Lessons from the heart of California

Driving North up the Pacific Coast Highway from Los Angeles, you see a stunning version of California. Crashing waves to the right, mountains and green fields to the left. It’s enough to make even the most jaded Angelino rethink their disdain for the state. It’s beautiful, peaceful and everything you would want for a scenic drive.

We, of course, took the other drive.

The drive up the 5 that takes you straight up through the middle of the state where it’s dry, hot as a cast iron skillet on a campfire and a true snapshot of California: short on water and long on crops.

But it’s also where we were given an opportunity to meet the heart of America and catch a glimpse of a different life.

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Just outside of Monterey, we visited a small local farm at the invitation of the owners, Jo-Lynn and Tony Pezzini. Pezzini Farms is the last privately owned artichoke farm and prides itself on growing the only non-GMO artichokes in the country. In addition to the thousands of artichoke plants they grow, there are pumpkins, kale, carrots and, as my daughter discovered, potatoes. All of this available for sale at their family-owned store. Begun in the early 1930s by Tony’s grandfather, it’s a refreshing oasis for the eyes, taste buds and soul.

Chef Dan Barber, in his book The Third Plate, muses that the future of food may be rooted in returning back to the simpler, less processed, less fertilized, manipulated, or enhanced methods we use today. Methods that are simultaneously depleting the land and sapping our food of flavor and nutrition. The future of food may be found in the past, like Pezzini farms and their 75 year old artichoke plants.

My attempts at growing things have all failed, except in the case of my daughter (thank goodness). So the idea of growing my own food leaves me with little hope for a diverse or robust eating plan. But in walking the Pezzini farm, watching my daughter root up vegetables and enjoy them on the spot, I couldn’t help but wonder:

Does the rush and pace of the big city, distanced from where our food grows, cause us to miss something in our lives?

In avoiding the work and dirt and time of growing things, might we actually be failing to grow ourselves?

This city girl isn’t naive to the fact that farm life is a hard life. Nor am I wanting or needing to go that direction. But could there be something to be gleaned from those who spend more of their days around crops and cattle than people, could the slow life actually be the more full life?

In the middle of nowhere there’s a town called Alturas. Eleven miles from that town live a husband and wife friend couple who moved site-unseen from the rush of Los Angeles to the dead quiet, slow-to-a-stop pace of the farming life. The adjustment was whiplash to the soul and body but a year out, they can finally see the purpose in the pain.

Talking over melting ice cream in the later summer evening, it became clear that though we had been in different places and different seasons of faith, we had all been learning:

How getting away from the noise actually allows you to hear.

How a schedule void of coffee dates, endless meetings and traffic jams forces you to consider where your life is actually headed.

How leaving the city, with all of it’s energy and culture, actually gives you time to create, to be intentional in the work.

How we don’t need a particular address to be useful to Jesus or effective in the world.

How rest is a season not to be wasted, that it brings its own work and purpose.

For the next three months, we’ll be calling a lake house home, away from most of our friends and the city we’ve grown accustomed to this last decade. And to be honest: I’m thrilled. Not to leave my friends of course. But thrilled at the idea of taking a long exhale, of creating new rhythms and routines with my family, of learning to live in the unscheduled and unhurried. Thrilled to be given this time to hear with my soul and see with my heart what the priorities are for the next season.

Thrilled to simply be.

There is work to be done in the rest, truth to be heard in the quiet and purpose in the slow season. I know not when this will end or what is next but I am keenly aware that it is a gift not to be wasted.

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