by Mary M

In a lunch room, I am mesmerized by the cream cheese bagel before me. It might help my story if this bagel contained lox with the cream cheese, but it is only cream cheese–I am a vegetarian. Still, for the sake of my story and this post, imagine the lox there, savory salmon strips tender and pink resting on the cheese. Luscious.

And imagine me, ravenously about to eat, staring wild-eyed at my plate, seeing this bagel for the first time, as if it glowed with some otherworldly something that made me see it as more than itself. Where did this strange object called BAGEL came from? I mean, really, WHERE?

Where did the wheat grow that became the bread flour? Who harvested it? How intensely blue was the sky on that day, and how warm the earth? Were animals watching at the edge of the field, alarmed by the noises of harvest?And the milk for the cheese? Which cow gave it? How healthy was that cow? How free? And the salmon? Were they wild or farmed? Did they give themselves freely or were they taken?

This strange thing, this bagel, in that inexplicable moment, became my mandala, my key to the changing world. I studied its perfect form, its pleasing roundness identical to the other bagels uniformly popped out of wrappers by others around me. My bagel was commodity only, a unit of nutrition weighed and measured, packaged and shipped.

And yet hidden in it were the journeys of plants and animals and fish. Hidden in it were stories, most about servitude, some human and some not.

Everything on this Earth is more than it appears. How ironic that the strong determined beings respected as People, a tribe in their own right to whom our ancestors, perhaps more humane than us, once gave thanks and offerings for the wild pink flesh that became their food . . . that we mere humans now refer to these great People as our resources, as if they ever belonged to us.

Whose bagel is it really?

Mine because I pay for it?

Or the Earth’s, who mysteriously out of carbon and hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and a few other elements to sweeten life, called forth these miracles to sustain us?

For such gifts what will we give so that those who come after us may be blessed by them too?

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