Thursday, December 25, 2008

Landing the Wild Geese

On my way back to Norway this time, I did what has become a favorite pasttime of late: I watched my fill of TED talks on my iPod and then watched some more on my MacBook at Heathrow until it too ran out of juice. The talk given by the chef and co-owner of New York's Blue Hill, Dan Barber, was among those that stayed with me. It left me with a question that has centered me through the festivities this year.

I left Norway years ago saying that I'd be back. But apart from the odd visit in the summer when the sun doesn't set and, in winter, to keep my mother company, I haven't really given a return to Norway much thought. Durham, North Carolina suits me. The heat of the summer charges my body with utter delight and the sound of the rain on the tin roof reminds me quite simply that I would have never dreamed a life so exotic when I made that childhood wish to live in America when I grew up. How did the US land me?

So there I am on American Airlines watching TED on foie gras and the Spanish goose farmer, Edouardo Sousa, who rather than gorging his geese to harvest foie gras, allows the geese absolute freedom to roam. The resulting foie gras is apparently unlike any foie gras known to us mortals. And yes, I did say Spanish foie gras. Barber talks about the mouthwatering taste of herbs, of salt, and pepper -- he even speaks of the infamous yellow tint of the foie gras--all products of the plants the geese freely graze on on Sousa's farm.

Sousa, Barber says, creates the conditions that are conducive to life, to happiness to such an extent that even wild geese flying South in winter, land and stay on Sousa's farm. This of course goes against everything we have always assumed to be programmed into the very DNA of wild geese. (Barber talks about witnessing this strange phenomenon at 10 minutes and 30 seconds of screen time).

As I landed in Oslo Gardemoen airport, I continued to think about this moment in Barber's talk. I thought about the way that Sousa achieved the yellow color of his foie gras without having his geese gorge on corn, too. But this, his having generated conditions for which even wild geese land, nest and thrive, has me wondering what ingredients would need to be present in a life for it to be a pad on which others land, nest and blossom. Do I create these conditions in my life? If not, what ingredients are missing? And what can I add? Do my friends blossom in that terrain I call my life?

What are the ingredients that make up the terrain of growth and happiness for you? Tell me!