Gathering the Tribe + Tarragon-Roasted Vegetables
As fall draws near, I become even more reflective than usual. I also start roasting vegetables again—but before the recipe, some ruminations.
The contradictory notion that our world is both more interconnected and more isolated than ever before is not new. The technology that purports to bring us together also creates a citizenry full of shuffling swipers, eyes glued to their phones while the world passes by. In an era where we use apps to shop for people, live for “likes” and craft realities in digital domains, how are we to find real connections?
The idea of community has been top of mind for me lately, as the seasons begin to change and our thoughts turn from summer cookouts and outdoor activities to feathering our nests and tucking in with those we love. For those of us who don’t have that special nesting partner, it suddenly feels very apparent right about now. I have hopes and dreams in that regard. But increasingly, and especially among people my age, it’s becoming less about the one and more about the sum of the parts.
In this modern age, the idea of the nuclear family as the ideal has pretty much been debunked. Our structures and institutions look very different today. Families are of all sizes and types and relations, with non-familial bonds that often run deeper than blood. Our workplaces are becoming fragmented; we hold meetings over the computer and never, ever use the phone to actually talk. The bigger and more accessible the world gets, the more we’re removed from it.
Perhaps this is why, in a way, we’re coming full circle in terms of social constructs: back to the start. Tribalism is, after all, the foundation of civilization; it is more “human nature” than anything that has come since. It is the framework that allowed us to evolve; and the idea of finding your tribe may be the next transfiguration of our society.
Us Westerners once found a semblance of support in jumping from one nuclear family to the next. I believe we are now being called to re-create this structure in a way that’s healthier and better fits our modern world. To build our families in a manner of our own choosing. To honor and acknowledge our universal oneness; to love and lean on one another, regardless of our background or bloodline; to build support systems that will always be there to catch us, because they have the built-in fail-safe of community, rather than relying on one person to save us, to fix it, to be The One and Only.
That’s been huge for me, at least. Assembling my soul family has been perhaps the most important part of my healing journey. And as time goes on, I am finding more than one tribe that I fit into, built around the shared experiences that make us human: food, drink, storytelling and sweat. I have my girl group—my family of choice, composed of loving ladies (plus one honorary male member who is one of my oldest and dearest friends). But I also have found little family clusters in the kundalini collective; my freelance and remote workers’ Meetup group; the women’s craft beer Meetup group my dear friend Sarah runs, Beer Necessities; and the running groups I’ve become a regular at most Wednesday and Thursday nights: the Flying Bike Run Club and the Frelard Run Club.
Running has been not only one of my most valued forms of therapy as I Work My Shit Out, but also is a perfect simile for the journey I’ve been on the past few years. It used to be my favorite activity. Then it crippled me, by way of a mysterious and ostensibly incurable knee injury. After countless visits to doctors and orthopedic surgeons, to no avail, I thought I’d never run again. Ten years later, as I made so many other strides in my health and wellness, I decided to give running another try. Remarkably, I was able to do it—for a while. Then the old, familiar pain crept back in.
But I asked for help, and my tribe provided me with a reference for a massage therapist who, miraculously, solved the unsolvable and corrected my joint issues. I also started seeing one of the group leaders for physical therapy, putting the rest of the puzzle together by adding the preventative maintenance I needed into my routine. With some help from my tribe, I was healed, and now I am running farther, faster and harder than ever before. In fact, I just completed my first half-marathon with the Beat the Blerch race in Carnation—and not only finished, but came in 12th among all female runners, and at 1:49 for a time, no less.
Tribal members are full of wisdom, and one of them recently gave me an invaluable mantra: “take your medicine.” When you have a sickness of the soul, the heart, the mind, you must treat what ails you just as you would the flu, cancer or diabetes. My medicine comes in many forms: it is spiritual work and meditation; it is soul work, mental-health work and reconditioning; it is actual work, as I craft a professional career all my own; it is running along South Lake Union in the early-morning hours with the soundtrack to my life beating in my ears; it is real, human connections; it is sharing, giving and receiving with loved ones; it is community. It is also romantic love, and while that remains elusive, I know it is coming, eventually.
For now, the lesson is this: When you take your medicine, and you turn to your tribe in times of need, the impossible becomes reality.
And so these groups—running, working and beer-drinking—have become much more than just a place to meet and enjoy our favorite watering holes. We come together for community; to create a tribe of our own, bound by shared interests and the desire to connect in some of the most primal ways: by putting our feet to pavement; reveling over drink; forging connections with yet-to-be-revealed possibilities; and simply sharing a human moment with one another.
All the great spiritual teachings say you have to leave your family to find yourself. I have never believed this to be more true than I do now. This doesn’t mean you have to cut your family out, or cast them aside, and maybe they even become part of the new collective you assemble. It doesn’t mean you have to physically leave home, though I believe that doing this at some point in your life can be a necessary step to spiritual growth.
What it means is that you must make your own family. Deconstruct the whole structure you were born into and build something new. Creation and destruction are the natural cycles of the universe, and maybe we have to tear it all down before we can put in its place something even stronger, more vital, more valuable not because we were simply born into it, but because we chose it.
And so, the seasons change. The new moon has come and gone, and I have shed things from the past that have too long been holding me back. I am forging new behaviors and structures. A new life and livelihood of my own creation. A new attitude about my life’s work and worth. New behaviors and patterns. New actions and reactions. New families. New tribes. A new me.
Yes, I’m changing.
To usher in this new era, I spent the past week gathering with the tribes in various ceremonies and rituals. In sound and healing. In running. In laughing. In the raising of glasses of autumnal delights. In the creation and consumption of comfort food.
I leave you with a recipe, and a full heart. The going may get tough, but may you find the tribe that carries you through.
Tribal Tarragon-Roasted Vegetables
1 zucchini, chopped
1 yellow squash, chopped
1 small eggplant, chopped, salted and drained in a colander for 20 minutes
1 large beet (golden or otherwise; if golden, soaked in lemon water and drained just before cooking)
1/2 brick tofu, pressed and cubed
~2 cups of arugula
Huge heap of fresh tarragon, minced (~2-3 Tbsp)
Healthy heap of fresh goat cheese
Handful of toasted walnuts
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
6 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 425. Toss vegetables and tofu with enough olive oil to coat, season with salt and pepper and toss with a little over half the fresh tarragon. Roast for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown. Meanwhile, toast the walnuts and mix all vinaigrette ingredients except the olive oil in a small jar and shake to emulsify. Slowly add the olive oil and then shake until combined.
Toss roasted vegetables with arugula, vinaigrette and half the leftover tarragon. Serve topped with walnuts, goat cheese and the rest of the fresh tarragon. Nourish the soul of yourself and your tribe inside and out.