I grew up in a relatively quiet household. Both my parents were readers, and my siblings, much older than I, were out of the house most of the time while I was growing up. My wife, on the other hand, is one of nine children who was raised in what always sounded to me like a deliciously boisterous environment. While I don’t rue my solitary upbringing, I have to admit that it was, at times, a little bit lonely.
But I’m not lonely anymore, that’s for sure. Now I’m part of a clan that, at last count, numbers 54 souls spread out over three generations, if I’m not mistaken. (The number increased recently, although the horizon appears stable at least for the moment.) So don’t misunderstand me when I say I’m not averse to some peas and carrots every once in a while.
Forrest Gump told Jenny that they were like peas and carrot—they just belong together. But in our house, “peas and carrots” is code for peace and quiet. If I say, “I’d like some peas and carrots for lunch, please,” my wife doesn’t think I’m going vegan on her, she just knows I need a little space. Most of the time, she gives it to me graciously for a minute or two, but after that, all bets are off.
There’s a lot to be said for “peas and carrots.” Peace and quiet is part physical space, part attitude. Lao Tzu, the semi-legendary ancient Chinese Taoist philosopher, characterized “peas and carrots” this way: “If you are depressed, you are living in the past; if you are anxious, you are living in the future; if you are at peace, you are living in the present.” Of course, he wasn’t talking about frozen vegetables when he said this in the 5th Century BCE, but his observation sounds a lot like an advertisement for “peas and carrots” to me. Even today, “peas and carrots” (wink, wink) can be a good antidote to depression or anxiety, and can even help keep one grounded in a peaceful present moment.
Peas and carrots, the edible variety, are usually readily available at the grocery store, but their coded counterparts, however, are not always so easy to find. Another philosopher—Eleanor Roosevelt—warned us about this: “It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” I’m still learning that lesson. In my house, when a little “peas and carrots” are hard to come by, I can always escape to the porch or, in sunshine, to the backyard hammock.
I like to think of myself as an introvert, a “peas and carrots” kind of guy, but when I tell my wife this, she rolls her eyes as if to say, “Like hell you are! You like chaos as much as anyone in my crazy family.” While that may be true, I feel my quiet childhood is always there, lurking like a benign beast down in the basement. I’m OK with that. It’s good to have it both ways.
So next time you go to the grocery store, take a stroll down the frozen vegetable aisle and see if there are any peas and carrots on the shelf. I like to include some in my chicken curry recipe; they add flavor, color and maybe even a vitamin or two to the mix. In fact, now you know my little secret: that’s what I always make for supper if I’m home alone, enjoying a little peace and quiet.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. His new novel, This Salted Soil, and two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is Musingjamie.net.