The in-between months

Growing up, I was never a fan of January.

It was always somewhat dreary and cold — a back-to-school, post-holiday let down — it was like a whole month that felt like the first day back from vacation. But not anymore.

These “in-between” months, the ones that nestle snug between the holiday season and first bloom of Spring have grown to be quite charming. They are calmer, quieter, glimmering with hope and New Year’s Resolutions. They are planning days. Dreaming days. Days to snuggle in from the cold without the busyness of months that surround them.

I have already read 3 books since Christmas. (Three!) That might be more than I’ve read in the past 3 years (well, not counting children’s books.) But my favorite so far is one that aligns with so many other little things I’ve been thinking about lately — and it is on a subject that this amateur gourmet and aspiring gardener loves: food!

In Defense of Food, actually. Have you read it?

It’s quite well-written and thought-provoking. And as our little family has been making changes to live more intentionally, eat real food and simplify, I have enjoyed the parallels between how we eat — and how we live.

Author Michael Pollan writes:

In order to eat well we need to invest more time, effort and resources in providing for our sustenance, to dust off a word, than most of us do today. A hallmark of the Western diet is food that is fast, cheap and easy. Americans spend less than 10 percent of their income on food; they also spend less than a half hour a day preparing meals and little more than an hour enjoying them. For most people for most of history, gathering and preparing food has been an occupation at the very heart of daily life. Traditionally people have allocated a far greater proportion of their income to food — as they still do in several of the countries where people eat better than we do and as a consequence are healthier than we are. Here, then, is one way in which we would do well to go a little native: backward, or perhaps it is forward, to a time and place where the gathering and preparing and enjoying of food were closer to the center of a well-lived life.

What I find so simple – yet profound – about this statement is that one could replace the first few words about “in order to eat well,” with: “in order to have meaningful friendships,” or “in order to have a strong marriage,” or “in order to have a deep-rooted faith life” — one must invest more time.

Effort in preparation of them, time in enjoyment of them, energy to care and tend to them. It is easy to live in a “Fast Food” world in how we conduct all of our relationships, not just our relationship with food. But alas, the things that are fast, cheap and easy are usually not the most satisfying.

And are rarely all that nourishing.

These in-between months are a gift of the ordinary — the gift of time. Time to prepare and plan for and nourish all of the relationships that are so very essential for our own well-being.

We’re finishing the garden fence and will be building the raised beds in the coming weeks. February will be here before we know it and we have our eyes on potatoes, spinach and onions as our first attempt. What we plant now in well-prepared, fertile soil will be ready to harvest in Spring.

And so I savor these in-between days. A quieter calendar. Time to plan. Days where I can, as Pollan says, go “backward, or perhaps it is forward” to a time and place where the slow, thoughtful enjoyment of nourishing relationships were “closer to the center of a well-lived life.”

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