Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cultivating Persistence and Faith in the Garden

Gardening is all about letting go and letting the Powers That Be run the show. I am reminded of my preschool-age daughter, who is learning to play with other children. The challenge for her is letting go of being in control; when she plays with me or Daddy, she can tell us what to say and direct the show. Not so much with other kids. Gardening is exactly like this: we are co-creators of the garden, playing with the devas, the weather, the Goddess, the plants. Sometimes this can be frustrating, as when hail or squirrels or who-knows-what destroys the pumpkin seedlings. But then in another corner of the garden some of the tomatoes you grew from seed will be flourishing, partly because you doted on them (just as you did the pumpkins) and partly because of invisible forces supporting your gardening dreams.

Maybe that balance between frustration and joy is part of why we garden. Certainly these feelings mirror most of life, from learning to play with others to facing life's greatest stressors. Lately I've been facing a lot of invitations to cultivating deeper faith: I'm pregnant, we had to incur more debt to care for our house, we're in the process of buying a used car, and of course, my garden grows as it grows. Through all of these experiences I continually have to let go and trust, while simulataneously keeping to my path. I have to cultivate both faith and persistence. I have to keep watering and fertilizing and weeding (and paying credit card bills and visiting used car lots and taking my prenatal vitamins), while letting go and letting Nature or God do Her thing. Requires lots of deep breathing.

One reason I want to spread the word about the power of gardening to change the world and change ourselves is that I think the lessons of the garden, like persistence and faith, can be applied on a much larger scale in a profoundly positive way. Practically speaking, this can mean changing the way our economy is structured through local food, bartering, eating in season and other garden-centric practices. Emotionally and spiritually a garden-centric way of life might mean even greater shifts. What would happen, for instance, if we all honored the dirt in our back yards and in our neighbors' yards? What would the world be like if we celebrated the harvest not as a historically questionable holiday in winter but as a real-life go-pick-the-corn-as-a-community in July or August? How might our foreign policies be informed if everyone in the United States, Mexico, Iraq and Somalia had a garden plot that they tended and we understood as individuals and a culture what that meant to people on the other side of the planet?

The garden can be a deeply powerful tool for change in your life, your community, and the world. I have faith that this positive change will continue to grow as garden plots and garden-centric thinking spreads in our culture. I hope as you cultivate and weed, water and feed, that you will feel inspired to offer up prayers to a world of faith through gardening. And... I hope the squirrels stay away from your melons.

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