My life seems to be made up of little realizations. That is, I keep finding myself suddenly seeing relationships and reasons for things that I either 1) never questioned or 2) had already relegated to the “clearly understood” pile. So now I am left wondering if I am the only person who sees things in terms of my beliefs about that rather than what they ARE. In this case, the belief is that eggshells are what holds eggs together. T’aint so! T’aint so, I tell ya.
So the story is this: on the weekend, I had occasion to move my black plastic compost bin. This was to make way for another backyard project, but I have to say that I wasn’t too excited about my task. The bin has been the daily recipient of food waste from our kitchen. That is, spoiled vegetables and limp fruit, the peels and ends of food that was on the menu, the left-over bits and pieces of kitchen, um, stuff. Garbage, in some people’s language. I snicker daily about putting food out on the raccoon buffet, because I know that my bin is visited nightly by assorted scavengers, and I am resigned and now somewhat amused by that fact. I also knew that under this week’s and last week’s layers of kitchen waste, there was likely some pretty rich compost in this bin. But to get to the compost and move the bin, I had to shovel through the recent additions. In short, the rotting garbage.
Like most tasks I expect to be onerous, I tried to take a mindful approach; noticing what was present, noticing my thoughts and how my thoughts tended to influence my ability to appreciate or tolerate the task, and trying to just be with the compost, the day, and the feeling of shoveling stuff into the wheel barrow and moving it. So it turned out to be an okay job: in fact, I had a sense that maybe I should be more aware of the waste that I generate anyway. And the finished compost was a thing of beauty, at least to the gardener in me. Gorgeous, dark, friable, filled with life, actually, much of which I couldn’t see, but some of which was visible and moving in my gloves…I ended up putting a lot of the lovely black stuff in the garden.
However, I noticed that even the finished compost was full of eggshells. Okay, I’ll admit that I eat a lot of eggs. Not just a lot, a lot by probably anyone’s standards…more than a dozen in a week, and that’s just me, not the rest of the family. But I figured all those shells were breaking down in the compost bin, enriching the soil with calcium and whatever cool stuff they are made of. Not so! Those eggshells were just as intact in the bottom of the compost bin as the ones in the top. So…eggshells don’t break down easily in compost.
I have been pondering this now for several days. I want the good minerals from the eggshells in my compost. What to do? Crush the shells, to make things maybe work a little faster? That won’t hurt, but I don’t know if it will help. So I have started saving them to crush them before heading to the bin. I have discovered that crushing eggshells isn’t as easy as it sounds. The shell itself is just a casing for the real container for the egg itself. The membrane of the egg is tough, flexible, and resilient. It is living tissue, while the egg is alive, though the shell is not. Egg shells, when the membrane is removed, are quite fragile and do crush easily. The real protection for this egg cell, this part of a bird that can become another bird (given proper circumstances), comes from that membrane.
I have spent part of my day trying, unsuccessfully, to remove the membrane from the inside of my breakfast eggshells. I am gobsmacked, once again, by my blindness. I have always assumed that eggs were protected by their shells, and the hard, solid quality of that shell was what kept them safe, or relatively safe, except from predators like me. But it seems that the hard, rigid, unyielding shell is a cover for the real protection, that membrane that flexes, bends, is resistant to tearing or breaking, and which is practically invisible. I have been hoodwinked by eggs all this time.
Stories need a point; this one has both a metaphor and a moral. The metaphor for me is the eggshell, representing our defenses in the world. We can rigidify ourselves (many of us do this regularly), become firm and unyielding in our beliefs, our behaviours, our “shoulds.” The more rigidly and tightly we hold ourselves, the more vulnerable we become to cracking and breaking. What really and truly keeps us intact is something invisible, something that flows just beneath our tough outer shell, the sense of ourselves as organism, resilient and flexible.
So that’s the metaphor. I like it. It will make me think about breakfast in a different way. The moral? Well, that’s probably up to you. Maybe it has something to do with finding out cool stuff even when you are shoveling garbage. Or about garbage being in the eye of the beholder. Or about how garbage can be transformed into insight if you look deeply. Or something profound like that.
I’m going to continue to think about my layers; my apparently tough but breakable outer shell, and my flexible resilient inner membrane. I feel safer about letting go of the shell when I think of my other protection.