Friday, November 16, 2012

Market Day

It is strange, the desperate corners into which the world will sometimes drive us for aliveness.  Ember, how well I know the feeling that drove you to pitch a Great Plains Tipi in the garden of an English manse.

Leah you ask about a cave.  That was another desperate corner.  Through the length of our long search, I sought most of all for freedom—freedom from a world that made no sense and held little attraction to me.  By the end a cave seemed a way to shut out the whole modern world, and I was willing to pay that price for my freedom.

But my husband sought above all for the peace of wholeness.  Now I realize that it was actually peace I longed for too—the peace of the wholeness I remembered before remembering.  It is only that wholeness would not yield for us until we were free.  I grew into the belongings that Michael chose to complete the house.

Caves and tipis are places of freedom.  In the years before Innermost House there seldom seemed anything in the world worth having that did not just add to the burden of unreality around me, so I seldom wanted anything.  The only places I much enjoyed shopping were farmers markets.  From Paris and Cambridge to Bruges and Salzburg, these were the places I felt at home no matter how far from home we were.

It wasn't until we moved to Innermost House that we were able to make the local farmers market our main source of food.  I felt liberated by the limitation of making do with the produce of my own neighbors' fields, if that makes any sense.  

For our first years on the farm we had no car, so a local teenager used to do our weekly shopping for us.  Those were our innermost years, when I was glad to be relieved of all commerce with the world outside.

Later, when I began speaking about Innermost House, we got a car and started venturing out once a week for necessaries.  I found that the outdoor market somehow added to the peace I enjoyed at Innermost House.  When I awoke on market days my first thought was of the farmers and their booths of fruits and vegetables and flowers.

By the weekend before Thanksgiving Innermost House is cold in the early morning, but on market days we light no fire.  I collect my two shopping baskets—one big one of oak splints and another smaller one of wicker—from the shed closest to the path and we're off, bundled up in tweed jackets, wool sweaters and gloves.

We make our way through the woods to the car at the bottom of the field. Michael opens all the doors of the car, looking for signs of mice.  I'm grateful not to find a nest in the glove box or under the seats.

From farm to market is about a twenty minute drive.  It's always crowded, no matter what time we get there.  Much as I love our solitude on the farm, I love the market crowd.  Vendors and customers are cheerful and everyone is interested.  Everyone seems to know someone, and everyone is buying something.  There are singles and couples and parents with children and lots of grandparents and almost everyone seems to have a dog.  It's all very lively, the more so for the chill in the air and the autumn color in the trees.

I am never looking for anything in particular at the market.  I just get whatever is interesting and beautiful.  Today I end up with carrots and onions as always, and broccoli, kale, eggplant and cauliflower.  As a treat at this time of year the brussel sprouts come still attached to their long, heavy stalks.  I feel fortunate to find even a few somewhat sad looking tomatoes.  

There are beautiful young and aged cheeses.  The egg man fills my carton with his eggs of many colors.  I choose some grapes and pears and persimmons.  The apples we still have from home.  

For Thanksgiving I add some wild rice and chestnuts, and some of those sweet potatoes with purple skin.  A local vintner helps me choose a bottle of his wine, and I get some cider to warm over the fire.

One woman comes every holiday season with lovely wreaths she makes from grapevines and greens.  I choose a plain vine wreath I will decorate later with berries and pods and greens from the woods.

There is a truly beautiful dried gourd the color of autumn that I choose from one farmer.  He tells me it is his favorite too, and seems to regret having to part with it.

I am finished.  I've made two trips back to the car to drop off the heavy produce, and I feel giddy with all the treasure.  It feels like enough to last a lifetimewhich is just about what a week in Innermost House amounts to in my mind.

They fit together perfectly to me, the house in the woods and the farmers market in the world.  They make a whole between them.  They share in the quality of the beginning.  Each is an occasion of thanksgiving.


  1. Diana, I love going to our local open air farmer's market too. In the summer and early fall my husband and I go each weekend to buy our vegetables there. It's only about a ten minute drive from our home and there is such a palpable sense of anticipation and pleasure in the air as the shoppers crowd the stalls and ooh and aah over the brightly colored produce. I'm lucky to live in an area that has many prosperous farms within driving distance and the growing season is great here in Western New York, moderated as it is by the effects living near to Lake Erie. I'm so in awe of the farmers' skill, dedication, and hard work and I always make it a point to thank them (with awe in my expression, I'm sure!) with each of my purchases for all that they endure in order to bring a taste of the earth's fruits to my table.

    One of the things I'd like to do when I retire is volunteer at a farming co-op, to better help me get in touch with the land. I have no 'earth' in my astrological chart at all so it's an aspect of my personality that really needs balancing out. I don't mind gardening as such, but I have a difficult time in the heat of the day and try to avoid too much sun as it's physically uncomfortable for me (I'm always overheated and have a fan blowing on me all night as I sleep even with central air conditioning in the summer and even during the cold winter nights!). However, when I DO garden, I'd much rather cultivate something I can eat rather than just admire. I'm very practical and if I have to sweat while I work outside, I'd better get something useful out of the effort! When I lived in Anchorage, Alaska we had a raised-bed garden plot in our backyard that produced incredibly large vegetables because of the nineteen hours of daily sunlight in the summer months. I still remember how my zucchini would grow to the size of my forearm and were so profuse that I'd spend several days at the end of summer making dozens of loaves of zucchini bread to freeze for my family to enjoy throughout the fall and winter months.

  2. Oh I love, love love this post! I was right there with you as I read it! Thank you! And the "peace of wholeness": I will carry that in my heart to meditate upon. Thank you so much! x

  3. The beautiful picture reminds me of a wonderful impressionist painting. How fun to grab a few brushes and start in! It is alive with the beauty of the earth, the promise of nourishment for our bodies. Mesmerizing, really.

    Oh, wait, I got sidetracked from the post! I can appreciate what you say, Diana, about the crowds. I usually avoid hoards of people, but this is different. Everyone is there for a purpose, nourishment of body and soul. One can totally tune everything out when scooping up a luscious cucumber or very gently squeezing that perfect tomato.

    It always is a wonderful feeling to have one's cupboards stocked and knowing that everything is there when needed. That nourished the soul!

  4. "...liberated by the limitation of making do". I love this, Diana. I understand it. Thank you for saying it.

    1. I love this comment too, Julie! Many people think I am limited in my diet and sheltered (bored?)in my lifestyle. I can only smile. It can be difficult to explain.

      Thank you, Diana, for this lovely post.

    2. We can't explain it, Leah. It's GRAND. The grandest thing ever. xxx

  5. Thanks for this post Diana. So beautiful. I often have no words to say when I read here. I am just listening, and it seems that to write would break something, perhaps it is the unity I can imagine I have with you.

    Thanks so much for your faithfulness in following your own inner guide; and for your faithfulness in sharing your way with us all. I feel that perhaps without your gentle voice I would have missed the signpost to this quiet and beautiful path.

    I am still in my time of waiting to live with fire. I am fortunate that at the moment I go at weekends to look after someone else's house, where there is an old wood-fired cookstove. I can creep downstairs in the morning and light the fire to boil a kettle, and I can peek in on it from time to time as I cook a meal. It's such a blessing.

    I am fascinated by the way the material and spiritual things seem to intertwine. When the right material things are present, they are no impediment to the life of the spirit. When the right spirit is present, it sweeps before it all that is unnecessary and brings a right-szied spaciousness.


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