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.

Dirt, Chicken, and the Reimagined Rose

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. 


A seed. I have wondered, is it dead? It is in so many ways a remnant of something good that was before. A fruit or a flower that has already spent itself in glory. A seed is the remains, fit only for burial.
A seed, small and dry, should be shrouded and cast into the soil. But it is not dead.
Nor is it yet fully alive.
We had been driving in the car when Sera first mentioned the idea to me, so I was paying more attention to the road in front of me than the girl in the backseat with dreams of saving the ducks. But there in the Nature Center — the place in which she had earned her bird-watching badge just a year earlier — with all eyes on her, I saw it: reflected in her face was the image of a loving God who cares for and sustains creation.
Once upon a time, a man and woman lived as caretakers in a garden ripe with mangoes and tomatoes and figs. I try to conjure up an image of cultivation without snails and squirrels and rabbits attacking my plants, without weeds demanding my constant attention, without the threat of too much water cracking my tomatoes and not enough withering the plant. Did Adam and Eve sing the fruit into bloom?

An Iconography of Birds

That birds, with their riot of color and sound and an ability to fly, have come to be associated with the stories of our deeply human quest to explore such things only makes sense. They are our fellow creatures — dust to dust, ashes to ashes — yet manage to break free of the shackles of gravity and transcend the ground from which we are all made.

The Arctic coastal plains are flat, stretching from the mountains to the sea. The lines shimmer with beauty. The social view of beauty thinks something is missing in this flatness. In between is nothing. But in between is the space where imaginations live and souls dance. There’s so much more to see than flat. The flat distance offers the middle view. The middle view that’s missing is something that takes effort to see.
I twisted around in my seat to watch our newborn daughter, cuddled with her blankets and sleeping through the ride. I wanted to say that it would all grow back. That I, too, would one day take a bluebonnet picture of my own daughter shaded by live oak trees. That the trees surely dropped seeds and those seeds would grow into seedlings, saplings, and young trees. But we passed in silence. The Loblolly pines would recuperate, but live oaks grow too slowly. Hundreds of years would have to pass. The land cannot return in time for my daughter.
It is a small but real thing that each of us can enter into this practice of conservation believing that we can be part of tangible renewal. For some, it might take the shape of educating or gardening. For others it might look like banking or engineering, a public office or scientific research. It takes all kinds to accomplish the greater good. And it matters for us to practice renewal. It matters because God loves what He made, and when you love someone, you are drawn to love what they love.