Chapter One: Wake Up!
I was your average person. I paid my taxes. I had a great job. I went to church on Sundays. I believed America had done some not-so-good things in the world, but I also really believed it to be the best place to live. I didn’t think about where my trash went when I left it outside to be picked up. I liked to read People magazine while I gossiped and got my nails done. I occasionally ate at McDonalds. I turned on lights in my home without ever thinking about where electricity came from. I watched American Idol. I liked to get into debates with friends about issues that didn’t affect my life, usually while slightly intoxicated. I assumed that when you bought vegetables at the grocery store, they were healthy. Most of my week was spent in front of a screen, at work and at home. I relished vacation time, when I could sit by the beach in Mexico while locals served me drinks all day. I shopped at Target and had too many cheap dresses, made by people in countries that I never thought about. I feared death.
I was very comfortable. But for some reason, my life felt empty and meaningless.
All this was true about me… until it wasn’t anymore. I went through a whirlwind of spiritual and personal growth and came out a very different person. Or maybe a better way of putting it, I came out more “me” than I was before. This is the story I’m about to tell you. And what I’m about to share with you may shock you or inspire you. Regardless, I am compelled to tell it because this story isn’t really mine at all. It’s really the only story there is in life. It’s the Hero’s Journey; it’s a term coined by Joseph Campbell a few decades ago, but it’s a notion much older than any one of us. It’s the story that we humans have been telling from the beginning of time all over the world from indigenous myths to Hollywood plots. The Hero’s Journey is a tale of discovery and transformation from within, of ups and downs, of suffering and learning and growing. A journey that is essential for anyone who wants to be truly alive.
Yet at the same time, this story is unique to me. And at some point along my journey, I realized I was a divine creation of God, the Source of All Life, perfect even in my own imperfection, and one with everyone and everything in the Universe. I was an eternal, unlimited, multidimensional being just having a human experience. My entire “life” was just an illusion. And I could change it, by changing the way I looked at my life. I could be a victim to life’s circumstances or I could be the staring role, the Hero, in my life. Throughout this journey, I realized I wanted to do something different and give meaning to this life that I had at my finger tips. I wanted to love my life and experience pure unending happiness, peace and bliss, and then share that with the world.
Okay, so this realization didn’t happen overnight, and neither did this story. It sounds pretty now, but it was a long, and I mean long, process. And I’m far from done. Here’s how it began. Let’s rewind about six or seven years ago to the year 2008, when I received four tomato plants from my husband’s parents. My boyfriend, Tracy, and I had just moved into our new house in Kansas City, MO. I felt great! This was the life. I had a great job, a great boyfriend (hopefully soon to be husband, shhh…don’t tell him that yet), and now a great house. We were living the American dream.
Anyway, back to those pesky tomatoes. Now I didn’t know at the time that they would alter the course of my life forever. But they did. At the time, I also didn’t know that the average store-bought tomato contained nearly 30 different pesticides, fungicides, and chemical fertilizers. To be honest, I didn’t know anything about growing plants or our food system in America. Living what I thought was the “American dream,” I didn’t realize that soon my whole world would be turned upside down by a few tomato plants. When I planted these tomatoes in our new backyard, I just thought I was having some fun. But then I began exploring with other vegetables and fruits. I was like a child again, mesmerized at the wonder of nature. It was a joy to see a little bud open up to a delicate flower, and then transform before my eyes into a tiny fruit that then swelled to a plump ripe tomato. And who would have known, when you grow them yourself, they taste better too! After that first summer, little did I know at that time, when I begin sowing seeds in our great Mother Earth, she began sowing seeds in me.
This began my awakening. With eyes wide open, I began to learn of the atrocities that are happening on our planet. Multi-billion dollar companies like Monsanto and Syngenta are raping and pillaging our great Earth, all in the name of the dollar, their bottom line. From the seed to our tables, these companies have tainted every aspect of the food system. First, creating Franken-crops in laboratories that are then heavily sprayed with chemicals (also created by them), killing the other plants and animals around, and finally, slowly seeping into our bodies, bit by bit, fueling their need for a society that is slightly more sick and more obese than it ought to be. Striving to make food cheaper, they have sacrificed everything, our children, our health and the only home we have, this planet. I was appalled. How did I not known this earlier!? How had I let myself go so long unaware and ignorant to these facts? Most importantly, what could I do now?!
