Reflections on Consumption: Digging Potatoes

November 5

I did turn my phone to DND and put it aside at dinner. This was essential! The incoming election results were captivating. I was conscious about how much my attention was drawn to it. Again, hyperconsumerism, this time of information rather than time or products. It is interesting to note how the Associated Press’s display of ‘live’ counts can be mesmerizing, as if by paying attention we can will the results to turn our way.

Not that the U.S. election is unimportant in this world. Indeed, it could be one of the most important elections for climate change. But here’s the rub. I can’t do anything about it. And, the truly important changes come from individual actions every day. It would be better to go for a run, to prepare myself for teaching tomorrow, to bring something of myself to this world. But the numbers niggle and tickle at my consciousness. In many ways, I suspect this is what people feel who find they ‘must’ buy something. As I check the results through the day, I make myself pay attention that feeling.

I listened to a talk by Tara Brach entitled Freedom from the Prison of Limiting Beliefs where she focused on ‘metacognition’, of being aware of your thoughts and actions. This awareness enables choice and is an important step in changing behaviour (Brach, 2020, timestamp 23:00). I found this talk very appropos for what we are doing with this journal. Being aware, being curious and opening to change. She also had some interesting things to say about fear-based beliefs being a refuge (I am too greedy or flawed etc.). She notes that fear is a ‘primitive survival energy’ (2020, timestamp 9:33). Today, I am reflecting on the linkages between fear-based beliefs and hyperconsumption. Fear drives hyperconsumption: “an anxiety about not succeeding in life” (Mulligan, 2019, p.35). This is what this journal is all about. Bringing awareness to our thoughts and actions and thereby providing the choice to change. As Brach notes: “whatever the practitioner inclines their thinking toward will become the inclination of the mind” (timestamp: 19:30). Thanks Mitchell!

And so, I am aware of the inclination of my mind to follow this election and to resist it, at least in part.

I take my Dad for another walk out to the pharmacy. My son, having tested negative for COVID, pushes his wheelchair. We enjoy the sun and opportunity to be together. At least in this moment.

Copyright Leigh Symonds
Copyright Leigh Symonds

After we wheel Dad back, we head out to our community garden to dig some late season potatoes! I love growing potatoes. They are truly pommes de terre when they are fresh, so crisp and juicy like an apple. My son loves finding them in the ground, little treasures of culinary yumminess. We were late getting them into the ground so the unseasonable weather has allowed us to be late getting them out as well. This is always a special thing for me, growing our own food. While we don’t grow as much as we’d like, my son is growing up with dirt under his fingernails and an assumption that growing your own food is an expected and enjoyable part of being alive. My mom grew some food when I was young but then we moved into a subdivision and the beans became roses. My first experience of growing potatoes was only a few years ago. In contrast, my mother-in-law was a small scale organic gardener who grew as much food as she could for her family. I hope to build on this and learn more about what delicacies exist in the woods and meadows. I have heard sumac makes a lovely tea. The ignorance of what lies just outside our door makes us unappreciative of the nutritional wealth all around us. Perhaps if we knew, we would care for it more. There’s lots for me to learn here.

Copyright Leigh Symonds
Copyright Leigh Symonds

Later, I check my phone.

But I also prepare for my class tomorrow and focus on the good energies that I must bring to that! I put some of the potatoes we dug in a bag for the student who has given me duck eggs, slip a favourite tea bag in for another student who enjoys tea. I make sure I’ve got my cameras ready and the sheets printed for our Mom who is generously coming out to teach a little about photography. Then I go to bed.


Brach, Tara (2020, September 23), Freedom from the prison of limiting beliefs. .

Mulligan, Martin (2018). An introduction to sustainability. Environmental, social and personal perspectives. Routledge.

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