You may have heard of the variation of the old Zen story. Something happens. At first, it appears to be a tragedy. Then, it turns out to be a blessing. Then the blessing turns into a tragedy, the tragedy into a blessing and on and so forth until you eventually lose all track of the drama.
The point of the Zen story is that we never really know whether or not the events that happen to us are a tragedy or a blessing or both.
Here’s today’s irony for me: I had to order our family rice off the internet.
This to me would be like looking out at the organic cherry tomatoes currently tumbling over the wall of my garden and having to click a button online to have them delivered to my refrigerator.
My brother, Dr. Richard Schulze Jr., is the current owner of Turnbridge Plantation in Hardeeville, South Carolina.
Now I recognize that it is not currently politically correct to refer to a place as a plantation, and I can recall being followed around by my neighbors at Brown University who decided that the fact that my family owned a plantation was grounds enough to spit on me – large projectile gobs of personal spit – whenever I walked by. Never mind the fact that I had never done anything to them other than be polite and say hello. They grew up in Washington, D.C., and obviously were the big experts on what really happened when I grew up.
Anyhow, it is historically correct to call Turnbridge what it is and was – a rice plantation – as many of its 400 acres are devoted to growing organic Carolina Gold rice. My brother, the current owner, refers to visiting there as “going to the farm.”
My father, the family misanthrope who no longer speaks to my brother, myself or my mother, gets all the credit for bringing Carolina Gold to Turnbridge. He decided that Turnbridge needed to be used for its original purpose and began cultivating rice there himself, even to the point of purchasing an antique mill that was so deafeningly noisy he could conveniently claim he could not hear you if you tried to talk to him while he was busy with his rice.
I used to have some of our precious family rice in our freezer.
Then one day to my horror I came down to dinner and my partner, Ken Holmes, had COOKED the rice!!!!
“You can’t do that!” I protested.
“What do you mean we can’t eat that rice?” he asked me.
After many years, the operation had been turned over to Anson Mills. Things had gotten to the point where you have to pay for and order your very own family rice.
On our recent family vacation to St. Simons Island, we all went to an organic restaurant one night and I read the menu very carefully. There was Carolina Gold rice! Of course, we had to order a side dish. Out to dinner at a fancy bistro eating the family rice raised by and steamed by somebody else!
You can order a bit of my family history for yourself at this link: Caroline Gold rice. Anson Mills describes it as the “grandfather of long-grain rice in the Americas.”
People are always advising me to read Pat Conroy, author of The Prince of Tides. Someone even once mistakenly gave me a copy of A Man In Full by Tom Wolfe.
“I don’t need to read Pat Conroy,” I advise my well-meaning friends. “I LIVED Pat Conroy.”
Just let me eat my family rice, even if I have to order it online.