Thanksgiving Day without you

Two days ago I celebrated Thanksgiving Day, or as we call it, Turkey Day, with my relatives in the US. It was the first time for me to do so in over 20 years.

The myths about the holiday are well-known, so I won’t waste time relating them here (most Americans are happy to go on pretending the “Pilgrim Fathers” started this when really it’s just an excuse for a four-day weekend of stuffing yourself, watching football, and shopping).

In our case, it was the first holiday since my mother passed away. The next two will be even harder. But the oft-trite is oft-true: it was as if the empty chair at the long table was filled with her presence. This year was different.

A passing of the family torch. Dinner at my sister’s house, dessert with her in-laws. Boardgames with aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews. Family stories with grandpa. Skype with the grandkids overseas. Most of us drove seven or eight hours roundtrip just to spend one day together.

The grieving process continues. So does life. You can’t pick your relatives, but in some case you get real lucky.

Space seeds: fruits of our labor?

In my blog about child-care and child-raising, I’ve written about cooking food with my kids and growing vegetables in our backyard garden. I grew up in a small countryside village (total pop. of about 3,000 if you include the three-quarters of the county that the township comprises), so this meant lots of land that could be used for growing green things. At home in Japan, I’ve tried to recreate what I can of my childhood backyard; that said, it’s of course impossible given that my parents’ land is at least four times the size of my property (even in rural Japan, land is not cheap, and often not even for sale).

Try to image this scene on Mars…outside a greenhouse…

 

No doubt this is a main reason why I chose to include a scene in Approaching Twi-Night where the main character’s family relationships are first described by his meeting his father and brother in their backyard garden. Although unlike my own father, the father in the novel is somewhat incompetent as a farmer…

Now that I’m beginning to turn my writing attention to other-worldly venues like the Moon, Mars, and elsewhere, I wonder how humanity would survive in environments that had no vegetation, where they had no access to fresh fruit and vegetables, where survival would depend on food rations and pre-prepared freeze-dried kits or soy-based products. Food flavor would be entirely chemical-based (even more than it already is, I mean). At least until we managed to terraform, we could also use greenhouses, but the area around any outer space settlers would be grey, red, brown…but no green. No free-standing bodies of water. No living things in the air, in the sea, on the land, but us.

How would the average person react over time, mentally and emotionally, in a sterile, lifeless environment? Not the average astronaut; I mean the average person. For civilization to survive and thrive off-world, people who don’t look like Hollywood actors or athletes would have to live on their own, isolated from terrestial food and energy sources for years at a time. What would children be like, growing up having never seen a tree or a bush, or even grass, without having touched a dog or a cat, or even ants? Living in a lush environment is connected to mental health; the new settlers would likely be extremely stressed out, all the time. Add multiple competing settler populations of ethnic groups with historical griefs and you have a recipe for interplanetary strife that might last for generations.

So, the moral of the story is simple: eat your greens to avoid endless internecine war in outer space. Who knew veggies could be so powerful?