All in Creation Care

Back to the Garden

Perhaps like these women and the little girl, and maybe like others who feed people as part of a parenting vocation or faith community, I see the garden through the lens of my own faith and call to mothering and being mothered, the garden as a connection to nourishment and solace.

And to redemption. A safe haven where I might receive life and pass it on, or get it back from the edge of death.

Could it be that God wanted to redeem not only my life but also all the hustle and bustle that life on the winery brings? We work so hard to make a living from growing vines and crafting wine. Could it be that God cared about it and perhaps was even involved in it? This idea is not quite what I had learned in my confirmation classes over the last two years.  But was it not true? Had Jesus not made wine as well?

Twenty years ago, I sat on a frozen wave knowing that at any moment it could break and I would drown. Nothing I could do would save me. Today, I am doing all the right things, and still the water could take over and change my life.

I am reading God for Us during Lent, and in today’s reading, Lauren Winner suggests that God is both a refuge from a storm and the storm itself. I wonder what Jesse would think of this metaphor if I were to ask him about it. I wonder what he thinks about my creating a story from the work he does. When he comes home, I hope to ask him.

Jesus spoke of a way of rightful being and living with God, people, and place. He gave it a name that the people of the time would understand — the Kingdom of God, and then He turned their notions of kings and kingdoms upside down and inside out. His talk of the Kingdom was not a once for all, clear as a bell theological declaration. It is, however, a creative means to reorient, even reestablish, what it means to be God’s kind of fully human person. That is, a person alive to a healthy relationship with God, His people, the land and all that is in it.

 In so many ways, my ideal home is like the earth itself. Perhaps that is the real reason I eschew plastic and acrylic. Perhaps that is why I love wood and wool. Why I like to see our rooms change with the seasons. I want to remember that I am made from the stuff of earth. I never want to forget that the earth is my God-made home. The sky a tent overhead.

I have, in other words, no desire to go back in history. But I do yearn to see trees with greater clarity. I want to see them as my fellow creatures, called into existence by God, with a dignity and significance all their own. I want to realize that at the creation they were made to be trees, for Gods glory, and they have done so it is my race of creatures that refuses to abide by Gods word. I want to know more about chlorophyll and cambium layers and see in them glimpses of glory that shine with hints of a transcendent power beyond my knowing.

For the first time in my life, I did not know what was next. I only knew that it was time to lay low, rest, and wait. I was dried up inside and felt like I had very little to offer anyone around me. As it turns out, for the first three weeks of the year, I really didn’t have anything to offer as I was sick with a cold the whole time. I thought that I was going to start my sabbatical by doing all those things you never have time to do when you are working, like crafts and cooking and working out in the middle of the day. Nevertheless, my body was screaming at me to stop doing and start being. So I slept. A lot.

I could probably find a way to heat treat everything else as well. Not only my food, but my home and my relationships. I could boil my garden vegetables, throw money at my old house, distance myself from friends and family and neighbors. I could fence my children in with a hundred thousand rules.

Then they would be safe. Then they would be contained. Then they would no longer have the power to break my heart.

So far, I’d only added dirt, bone meal, and periodic water, then parked the cans in a sunny spot to see what happened. Yet thanks to this minimal work, green shoots were already seeking the sun, requiring me to add almost daily scoops of more dirt to cover the rapidly growing stems. Water plus dirt made mud in most other settings, but here were these plants, charting almost miraculous growth despite so little work on my part.

Maybe I grew like that too. 

And then, for the first (of many) profoundly healing moments of the weekend, I realized that I was temporarily untethered. But not untethered in the Sandra-Bullock-out-in-space sort of way. Instead of feeling distress or loneliness, I felt an unfamiliar sensation that it was just me here. I remembered that I exist. Not only that, but I felt relieved and surrounded by the acceptance of God. Nobody calling. Nobody for me to check on or take care of. No Twitter feed. No e-mails waiting with exclamation points.

Summer Lake

But Summer Lake offers me something neither of those places ever can — the expanse of wilderness. Every day we surround ourselves with manmade structures and agendas and priorities set by us, the human beings. When you venture into those wetlands you are reminded again that an entire world happens out there without you, every day, every season of the year. Staggering, beautiful, abundant life. The peace of wild things.

When I saw my garden plot I was surprised at the way it seemed both small and large.

I got to spot the blossom first. Judy first spotted the cluster of green cherry tomatoes, and texted me a photo. I look forward to watching their reddening, and to the day of harvest, to that first burst of pure sunlight in my mouth. But the yield is not high in my goals. Neither, any more, is the work of emptying my mind and dirtying my fingernails. 

My primary goal in sharing this garden is to yield to the Overseer’s soul amendments.