I went out a while ago to do my Saturday chores. It’s a cold rainy day, fog and clouds down low on the mountains, and I was hit with a memory from my teenage years.
There were many cold Saturdays like this, colder and more often, it seems. Sometimes I would take a real nap for a couple of hours in the afternoon, in the bed or on the carpeted living room floor, covered with a cozy blanket or comforter. My mom would make spaghetti or meat loaf or chili for supper, and we always had dessert, homemade chocolate pie or maybe banana pudding. Then my mom, dad, and I would go up to Western (that is, Western Carolina University) to Reid Gym to watch the Catamounts play basketball. It would be crowded and so hot and loud, kind of crazy sometimes, but exhilarating.
Afterwards, we’d have to walk back to the car and I’d be freezing. By the time the chill wore off the car, we’d be home, go inside where it was warm, put on the pj’s, and have another piece of that pie. My mom would say my dad and I rehashed the game too much.
“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”
I love this quote attributed to Carl Sagan. Autumn is my favorite season. That wasn’t always the case, but since discovering I was a Pantheist years ago, I’ve come to recognize and appreciate the abundance of gifts and lessons that Nature offers us all during the year. Autumn gives us glorious colors, crisp cooler days, a welcome respite from summer’s heat….and apples.
Here in western North Carolina, it’s apple country. Fall brings apple festivals with their kings and queens, local crafts and music, and tasty treats, plus fruit stands dotting these mountain roads, selling many varieties of this cherished fruit, pumpkins and gourds and Indian corn, along with late-summer produce. One such, Barber’s, also has a bakery where you can buy applesauce, apple butter, spiced apple cider, apple turnovers, fritters, muffins, fresh apple cake, and, of course, apple pie. So when I think of fall, I think of Barber’s Orchard, apples, and Carl Sagan, and they’re warm, cozy thoughts, indeed.
His quote is a succinct expression of universal interconnectedness. If sacred means uniting with the universe, the divine, the larger than me, then eating certainly qualifies as a spiritual practice. Back to Sagan’s apple pie, partaking of a slice brings me in relationship with the whole – the people who planted, watered, and pruned the trees; picked the apples; made the flour, the butter, and other ingredients; baked the pie, sold it, or served it to me, if I didn’t make it myself, and the people I share my food with, but beyond that, the sun, trees, bees, rain, and soil, Nature in all its glory, so that an apple pie (or cake!) or whatever I’m having for a meal is so much more than just food sitting on my plate. It’s a microcosm of the entire universe. When I take a bite, it and all those elements that went into its making become part of me and I in some way part of them, and so the cycles continue on, ever related. It’s life, pure and simple. None of us are self-sufficient or living in a vacuum, able to exist without the Universe (not even that apple pie). Without it, none of us would be here. People have different ideas on how the Universe came to be and different explanations for all its intricate beauties and workings and conditions conducive to the flourishing of life, but there are some things I know. It’s here, for this little moment in time I’m here to experience it, it’s my home and nourishment, and I need it.
Yes, sometimes it’s okay to simply do something as mundane as eating dessert after dinner without another thought except enjoyment and wondering whether or not you should have a second helping! We’ve long known how social food is. Eating with someone is a special experience, a time of sharing, whether it’s lunch or some other specific occasion. We bring food when people are born, when someone dies, celebrates a birthday, marries, or achieves some accomplishment or milestone. Making or providing food for another person, or perhaps a non-human animal, is a way to express love and caring for them, but beyond that, it also can become a larger, more elevated experience connecting me to people, other animals, and places I’ll never know or see. So often, the effects of things we do are flung farther and wider than we realize. How often do we take time to think about or appreciate this big picture? Really, what could be more sacred, more divine?
I’ve taken a lot for granted in my life, and now I try to live more mindfully and with much gratitude. That’s a gift that Pantheism has given me since I claimed it as my spiritual path and have interacted with other Pantheists, to help me appreciate every moment, every connection, places nearby and far away, and to be thankful. Autumn is a season of harvest and thanksgiving, and it seems fitting that I’ll celebrate the Autumn Equinox this year (September 22nd) with a slice of warm apple pie from this season’s bounty, remember Carl Sagan, and simply be grateful for everything the Universe has given me, for life itself, and for my extraordinary good fortune to be part of it.
For those interested in saying a simple grace of thanksgiving at mealtime, here’s one in this same spirit:
“Bless our hearts to hear in the breaking of bread the song of the universe.” (Father John Giuliani)