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My gran was not given to poetry.  I think there were things at certain times of her life that squeezed it out and she was too busy doing the doing.  I don't know that she ever would have got into the swing of things, appreciating lines and words, moseying around the confluences of sound and idea.  But she did have a way with a phrase.  Simple, pointed, got the message across, right away.  She was not a woman of subtleties.  Except for this one time.  

She held up a new shirt we'd gotten her for her birthday.  And she said, "Cover the wells, cover the wells."  Have you heard that phrase before?  I hadn't.   To be sure I wasn't missing out on some prime aspect of modern culture (it's happened before!! ), I googled it yesterday and it wasn't anywhere to be found on the first two pages.  My guess, it might be a translation from her mother tongue.

She explained, "Wearing this, my nose and head will be so far tipped up in the air, I won't be paying attention to where I'm headed and what's on the ground below.  I might well fall in a well."

Well said, Gran.  Point made.

This phrase came up in a conversation I had with someone a few days back. Makes me think.  Makes me think that we need to revisit some things we've thrown off.  That we actually needed, even if they are kind of inconvenient and hard.  

That'd be being humble.  It's a hard one.  One I struggle with, all the time.  There's so much wrapped up with that one word.  I get balky with every step toward it.  Nope, not for me.  

But yet, it speaks of a surety.  Of self, of others and the inherent worth of both.  I'm learning that being humble happens easiest when you are settled in yourself.  When you've got your feet where you want them on the ground, when you know what you are about, when you see and feel the very worth of yourself.  To know, without having to prove to anyone, that you are, just as you are, valuable.  And then humility becomes a stepping stone. 

If you see the value in yourself, it's so much easier to see the value in others walking beside you.  It's easier to give of yourself because you know your own worth.  It's easier to call the shots and do the self-sacrifice.  Humility becomes, paradoxically, the ultimate in self-care.  I am who I am, I am not anything else, I don't need to be anything else, I am finite, that's okay, I'm occupying a spot reserved just for this being.  And, because of that, I'm available to you, if you are needing me.  And if I need you, if you are knowing yourself, good with your own value beyond all the stuff you have, do, say and work at, you will be there for me too.  Humility and humbleness are the essence of community.  

Today has already been a full day here at noon.  Herding three kids out the door.  Chasing calves back in the fence after a calm phone call from my dear friend who let me know there were black cows standing on the road.   I'm always thankful for a daytime phone call about cows that have gone fence-crawling.  It's much easier to move cows, get them back in where they should be, in the daylight.   The time we were chasing black cows through shadowy muck, in the black of early morning, after an all-night rain storm that kept us up the entire night with scared kids, a new baby, a flooding basement and no power for twenty-four hours taught us that lesson.  

And now, after getting animals sorted, making hamburger soup for our supper, and for my sister's family and for a community fundraiser for them.  Why hamburger soup?  Well, it's definitely not for the fancy factor.  Because there is no way, at least not within my abilities to make hamburger soup fancy.  But to be honest, I like it for its very simple, unassuming characteristics.  It's flexible, undemanding and is the very essence of comfort food.  It's the one I turn to for a meal to deliver if someone has passed on or a baby's been born.  Quick to heat, easy to measure out in whatever quantities are needed and it helps fill whatever empty place there may be.  The loss of someone, the loss of time and energy, it's there, almost as a shoulder ready with which to steady yourself.    

And as I peel potatoes and carrots, I am reminded of how small tasks we often consign ourselves to can work for the good of others.   Little did we know as we planted, weeded and dug potatoes, onions and carrots that they'd be playing a small role in helping the circle of support around my newest nephew, Jonathan.  That black earth out back raised up the parsley, tomatoes, and the rest of a good garden feeding others, being used in spheres beyond the boundaries of our property.  Our time spent there this summer meant we were able to help feed people who might need it, need a little break, a stop for comfort food in all the craziness life might be throwing down at them. 

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And it reminds me of other gardens in our community that have done the same thing for me and others.  I think of the old men, women, kids playing in the dirt, all out there hoeing, raising up beautiful things to share with others.  It's a humbling process, dirty, sweaty and not very pretty.  But gardening becomes this beautiful antidote to haughtiness, an elevation of self, and is, in some ways, humility exercised.

It seems to me, when people lose sight of needing each other, community starts to break down.  If your head is far flung up, you aren't going to be aware of what's going on down on the ground.  You are way more likely to stumble.  And stumbling can hurt.  An awful lot.  For you and others.  Keeping your head down, hands open and heart humble makes for community. 

We were built for community. Which means I need to hear you, see you, recognize what you need.  When tiffs and disagreements happen, I need to realize your points are valid, have an origin and need to be considered.  When I see you sitting there, lonely, or in any unease, I need to take a moment to be with you, in whatever way you need, even if it means a loss to myself.  You need to do the same for me.  We need each other.  We need to be available to each other, eye to eye.

Without it, things begin to break down.  No community is immune.  We see it here in our village, when politicians get a little ahead of themselves with projects or not checking in with local ratepayers about their priorities (graders ain't everything, boys).  I'm sure you've seen it too.  The circle of friends we keep, our country, whichever, wherever you find yourself, you are in a community. 

Being in a community means this; You are needed, I am needed and the best thing we can do for each other is to keep ourselves in check.  Don't let yourself get too puffed up with self-importance.  It's not going to serve me.  And I will do my very best to keep myself where I should be, as it's the best way to serve you and yours.  Keeping the ability to look each other in the eye, on the level, keeping ourselves in check to make room for the other, listening and compromising, are among the best ways to build and sustain that community.  I owe it to myself, and to you, to stay humble.  

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HAMBURGER SOUP

1.5 pounds grass fed ground beef (I say grass-fed because that is what we raise here and it's always at hand in the freezer)

1 tbsp olive oil (I add this because the beef here is so lean.  If you have supermarket beef, even if it's extra lean, chances are you won't need the oil)

1 garlic clove, peeled and minced

1 yellow onion, fine chopped

2 celery stalks, fine chop

2 carrots, diced

2 cups of diced tomatoes (jarred, canned or fresh, whichever you have on hand)

2 medium potatoes, peeled and small dice (I use what we have in the cold room which are Idaho, German Butterball, French Fingerling and Caribe.  Whatever I happen to pick out of the potato bin, that's what goes into the pot.)

3/4 cup of kernel corn

1 -3 tbsp of parsley ( I used dried because it was what I had on hand.  Fresh at the very end of cooking would be my ideal)

Approx 1 litre water or beef broth, depending on how thin or thick you want the soup

To taste: smoked paprika, oregano, salt and pepper.

 

How I start:

Brown ground beef over low to medium heat in a large stock pan.  Once it's browned, I add the onion, garlic, celery and carrots.  I'll stir every so often, waiting for the vegetables to soften a bit.  At this point, I'll pour in some of the water or beef broth to scrape up the brownings.  Then I add the rest of the liquid, tomatoes and seasonings.  The potatoes are dropped in to the heated soup and allowed to cook through.  I try not to overcook them as they can, depending on the potatoe variety, break down into the broth.  I like a potato unto its own.  Then, I'll add the corn and finally the parsley.  

Please keep in mind, all of this is open to variation.  The one thing I would stick with is cooking the meat at the beginning to provide the crispy, brown bits at the beginning that help to flavor the soup.  The other thing I like to do is season as I go along.  It seems to me salt, added in smaller amounts throughout the cooking process has a milder, more satisfactory oomph rather than adding it in one large jot at the end.  

 

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