Reflections from the Swamp
During a walk with my four-year-old granddaughter, she said someone was following us. I looked across the field and told her no one was following us. A little further along, she said again, someone is following us. I asked her where she saw the follower. She pointed at our shadows, fascinated by how the shadows moved when we moved our arms or legs. We discovered by turning around that these dark shapes could follow us or be in front of us. She noticed that these shapes were attached to our feet and speculated that they lived inside us when we slept. Out of the mouths of babes.
I vaguely remembered some of Carl Jung’s shadow theory but decided that a four-year-old could wait a few years to explore Jungian psychology. Jung calls the parts of our subconscious that we repress our shadow self. For example, we may have an impulsive outburst towards someone that we shamefully regret later. Even if the reason for your explosion was obvious, the lack of control over yourself shows the existence of a different person lurking beneath. The ideas you have of yourself, and your persona, are not acknowledging the fuller shadow self lurking beneath the thoughts of who you think you are.
Just as we may repress socially undesirable qualities in ourselves, we may also stop or hinder our creative selves because we don’t think we are creative. How many of us believe that we can’t sing or draw because we haven’t let these undeveloped talents grow because of preconceived ideas of ourselves? Jung, my conscious, unconscious, and shadow self all agree that singing would not be a wise career choice, yet I’ll bumble along with a tune on the radio just for the sheer joy of singing.
Our garden looks like it has already had its salad days. Like the fall colours, the peak season is over. The kale still grows on, oblivious to our mild frosts so far. Kale had been a staple in the limited culinary history of my childhood family.
Maybe because of recalling the memories of shadows, our shadow selves, and seeing the stubborn kale hanging in while the other vegetables wither and die, I had deep, disturbing dreams of kale that lept out of my subconscious. I was discovering my shadow self!
I grew up in a Dutch immigrant family that subsisted on kale, just as the Irish lived on potatoes. None of the regular people( our neighbours) knew kale or endive. We had a mountain of potatoes in a pile on the basement floor that resembled a model of the Great Pyramid of Egypt. We ate Stamppot, a mixture of mashed potatoes and kale with pieces of Rookworst sausage mixed into the mush. If we didn’t have Rookworst sausage, we used hotdogs. If we didn’t have hotdogs, my mother would throw in Brussels Sprouts or small meatballs. We ate it every day. We couldn’t have apple sauce or Jello until we finished our plates. All of us kids must have been over 200 pounds by the time we were 10. On Fridays and Sundays, we got to eat something else. I repressed my hatred of Boerenkool or Stamppot deep into my shadow self.
I left home at 17 years of age. Not because I didn’t love my parents but because I hated Stamppot. I couldn’t take it anymore. I went to Calgary and got a job installing sewer pipes in the deep shadowy parts of town. Even in these dark places, I never thought of kale or Stamppot.
Years later, the health freak society discovered kale. Recipes dumped kale into almost everything, smoothies, salads, ice cream, and bags of chips. Soon they’d be asking you at McDonald’s,” Do you want kale with that?”There was no place left to hide, and kale was everywhere.
After reading Jung and learning the fundamentals of my shadow self, I mustered up the courage to face the kale part of my life. My cells were probably at least 50% kale with a sprinkling of Rookworst sausage.
My bride jumped on the kale bandwagon shortly after we wed. More and more of the garden was devoted to kale and potatoes. We eat kale in various forms every other day. Apple sauce is the most common dessert. Thank God we haven’t resorted to Jello.
I have faced this dark chapter of my shadow self, and kale no longer dominates my nightmares. There are still other dark shadows that need exposure to the light of day. Kale has taught me that we face our shadow selves and emerge with a deeper understanding of just who we are. For those who want to meet your inner kale, here is the recipe for Stamppot.
Boerenkool Stamppot Recipe
Save any bacon grease or grease from beef, pork, or chicken
Mash about twice as many potatoes as your family can eat
Cut any kale or endive into smaller pieces, mix with mashed potatoes
Get some sausage, cut it into small rounds and fry it in a frypan. Mix sausage into the potatoes
Mix in as much grease as your heart can take( or omit this part)
Serve to your family five days a week throughout the fall and winter
Not sure of the nutritional value, but if you are trying to gain weight, Stamppot is your friend
It helps clear out any adult-aged kids who are lingering in your basement well into their 30s