Small Actions, Big Questions

Small Actions, Big Questions


These days I don’t always rinse out plastic bags to dry and put away for future use. I compost food we can’t get through or I can’t taste. I drive everywhere. I order endless supplements online and cringe at all the packaging and recycle/garbage.

Before cancer/chemo I had an epic plastic bag collection; truly a bag for every possible need or scenario. Food was not wasted, really ever, and biking everywhere was my greatest joy. Biking also gave me such satisfaction, in knowing I was reducing traffic congestion just a smidgeon and keeping that air just a wee bit cleaner.

I also occasionally wondered to myself why others didn’t find both the same joy and righteous pride in these things that I did.

These days, days of utter exhaustion and limited capacity (and joy too) I no longer wonder about others’ priorities. I wonder mostly about the challenges we all face. I wonder how we can set ourselves up as a communities, culture, society, where we can care for ourselves and tread lightly on the planet at the same time. The questions are so big and so manifold that I don’t know where to begin. Please comment with your thoughts on the matter!

Our lives, everyones lives, are precious and so is this planet. As Kathleen Dean Moore so beautifully articulates in her piece Wonder, Bread in the most recent addition of Oregon Humanities, our planet is sacred too.


18 thoughts on “Small Actions, Big Questions”

  • Kyenne Williams says:

    Thank you for writing this. I remember when I had a total hip replacement about 20 months ago, I wondered about similar (and same) topics: about how fortunate I was to have people who brought me food, who volunteered to stay in my house at night so I didn’t have to begin healing at a rehab facility, about how blessed and privileged my life has been and what really matters.

    And I am sorry I didn’t write when you first posted about having cancer, and wonder just a bit longer what life might be like for you at the moment. Because you are so effervescent, and because I only met you a couple of times, I made some assumptions about how you were likely surrounded by lots of people helping you and … well, whatever. It sucks. You sound tired, and yet you wrote this, and I’m very grateful. I remember you coming to a class I was in at Legacy, and you had biked with all the food and equipment needed to feed us and we were all so amazed – that you biked, that you could fit it all on your bike, and that the food was so amazing (of course).

    I have faith you will be riding again. Much love, and endless healing energy, from an almost stranger.

    • cookwithwhatyouhave says:

      Thank you so much for your comment and thoughts. And I actually have an incredible community, so supportive and thoughtful. I think I misconstrued that part of the post. . .and chemo brain is in full effect too. I’m just musing a lot about how it seems that so many resources (limited natural resources) are senselessly used and then my renewed use of many more resources feels unfortunate. As I say, I have lost of questions and few answers!

  • Thanks for voicing what has to be an experience for a lot of people facing similar things as you are. Or just being exhausted by multiple jobs and kids and very little support.

    I remember reading some articles around organic food and how righteous the movement appeared to people who considered themselves environmentalists but couldn’t afford organic food. It might have been some Michael Pollan articles that made people feel shamed by the suggestion that if they really cared, they’d support farmers and organic food. I thought it was a slippery slope because it assumes there’s only one right way to do anything. That only certain contributions count.

    What I’ve decided over the years is that there is nothing pure and no one’s actions are pure. There’s room for people to contribute in their own way. I’d argue that you sharing your wisdom about making healthy cooking easier beats saving plastic bags any day because that can spread outwards and touch more lives.

    I think you’ve earned your right to toss a few plastic bags…for years to come : )

  • Katherine, I know, mainly through Brian, that you have a very strong community that gets together on Monday nights. Your involvement in that (and your immediate family) is part of the way you are restructuring society in a positive way. Durga and I are doing that over near Tabor as well. I find myself looking for the links between these various communities and finding them more and more.
    Michael Meade’s latest book, “The Genius Myth” also speaks directly about this: when we can bring out our own unique gift to the world, and weave that together with the gifts our neighbors bring, then we are, in fact, creating new culture.
    Thanks, as always for all your contributions to the tapestry!

  • Thank you for sharing your thoughts, words, and experience. You always leave me with something to think about. Hope to see you soon!

  • Carol Boutard says:

    You have just stripped the meat down to strong bone and made rich broth for all of us. Well, or getting well, you always feed me, my dear Katherine.

  • Oh, Katherine, I was bowled over by your post! So many of us who are so self-conscious about our footprint on this precious Earth are, I think, in a constant state of self-flagellation over our ecological footprint (and simultaneously risk privately sneering at those we think don’t meet our impossibly high standards). You educate and encourage so very many people, and your grace inspires us all.

  • Lovely friend. We never really know where someone else treds, do we? I so appreciate the reminder to be open and humble, to do all we can, and to be gentle with ourselves and others. Sending you big love.

    p.s. I had such a vivid dream a week or so ago about making you a recipe from Smitten Kitchen to stash away in your freezer. Now I’m trying to remember the recipe!

  • Hello Katherine,
    I have thought of you and your plight often. As I deal with some similar life and family situations , I can identify with the reality of the inability at times to adhere to the most fundamental and self-identifying tenets. Self preservation at a very basic level becomes more important.
    You are sorry l strong, and if ever I can help… thanks for sharing .

  • Margie Stelzer says:

    This is a lovely and encouraging post. I, too, am going through cancer treatment that leaves me exhausted at times and, despite living in an intentional community in a sustainably designed cabin, I feel guilty about my now larger ecological foot print.

    I have my feet in 2 worlds, I feel: the world & community that supports a low impact life and one that gives me the advantages of a longer more pain-free life. I shift from foot to foot leaning more on one and then the other.

    A stanza from a prayer of Thomas Merton with his emphasis on intent gives me comfort. I think that Merton wouldn’t mind if one replaces “please you” to something that better fits one’s personal world view.

    “But I believe the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all I am doing.”

    Wishing for you many moments of peace, comfort and contentment!

    • cookwithwhatyouhave says:

      Oh Margie, thank you for commenting. Blessing to you and thank you for your perspective and the Merton quote–it rings very true.

  • This post really resonated with me, as one who abandoned her bike in the third trimester of pregnancy and started to drive everywhere. Man, driving sucks! I was constantly frustrated by traffic and jerk drivers and the congestion and the frustration of all of it, but even as I felt so guilty for being a part of that I reminded myself that there was no way my 170-pound frame was going to rock that bike for a while. Similarly, I was stressed about how getting in a hot shower and staying there when I gave birth was a solid part of my birth plan—but we’re in a drought here in California! A friend told me it was okay to waste water, just this once…

    There are times in our lives when we need to be the less conscientious ones, because of what you call limited capacity. What I dearly wish is that American society were set up in such a way that those with limited capacity were more supported by those with endless capacity. I think people like you and me, we find circles and community to support and be supported by, but it’s on an individual basis and not everyone is lucky to have people skills and the desire or ability to connect. Would be great if there were more governmental support for people battling illness and new moms and the disabled and….but alas. You know I’m thinking now of my year in Norway.

    Don’t even know if I’m making sense. Now go waste a plastic bag—and get better.

  • Chris Pieratti says:

    Dear Katherine, You have such a bright soul that shines through your adversity and shows the joy within despite the adversity you are experiencing. Thanks for your wisdom. You are an inspiration. I count you as a friend, please feel free to call on me for whatever. Ciao, Chris

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