Our daily bread, all we need.
    -Breathe the nourishment from the earth.
    -Friends, food, family; the good life.
    -Strain the resources, doom the earth.
    -Nourish the common life thread, live.
  • On Cool Hand Luke
    The prisoners all fed off of Luke even while feeding (overfeeding him eggs (the single cell of life). They fed off of his brains, ingenuity, guts, need to be free, his independence, his maverick spirit. they all needed his need to be alive, truly alive. It was vicarious living, substitute nourishment. After they have stuffed him with the eggs, he lies as if on the cross, arms outstretched, legs crossed at the ankles, serene smile on his face, he has absolved them of their sins by winning the bet, the challenge, winning over “the man”, he has given them the “spiritual” nourishment to go on living even as prisoners (of the world).
  • And, the nourishment of sleep: dreams and daydreams

from Sue:

  • The Buddha said,’When something has come to be, we have to acknowledge its presence and look deeply into its nature. When we look deeply, we will discover the kinds of nutriments that helped it come to be and that continue to feed it.’ he then elaborated four kinds of nutriments that lead to our happiness or our suffering–edible food, sense impressions, intention, and consciousness.” Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, & Liberation, p. 30.
  • From the Five Mindfulness Practices of Thich Nhat Hanh–which when you take them on as vows or promises to yourself you should say aloud on a regular basis so they remain part of what you’re working on: “The Fifth Mindfulness Practice–Diet for a Mindful Society”
    • Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivating good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I vow to ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society.
  • The Five Contemplations–To be said right before eating while contemplating the food on your plate:
    • This food is the gift of the entire universe–the earth, the sky, and much hard work supporting my existence.
    • May I live in a way that makes me worthy to receive it.
    • May I transform my unskillful states of mind, especially my greed, and learn to eat in moderation.
    • May I take in only foods that nourish me and prevent illness.
    • I accept this food so that I may realize the path of love and understanding.
  • I also sometimes say another set of contemplations as I gaze at my plate full of food which goes like this:
    • In this food I see flavor, color, aroma, texture, nourishment [I vary this list depending what I see when I look at my food],
    • and the generosity and hard work of many hands.
    • I also see great suffering
    • I know there are many people struggling for food today.
    • I pray they may all receive enough to eat.
  • Then there’s contemplations which I did not recite at our meeting– to say with the first four tastes:
    • With the first taste I promise to offer joy.
    • With the second taste I promise to help relieve the suffering of others.
    • With the third taste I promise to see other’s joy as if it were my own.
    • With the fourth taste I promise to learn the way of equanimity and nonattachment.

from Nancy:

  • Enough of science and art,
    Close up these barren leaves;
    Come forth, and bring with you a heart
    That watches and receives.
    —William Wordsworth

  • There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of head or hands. Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in reverie, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sang around. I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance.
    —Henry David Thoreau

  • I quietly gaze into the depths of a forest and see nothing save beauty and peace.
    Birdsong fills my ears. A gentle breeze brushes against my cheek.
    Seeing from inside the seeing, I drink the dark riches of the woods.
    Would it be that every day I could see my own face so clearly in these still waters,
    and meet the emptiness—which is also my very own heart—
    that is carried in the boughs of pines and in the gentle music of crickets.
    —Cass Adams

  • On cooking vs. America’s fast food culture

    Households that have lost the soul of cooking from their routines may not know what they’re missing: the song of a stir-fry sizzle, the small talk of clinking measuring spoons, the yeasty scent of rising dough, the painting of flavors onto a pizza before it slides into the oven. the choreography of many people working in one kitchen is, by itself, a certain definition of family, after people have made their separate ways home to be together. The nurturing arts are more than just icing on the cake, insofar as they influence survival. we have dealt to today’s kids the statistical hand of a shorter life expectancy than their parents, which would be us, the ones taking care of them. Our thrown-away food culture is the sole reason. By taking the faster drive, what did we save?
    —Barbara Kingsolver, in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

  • On nature as nourisher

    (One evening, the Kingsolvers are visiting Amish small-farmers Elsie and David and driving through the cornfield:) “Stop here,” David said suddenly…..”Now turn off the headlights.” The field sparkled with what must have been millions of fireflies…..they’d probably brought their families from adjacent states into this atrazine-free zone. They blinked densely, randomly, an eyeful of frenzied stars. “Just try something,” David said. “Flash the headlights one time, on and off.” What happened next was surreal. After our bright flash the field went black, and then, like a wave, a million lights flashed back at us in unison. Whoa. To convince ourselves this was not a social hallucination, we did it again. And again. Hooting every time, so pleased were we with our antics…..David chuckled, “Country-kid fireworks.” —B.K.

And a late-breaking memory, from October, sometime in the 1990’s, a Route 88 song for kids and others:

Hello, you Muffintop Mountains, Feast for the eye and feast for the soul,
Hey, you Muffintop Mountains, Come along with me down the road.
Golden Muffintop Mountains, Better than a cupcake or candybar,
Sweet old Muffintop Mountains, Sweet enough to wake my, wake my heart.
Delicious Muffintop Mountains, Rolling like fresh baked golden songs,
Nice warm Muffintop Mountains, Singing to me, take them, take them along.
Now, isn’t it funny how a mountain can go,
Mountain can go down the roa- woa- woad?
Isn’t it funny how a mountain can go,
mountain can go along Home.
Sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet—sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet,

Rolling home, rolling home, rolling, rolling, rolling home,
Home, Home, Home, Home, Home.


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