What you reap you sow, and what you sow you eat. Sometimes the hardest thing about growing your own vegetables is having to swallow them. I don't much like leafy green things, or bulbous green things, or any green thing that isn't smothered in blue cheese dressing. So while I enjoy the idea of growing my own food in theory, I don't much like my own food in fact.
Still, I grow my own vegetables for a few reasons, some more justifiable than others. It seems like a nice tip of the hat to the planet. It does make me eat my greens. And there's a whole lot of smug self-satisfaction in talking about it.
And that last is important to admit and recognize, because there is a bunch of greener-than-thou sites out there, and many are developing a cultish following. A cult is never a fucking good idea, no matter how apparently benign the message.
I've watched one of our local sites grow into a minor international phenomenon. At first, the family told quaint tales of converting a house and yard into a tiny farm with an impressive yearly yield. Then they started showing pictures of themselves hand-wringing their laundry, reading by candlelight, and hosting "socials." Next they were gently asking for donations, "volunteers," and hawking a few green goods.
The message morphed, but gradually. It took a few years, and steady disingenuous posts on the website, but now they promote themselves as at the helm of a movement, demanding donations in the name of their "outreach" programs, which are all designed for you, understand, it's for you and your ecological salvation. Left to their own devices, they say, they would be happy to just stay at home and pick their greens and read Little Women by natural moonlight. But no, to save us all they must appear on major media outlets and events. And by the way, this website isn't free, the travel isn't free, and what money have you sent us lately? And buy something, buy something, because we're living greenthumb to mouth.
The web is a double-edged sword, and I found some of their history. And it looks to me as if the patriarch couldn't recruit people, gain a following, to a former, or splinter-group religion, so the family went in search of a new cause. Perhaps any cause would do. At least this one was edible.
Which leads me to Axxx.
Axxx was my best friend in high school, and surely the smartest girl or boy in any class. She could grasp anything and almost immediately -- calculus, history, law. I believe she got the highest SAT score in Illinois history. The only thing she couldn't do well was accept her parents' divorce. I don't know if it was the break up of a union she never questioned, or the fact her father left with her mother's best friend.
Axxx and I both graduated a year early and went off to the university. But within a year, Axxx broke apart. She got ill, so ill she couldn't walk, could barely breathe. I called her mother, and stayed with Axxx for a night or two until her mother came, and then didn't see her for years and years.
When we met up again, she made it very clear she had not joined a cult. The leader of the cult was Da Free John, aka Bubba Free John, aka Da Love-Ananda. Does it go without saying his reputation was infamous? Does it go without saying that sex was, allegedly, a main form of religious expression?
I'm sure, when Axxx first met this guy, he said something very reasonable and intelligent. Maybe even something rather brilliant, perhaps a single phrase he'd stolen from somewhere and practiced over and over. Something he knew young people, especially smart and broken young people, would want to hear. And on that solid foundation, he could gradually, gradually prop up some set dressing when she wasn't looking, and scrawl some two-bit philosophies across the paper-thin walls. Gradually, Axxx was eaten alive.
I sputter, as I try to come up with a word for this manipulator, and all such manipulators in the world.
My mom would read about a mass murderer, throw the paper down in disgust and lay down her invective: "That kook!"
So, ok, that kook.
Well, enough, and back to my planting. I have never been the smartest person in the room, but I've always had a healthy helping of green and leafy scepticism, which may not be the tastiest thing in life, but it has been good to me.