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Hope smells like six slices of bacon

It's the holidays, but I'm feeling the blues. In desperation, I submerged the 14 individual cloves of garlic into cold, saturated black dirt. Pulling back a layer of rotting leaves to reveal my canvas, I came upon what Aristotle describes as "the intestines of the earth": an earthworm. Exposed directly to the elements, it wriggled and writhed like a sea serpent brought up from the deeps. I have never observed such activity in the soil at this time of year.

These cloves, each containing the mystery and potential of new life, are like Jack's magic beans. A week of rain and utter dreariness seemed to match the condition of my soul. I was planting hope. On Dec. 9. In Duluth. If you can't beat El Nino, join it.

Now, a few days later, the rain still has not let up. It's enough to break the most ardent optimist, but I wonder if the tiniest roots just might actually be beginning to emerge. Battling a stubborn bout of depression during a season of transition, I cling to this hope.

Hope, mysterious and often elusive, can be found in the most unusual places. Sometimes we may cultivate it, but it cannot be bought.

Feeling useless and feeble, I stumbled upon a recipe for breakfast casserole. I do almost no cooking for the family, but for the second time in a month I was inspired. Looking ahead to Saturday morning with expectant hope, I gathered high-quality ingredients.

The potatoes I had grown myself. The same goes for the handful of eggs required. Sausage and bacon were obtained at Stokke's Meat Market. I took pleasure in having the kind man behind the counter slice off the exact quantity — six slices — of bacon I needed. It was fresh and cured locally.

I also splurged on hand-rolled butter from "Amish Country." Later at the grocery store, I requested two slices of pepper jack cheese at the deli counter. I didn't want leftovers and it was all I needed.

My gathering was a quest for synergy, wherein the combined effect is greater than the sum of the parts. Expectant hope continued to grow inside me. This was more valuable than the finished product, in fact.

When the big day arrived, I was the first in our little family to hop out of bed like a kid on Christmas morning and run down the stairs. The individual tasks of my work were simple, but it took me longer to produce that casserole than it takes some people to run 26.2 miles.

It turned out well, and my kids put on an admirable display of enjoyment of their meal. They sensed that the pan contained more than eggs, hash browns, butter, sausage and bacon. It was the offspring of hope, held together by the fruit of the land.

Connection to a sense of place is vital. This past year has been marked by turbulence. Following the loss of my job, one that had lasted a dozen years, I felt dislodged. Aimless. Cast adrift in a sea of hopelessness.

My self-designed rehab program has revolved around establishing meaningful connections within the community. This includes working the soil, becoming acquainted with nearby farmers, eating locally grown food, repeatedly biking Duluth's length and breadth, coming to appreciate more of its nooks and crannies, delighting in the wisdom of nearby elders and initiating conversations with fascinating people who are blessing the community by simply exercising their innate gifts.

I've spent hours with people like Mayor-elect Emily Larson, Charlie Parr, Adam Swanson, farmers, bakers, shopkeepers, mothers and fathers. Many of these conversations, doubling as interviews, have been fantastic. I hope you'll enjoy some of them on my website.

The holiday season can be difficult. Perhaps you find yourself enduring trials at this time. Hope springs eternal. Bearing the very image of God, you are loved.

Monthly Budgeteer columnist Eddy Gilmore is the author of a newly released book, “The Emancipation of a Buried Man.” Discover more at www.eddygilmore.com.

Eddy Gilmore

Monthly Budgeteer columnist Eddy Gilmore is a freelance writer, father of twins and husband of one. Connect with Eddy at eddygilmore.com.

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