When I turned my Nikki McClure calendar page to March earlier this month, something about the image and the word provide caught my attention and wouldn't let go. I realized that provide is a complex and evocative word, so I set out to poll some friends on what it means to them and got a wide range of responses.
For some, it spoke of duty and responsibility, a kind of parental or at least adult activity. For others, there was a sense of storing up, squirrel-like, for the future, thus evoking hint of primal anxiety. One friend found it very basic and comforting, kind of a cozy realm of jams and pickles and smoked hams. Another spoke of reciprocity and the cyclical way we support and provide for each other, and the important and often unnoticed way we are provided for by the natural world: air, food, shelter, beauty and inspiration.
It makes me think of cupboards and pantries and I was reminded of when I last visited my mother who is now living alone in the house she and my father built in 1960. I noticed that she continues to stock her cupboards in the same way she did when I was a child and we were a family of four living a typical middle century, middle class, middle west life. It was reassuring to see the peanut butter in the peanut butter place (lower right, bottom shelf) and the stacks of canned goods and soup packets.
And like my friends above, I also think of relationships and dependencies, and how much I take for granted the abundance of my well-stocked grocery store. In privileged societies, by which I mean those who have a trustworthy and secure source of food, we often forget that this incredible abundance is not available to all. The intent here is not guilt, but a suggestion that appreciation and even reverence is not inappropriate when encountering those vast pyramids of potatoes and eight different kinds of apples.
Like the child in the calendar image, it's important to participate fully in the cycle of giving and receiving and allowing both to have their place in our lives. May the many ways you provide and are provided for be rich and apparent this weekend. May you be given a fist-full of dandelions (or perhaps a more seasonally appropriate kale?) and in turn, offer a nourishing and delicious soup.
(Image from Nikki McClure's 2008 Wall Calendar. Used with permission. The calendar is still available through Buy Olympia.)