finding hope in cheese

Cheese from Houston Dairymaids.  Their samples were delicious, and how fabulous that you can purchase them online! Photographed on January 3, 2009 at the Midtown Farmers' Market, Houston, Texas.

I have a confession.

As you know, my setpoint is to be generally a happy person, and I tend to look on the bright side of most things.  However, lately?  I've been ... concerned.  Not unhappy, mind you, but ... worried.

I know that I'm not behaving the way I'm supposed to: after all, it's a whole! new! year!  The potentiality is enormous!  Not to mention, there's a brand new American President about to be inaugurated, whose whole platform was built on the prospect of "hope" and "change" -- and for the first time since I've been able to vote in American elections, he was a candidate in whom I actually believed.  The future's supposedly so bright, we gotta wear shades, right?

Thing is?  Over the last few days, I've had this Nagging Doubt.  It's plagued much of my waking thoughts.  It's resulted in nighttime nightmares filled with doom.  And frankly?  The news out of Israel/Palestine these days is not doing much to improve matters.

Still, it's no good sitting around and moping, so this morning, partially to give Marcus a couple of hours' peace (he seems to have caught my consumption) and partially to do something I'd never done before, I took Alex with me to a local farmers' market.  It is somewhat shocking to me that I've never been to any of the many several few farmers' markets here in Houston, but when I think about it, the truth is I've been somewhat skeptical.  I mean, seriously:  Houston is hardly the poster city for sustainable, eco-friendly, let's-all-minimize-our-footprint-on-the-planet living.  Houston is in the top 10 most polluted US cities (by ozone, whatever that means).  Its public transportation system brings tears of laughter to citizens of more connected cities, like London and New York -- it is practically impossible to live here without own a car for each adult per household.  And speaking of cars, I can't prove this, but I'm pretty sure Houston has the highest number of Hummers per capita than any other city in the world.  This is, after all, an oil-industry city (what energy crisis?), one that loves to live up to the old adage "everything's bigger in Texas."

Anyway, today, I managed to turn my cynicism down to simmer, and Alex and I piled into my little Toyota Yaris and headed downtown to the farmers' market.  The market is held every Saturday in the parking lot of my favourite Houston restaurant (one which specializes in organic and locally-sourced ingredients) so I knew exactly where I was going.  As we parked the car and walked to the tents, I smiled.  This market was tiny

But oh, how it was lovely. 

All of the products at the market are locally grown and sourced.  There was beautiful exotic produce ("those are cherry bomb radishes," said one farmer, gleefully.  She added:  "Isn't that just the most delicious name?").  There was fresh-baked organic bread.  There were cookies.  There was an organic soap maker.  And a beekeeper.  And then inside the restaurant, the market continued, with gourmet Indian treats, organic candies, and the cheesemonger shown above, with some of the most delicious cheese I've ever tasted in my life.  The space, though tiny, was packed with customers.  As I explained to Alex why all of these products were special, since they were made without pesticides or other chemicals right here in Texas, my spirits lifted.

We didn't stay long:  we bought some calendula soap, and some honey for our weekly Saturday morning pancakes, and some lunch from the restaurant to take home for Marcus.  But as I was driving back to our house (Alex jamming to her new Cheetah Girls CD, God help me), for the first time in a few days, I began to feel just a sliver of hope.  Because seriously, if little markets like this can thrive in a town that generally gives short shrift to sustainability and ecological well-being, all because of the determination of a few farmers and their supporters, then perhaps if enough of us around the world do something to try to make it a better place, things might actually get better.


Anyway, I can't wait to take Marcus back to that market.  Because I need to buy some of that cheese.

SongThere's hope by India.Arie