“It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
I recently moved to Belmont.
In exploring my new neighborhood this summer, I stepped into a bakery a couple blocks from my apartment. Ohlins. A friend was coming over for coffee that morning and I thought it would be nice to have some muffins to share.
Ohlins has a somewhat dingy store front – handwritten signs yellowed with curled edges. Inside, old time bakery cases are trimmed with an array of Green Mountain coffee options. In the cases, the variety of doughnuts is plentiful and right there in that shop on that morning, I spontaneously decided to skip the muffins and opt for the a jelly dipped instead.
I ate one on the walk back – and I was transformed. With the first bite, I was brought back to my childhood when all doughnuts tasted just like that. Pure. And good. Not just good – deliciously good. With no aftertaste – no weird slippery feeling on the top of my mouth like when I eat a Dunkin Donut – this was just a good delicious sweet treat.
And I realized something on that street corner. That doughnut was REAL. No chemicals. No preservatives. Made that morning.
It really made me consider that while I was enjoying those purely delightful calories that would do nothing for my body but give me a sugar rush and more fat to burn off – I realized that I wasn’t ingesting any chemicals. And how is it that our food system has become so corrupt that buying a real doughnut felt like a new experience? A novelty. Something my own teenaged children have yet to experience.
It is hard to find REAL this days. It is hard to sustain conversations without having someone check their phone or hear a text alert beep. We are so distracted and our attentions split between before, now, and what’s next. It is hard to demand REAL. We live in a fast food cheaply constructed consumer driven world where there is very little REAL. We live in a world where it is cheaper to buy a new oven then get your few years old oven fixed.
As part of my move to Belmont, an old family bed came up to Long Island to furnish my bedroom. My brother graciously drove it up for me arriving one Saturday morning. I had been moving stuff into my apartment all morning – but when that bed arrived – something else happened. I couldn’t lift it myself. Not one piece of it. And I consider myself reasonably fit and strong. But there was no moving or even putting that bed together by myself. It was heavy. Made of REAL wood. Nothing like the stuff I had recently purchased – not even close.
I know there are so many new inventions and advances that make our lives better today then what life was like for my parents – or their parents. But what have we lost?
We have to become more aware of what is REAL in our lives. So that we don’t miss our own opportunities to be REAL and we recognize when there is REAL. To be present. To fully love. To be aware of what is distracting from this present moment. To eat REAL food. To appreciate the weight of REAL wood. To stop and smell REAL roses.
Be aware of what is REAL. Because with real ingredients in your life, everything tastes so much better.