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Finding Contentment in the Dirt June 2, 2011

Posted by gfsa in Community Stories, Food Thoughts.

Thanks to Carrie Demkiw in High Level, AB for sharing this reflection:

Recently I have afforded myself the “luxury” to reflect upon and address the nagging anxious feeling that I have been living with for the past five years.  I’ve intentionally worked to slow my life down, examine my values and identify the inconsistencies in my life.  This is in an attempt to figure out where my passions lie and what my skills and talents truly are, in order to lead my life in a way that I am proud of and that fills me with contentment.
I’m definitely not even close to having it all figured out, but I’m on my way and this past weekend was a great indication of the progress that I have made.  You might ask how this all relates to food security, well, it is in fact what started this journey for me. 

Six years ago I made a switch in my career from a recreation focus to a health focus.  My new position in Health Promotion had me learning about the Social Determinants of Health and Health Promotion Principles and strategies.  It was while learning about this that we decided High Level could benefit from a Community Garden with no idea of what “food security” was – except that maybe it meant that our beef was not infected with BSE. 

In researching funding opportunities to develop a community garden we happened to stumble onto Growing Food Security in Alberta.  When I look back now, I realize what a turning point this was in my life.  High Level was fortunate enough to become a partner community and receive some funding, but most importantly training, mentorship, networking, and exposure to new ideas and a different way of thinking that just happened to resonate with me.

Over the past five years our community garden has evolved and we are connecting more with the community, garnering interest and support.  We have also run some different programs and tried to increase awareness and understanding about food security.  All of these things have been wonderful and are getting stronger with each year.  However, right now it is the personal transformation that I would like to explore.

I’m a slow learner and I have found myself getting caught up in doing for others and encouraging others to adopt certain lifestyles without really reflecting on my own life.  While it is certainly a strong value of mine to “walk the talk” and I’m physically active and eat pretty healthy, I’ve come to realize that I haven’t truly embraced the lifestyle I try to encourage and enable people to live. 

There are so many messages out there about how to be healthy and what is healthy, and cognitively we all understand it, but internalizing it is what makes it happen.  So, I’ve stopped my busyness (or decreased it at least) and have committed to meaningfulness.  I must admit, having my daughter has been a major factor in this transformation.  I have started living the values I want her to grow up with, in an authentic way.

I’ve turned off the TV, this has increased my time available to learn about the things I want to do and that a lack of knowledge was impeding me from doing.  I ride my bike instead of taking the car – and Noelyn (my daughter) comes with me in the baby seat.  This forces me to slow down and I find I am more relaxed and ready to take on the day when I get to work as opposed to when I drive the car.

More to the point and for the latest change, I’ve finally gotten beyond a few tomato plants and built my garden!  It’s small, but it’s a start.  We now have raspberry bushes, a saskatoon bush, planter boxes with herbs, and a small vegetable garden.  It was as I was standing barefoot in the back of a pick-up truck filled to the brim with the most cool, soft, luxurious soil I have ever felt and shoveling my countless shovel full of soil into the wheelbarrow that I was mindful of and present for the wave of contentment that washed over me.  I mention being mindful and present because this is something that I haven’t been for a long time.  In all my busyness, trying to do the right thing for my work, for the community and for my family, I have been living with chronic anxiety.  Not paying attention to the moment, always worried about what’s next and how I’m going to get it all done.  After five years of learning, five years of planning programs and services, five years of understanding on a cognitive level… it was standing barefoot in a truck full of soil that I really started to get it.

So, I’m going to stop doing things because they are the right thing to do and start doing things because they feel good, because it reflects the very essence of who I am and what I value.  I’m also going to be patient with myself, allowing a slow and steady change, not expecting it all to change over-night, but to be more conscious and mindful of how I’m living.  It is ironic that I grew up on a farm where we grew our own vegetables, produced our own beef, eggs, and milk; a life I didn’t appreciate as a child and that now, as an adult, I am seeking to obtain. 

Submitted by: Carrie Demkiw, High Level, Alberta



1. Ronda - August 18, 2011

Hey Carrie, that is so beautifully written and speaks to my heart, thank you for sharing. You are wise beyond your years – and to choose to see through the busyness of life these days is not easy to achieve. Those years growing up on the farm left wonderful lasting values and I feel myself often torn between very contrasting milieus. I’ve come to realize I feel most content in my backyard with real people and real food. All the best to you and your garden and for many more mindful moments.

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