Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Fertile Naughtiness of the Natural World

Our good friend Grandmere Mimi sent us a link to a story that was on NPR Monday morning. It's a piece about why some people are killing and dying in Iraq. If I told you that it was reported that a shepherd was killed because his goat wasn't wearing a diaper, and goats are simply too sexy to be naked, would you believe me? Or if I said that three people were killed because of the provocative way their vegetables were displayed in the market, would that make sense? The celery and tomatoes were deemed too naughty by clerical edict. Would you think I was making all this up? I'm not. It's true, according to John Hendren, an NPR correspondent in Baghdad. Yet, even if all of these stories are crazily apocryphal, don't we suspect there may be a kernel of insane truth in their telling?
I can not understand the fear, only the perception of sensuality and sexuality in the natural world. The natural world is overwhelmingly, provocatively sensual. Think about what's it's like to pick berries. Stand right next to a bush or vine that's covered in delicious red or blue hanging fruits and just pluck them one by one. Most go into a waiting bucket, but a few always go straight into the mouth. Delicious, warm, sweet, and juicy. The immediacy of that pleasure is surely a tactile delight. Should we hide the berries? Put them in plain brown wrappers like Playboy at the newsstand?

I couldn't help but think about this when I went out on Monday to harvest our new potatoes. Digging for potatoes is quite a different story from picking berries, but I think it can be even more sensually provocative. When Roger planted the seed potatoes he covered them with straw to make harvesting easy. Imagine sitting on the sun-warmed earth. The potato plants are drying in the summer sun and have fallen over. I sit beside them and just dig my hand under the straw into the waiting lush soil. I feel around until I find them. Beautiful round, firm potatoes, growing there just beneath the surface. I pull food that will feed us over winter. Is there anything more liberating than abundance and bounty? Is there anything that conveys fertility more than reaching into the earth and being rewarded with food? Harvesting potatoes seems to me one of the perfect metaphors for earth's fecundity. A delivery of ripeness into waiting hands. I could easily see celebrating the moment, but certainly not dying for it. Could this really be what people die for in Iraq, noticing the fertile naughtiness of the natural world? It doesn't seem possible. Does it?

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