For the past year, I’ve had on my kitchen table the beautiful piece of pottery pictured at left. It’s of a size that suggests it could be used to hold a freshly baked batch of cookies, but so far, there have been no cookies in it, nor anything at all for that matter. Instead it’s served as a point of contemplation.
Created by local potter Mary Law, the vessel is one in her series of “house pots.” She explains that the idea for these vessels germinated many years ago when she saw some photographs of West African granaries.
Made of adobe and covered with roofs of thatch, the granaries would have obvious resonance for a potter, but for me, a mere observer, the power of this piece is that it represents something larger than itself. More than a jar to hold cookies, a granary is a place where farmers store staples that will sustain their extended families and livestock, and perhaps even the entire village throughout the coming winter. It’s a symbol of food security and the intention of sharing those stores with the community.
I’m writing this as the fall harvest is at its peak and people are putting wine and olive oil into bottles. They are canning the last tomatoes, making jam and pickles, and perhaps dehydrating peppers and apples. With interests in home food production and preservation on the rise, and many small, new, food-crafting and preserving businesses starting up or growing right here in our community, we might easily equate those objectives with the reasons people have always grown, stored, and preserved food in the first place. In the days before these chores were taken off our hands to become a mega-industrialized undertaking, a central reason for people to go through the efforts of growing, storing, and preserving food would be to have greater confidence that they were providing themselves, their families, and their communities with enough to eat.
At this particular moment in time, I’m watching in amazement as the leaderless Occupy Wall Street activism is welling up, with the 99 percent asking the 1 percent to take responsibility for the worldwide economic mess they created. The insecurities addressed within this activism are more about jobs, housing, and savings, but the question of whether people can put food on their tables is implicit . . . or is it? Perhaps the reason food is not in the forefront of this clamoring is that we’re feeling more empowered and in control of this part of our daily existence.
So is the granary full? For some it is definitely not. And for a growing number of us, there is a question of whether the stores will hold out through an extended winter of global economic insecurity.
As we all wish each other a blessed holiday season, perhaps we might also think about how we can try to ensure that the granary be kept full for everyone’s well-being.
Cheryl Angelina Koehler
Photo by Stacy Ventura