Earthiness: A Reflection

Earthiness: A Reflection

Zeme: Earth

As I become more acquainted with my mother and father-land, I am trying to put it all in some big picture perspective. What is the big takeaway? What am I learning about myself and life in the process of relocating to Latvia? The short answer is that I do not know, but one thing I have noticed is that Latvians are much more “of the earth” than the Americans I am accustomed to.

 

What do I mean by “of the earth?” I am glad you asked.

Not the edible kind

To illustrate the point, when Rita and I went hunting mushrooms in the woods, she knew which mushrooms were which. She knew how to pick the right ones and discussed how to prepare them once they were picked. Rita grew up in the moderately sized city of Cēsis, and has lived in Riga for much of her life, but she knows the berries and the flora that grows in the woods of Latvia. I know she would simply respond by saying, “of course!” It is so obvious. And that is the point.

 

Explaining the Merits

Ansis and Monta are much the same. At every meal we share, they discuss the various fresh produce that they have gathered. They know when it is ripe, where it comes from, and what to do with it when it is procured. They also know what is good for what, as in “this is what you drink in winter because it has nutrients.” Ailments and cures are discussed as a part of a person’s daily diet habits. They all seem to be way ahead of the curve on the American farm to table movement and the push for what we call “alternative medicine.” They are aware of the seasons, the passing of time, and the natural processes of life and death.

I do not want to get all romantic about this and suggest that there is some kind of superiority in this way of life. And I do not want to you to read too much into what I am saying. I am just making an observation about the people whom I have had the pleasure of interacting with in Latvia.

Rita Picking Grass

Last night, I went to the “night market” in Riga. This is there version of the farmer’s market where locals come to sell their produce. It is just a beautiful sight. Dozens of vendors with fresh vegetables at incredible prices, and you know these come directly from their farms… not shipped in from some other faraway place posing and locals. Each item states proudly that it is from Latvia. I bought some veggies last night, and I just keep thinking how the woman added up the prices in her head as I kept adding this and that to my order. No paper. No calculator. Of the earth.

 

This website speaks to my general thesis. The country is mostly unspoiled. As you drive across the country, the roads wind through untouched forests and fields. You do not see bulldozed swaths of land cleared for another housing development. Even where houses are built, the trees and grass stay as undisturbed as possible. Old buildings are renovated rather than torn down. Recycling isn’t just a fad, but a way of life as things are rationed and saved for repurposing. Ansis told me about saving something completely disposable that may once again be used for something else later. We had a nice talk about how my parents were both like that… and I always thought it was a wartime thing, but maybe it’s just another Latvian thing. Waste not, want not.

One more quick illustration is that we do not have a microwave. Monta says they are unhealthy. I have not had a processed meal of any kind since I have lived here. No frozen foods. Refrigerators and freezers are generally very small because they like to buy fresh food. Walking is not an issue. Carrying things is common.

It’s not a paradise. No place is perfect, but I find this concept of living in touch with nature, your body, and the seasons to be practical and rewarding. There is definitely a spirituality behind all of this.

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