Memories of Old Jack

“For what could their simple and hard earned abundance mean to that beautiful and carefree pair who made such an unabashed show of needing nothing ?”Old Jack thinks.

Old Jack’s daughter Clara and her banker husband have come up from the city to the farm she grew up on, to visit. Her aging parents Jack and Ruth have done what farm parents do-loaded them up with all the fresh goodies from the farm. They have worked so hard for the offerings but realize Clara has already become one generation disconnected from her food.

In Wendell Berry’s Memories of Old Jack, a farmer in the early to mid 1900’s recalls,through his memories, over his eighty eight years the beginning of urbanization, disconnection from food sources, and the end of farms being worth enough to pass on.

It made me grieve for the land and small family farms with no one to take care of them as they age. They are broken and weary, and have become feral, hard currency, swallowed up by expanding cities and McMansions and outlet malls where you can buy everything you “need.”

I felt Jack’s despair as he watched Clara drive away. I want to keep loading up my children’s vehicles with simple and hard earned abundance for many more years, as I do now : vegetables still fresh from the dirt, a front quarter of a cow, home canned chicken broth, and fresh yogurt and eggs.

Jack realizes too late he was too busy working the land for what he thought was a better life, to teach his child connection.

My daughter called me the other day and said “I didn’t want to tell you because I’m embarrassed but I forgot an open jar of chicken broth in the car and had to dump it. It smelled sooooo bad. I knew you would be cross it got wasted.”

“Good.” I said. “Not good it got wasted but good you understand the value of that work.”

We need to reinforce our connection with our food. And not just a visit to the farmers market on Saturday. Eating whole foods, growing what you can, turning away from things mass produced, understanding that healthy soil doesn’t come from monocropping, spraying and landfills filled with plastic. That animals play a vital, sacred role in the growing of food.

Can we stop being so busy filling our minds and closets with garbage, buying and buying to fill houses with no legacy beyond one generation? Can we take our noses from the grindstone that pay for stacks of Amazon packages to look up and see the truly glorious inheritance we have been given?

Can we stop being so distracted we forget to pass on this valuable knowledge and instead hand them the Netflix password ?

God, I hope so.

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