The Time to Reap
During my recent cycling trip across 4 states (Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Minnesota) to raise money for the students of MCADs Fall 2012 launch of an MA in Sustainable Design, the luxury of having time for sustainability became readily apparent. It took me nearly 2.5 weeks to cycle over 1000 miles to make my “commute” to work. The trip offset 0.75 tons of CO2, got me into good physical condition, gave me a chance to explore places and meet people I would never typically take the time to know, and gave me days simply to reflect on pretty much everything I had been putting off in my regular, attention-splitting life. But, frankly, who has the time to make such commutes? Sustainability in itself, takes time. How, in our frenetic lives, can we make time for sustainability? How do we carve away pieces of the day to bicycle there? To grow and prepare our own food? To know our colleagues and neighbors? To build community?
My husband and I are avid gardeners. We care deeply about where our food comes from and have challenged ourselves to grow and store more and more of our own food to support us year-round. This idea might sound romantic (or perhaps crazy?) but it is in fact neither. It is amazing yet exhausting.
Although I can really get into the zen of weeding when I actually give myself the time to enjoy it, I rarely do reflect on the endless weeding situation with gratitude. “Get ‘er done,” is my mantra at most times which doesn’t lend itself well to reveling in the moment. With a more-than-full-time job, being physically active, and having a reasonably active social life, I barely feel like I have the time to get out there and weed, let alone enjoy it.
I was determined to make this weekend different. I made a decision to tackle the harvest of tomatoes that were flooding my freezer, the nagging chore that I had been putting off for the past several weekends. These were the precious tomatoes that were literally the fruits of my and my husband’s labor, sadly now viewed as “work.” We started the plants from seeds, nurtured in our greenhouse for two months when snow was still a regular visitor, and then transplanted 65 of the seedlings into the garden in late spring after the threat of frost was mostly gone. Then we declared a war on weeds and fought for our tender, spindly vines’ space in the garden. Combined with water and lots of worrying about their fate -like every summer- the most beautiful, plump, red tomatoes appeared like a miracle. What were first viewed as gifts to savor were later hastily frozen whole to prevent the kitchen from being overrun by a tumbling flood of red flesh.
This weekend was different because I made a conscious effort to take the time to enjoy preserving the tomatoes in the form of canned salsa, spaghetti sauce, and crushed tomatoes. After 20 hours of toiling over boiling pots of water, scalding jars and lids, and simmering tomato deliciousness, my precious weekend had evaporated and I was left with enough preserved tomato products to feed the family and some friends well into the next tomato harvest.
I was left feeling satisfied in a way that only comes to me when I take the time to reflect upon and enjoy the process -the zen of canning- and appreciate the incredible amount of time and energy it takes to reap a sustainable life. People continually ask me, “how do you have the time?” The truth is I don’t have the time, I choose to make and take the time. Decisions to challenge the status quo in order to nurture and fight for sustainability, whether it applies to your personal or professional life (or both), are not often easy nor encouraged but I know it is the right thing for me.
How do you make time for sustainability efforts in your life?
Cindy Gilbert is faculty, advisor, and directs MCAD’s Sustainable Design Online Program. This fully online program blends theory, practice, and leadership of sustainable design and caters to the busy lives of practicing professionals. In order to serve a larger audience of professionals, the program offers three distinct pathways: a 36-credit Master of Arts in Sustainable Design and an 18-credit Professional Certificate in Sustainable Design.
Tomato images courtesy of @thebittenword.com