I felt compelled to grow as much food as possible. My husband and I began converting our quarter acre backyard in Kansas City, Missouri into an organic oasis of food, full of vegetables, fruits, and herbs. If we could grow it in our region, we would try. We even had some success growing plants that shouldn’t grow in Missouri, like artichokes. The more I worked in our garden, the more connected I became to the land, and the more I saw through this system that has been build to keep us disconnected from our food source. When I would be gardening, Tracy, my husband, would sometimes have to remind me to eat. I could spend hours upon hours in the “zone” of gardening. Something spoke to my soul when I was with those plants. I talked to them, I treated them like my children, and they nourished a part of me that had been dead for most of my life.
I grew up in big cities and didn’t have much exposure to gardening when I was young. The only exposure I did have was with my grandmother on my mom’s side, who grew vegetables in her tiny California backyard. I remember helping her pick green beans and tomatoes, but it never got much further than that. I was raised mostly on McDonalds and tater tots, so fresh vegetables were something I didn’t want much to do with. I did get to spend quite a bit of my youth going on nature hikes and seeing the vast array of southern California’s ecosystems. They are some of my fondest memories as a child, yet when I think back on it, there was a definitive boundary set between nature and myself. The message was clear; nature and I were separate. It was not part of me. It was simply something to enjoy, nothing more. So when I started to realize that humans could actually be connected with plants and animals, it was as if a whole new world was being revealed to me that was right in front of me all along. I started to get an inkling that something was missing in my life, yet it would be years later before I realized what that was.
This revelation began a ripple effect in my life. Things I had always accepted and deemed “normal” were starting to seem more and more unnatural, which then lead me to the question: how could something so unnatural become normal in our world today? Once I discovered the truths about our food system in America, my gardening endeavor led to a larger discovery to how we, as a whole nation, were living in every aspect of our lives. As I became closer to the Earth and nature, I realized how far we’d fallen from how I believed people were meant to be living. I began reading and learning more about the corruption of our government, which is largely controlled by big businesses and banks. I started making connections between every aspect of life in America, from the food system to the treatment of the land to the “dumbing down” of the education system to the healthcare system to the breakdown of family and community. To make a long story short, it was sickening to me. I felt like I was living in a system and culture that intentionally poisons its people and only favors the wealthiest individuals while trying to keep the rest of us distracted, sick, and disconnected.
This feeling crystallized for me when I was sitting in the Denver airport in 2010. I was on my way home from visiting my sister in Washington, and I was reading Michael Pollen’s book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” Now if you haven’t read this book, it details the nature of our destructive food system. In it, he shows that basically all modern processed food can be traced back to GMO corn. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. There are now multiple strains of GMO corn in our food today. Some resist heavy pesticides sprayed on them like Round-Up, others actually kill any bug that tries to eat it, essentially becoming a pesticide. So if you’re eating a burger, it probably came from a cow that was fed with GMO corn; if you’re drinking a soda, it probably has high fructose corn syrup in it and that’s also made from GMO corn. Even if you just buy plain old sweet corn on the cob, well that might be GMO too.
Anyway, I was reading about this at the airport waiting for my plane, and at that precise moment, I looked across the way from me. Sitting across from me was a family of three, father, daughter and son. Each one of them had a super-sized soda, a bag of fast food, a laptop, a smart phone, and two of them had iPads out. I was floored! Here in front of me was the picture perfect image of what America has become. Tears instantly began welling up in my eyes. These were human beings, unknowingly poisoning themselves, becoming numb to their true nature, and distracting themselves with whatever new shiny thing is before their eyes. My heart ached for them. Oh how I wanted to yell, “Wake up! You’re worth so much more than this.” But that wouldn’t do me or them much good. I’d probably get weird looks and kindly excused away. What could I do? I felt trapped and hopeless.