He told us to live abundantly.
He did not promise abundance.
He did say that joy would abound and grace would multiply.
And yet, living abundantly is not always easy.
I have recently come into an abundance of time.
It is actually a little disturbing.
So, I have started re-orienting myself in my safe place – the garden.
Blooming things provoke joy in me.
Grace being the interface between the Infinite Abundance, and the frail and finite - well,
Every garden is Graceland.
We’ve got just over a third of an acre, 16 thousand square feet, minus the house.
Living here before us; 13 mature trees, several large shrubs, a vine and some prickly pear cactus.
The ground is sandy and abundant with small stones – not clay,
and not the caliche concrete that causes gardeners here to despair.
It seemed to me to be ripe for enrichment. Good soil can be made from sand.
Then I put a shovel into it.
Our home is on what used to be a mesa overlooking the Rio Grande flood plain.
Of course, humans have built all over the plain, and on the mesa – out as far as the eye can see.
We are on the edge, between the two, and our lot slopes down.
When they built in 1962, they must have leveled the lot - somewhat.
My shovel found out how they did that. River rock. Tons and tons of river rock.
A compacted strata nearly a foot thick, found below 2-6 inches of decades of sand and dust.
It stopped my heaviest shovel with a crunch.
I could have left it alone and built on top.
But I am both curious and stubborn – this is known.
So, I got down on the ground with a trowel and started excavating.
Then I found the plastic. They put down a barrier under the rock.
To stop what imaginary weeds, I do not know.
Mostly shredded now by the years – but still there – now and forever.
So, one square foot at a time.
I have started hand digging, and ripping out plastic shreds and lifting rocks.
It helps that the rocks are beautiful.
Polished river rock, not from around here: quartz and jasper and granite, and I don’t know what.
It’s a treasure hunt.
A sifting that divides the land into soft root spaces and glistening pathways.
While I am down there, I am burying Alpaca Poo in every hole.
I am topping it with homemade compost.
The Book says the world started in a Garden.
Every spiritual lesson I have ever learned can be learned in a garden.
I have been in a liminal space. A waiting. A wondering what's next.
The ground itself has answered me.
RIP UP THE BARRIERS
FIND AND LIFT THE TREASURES
BURY THE SHIT
MAKE PATHWAYS AND PLACES TO PUT DOWN ROOTS
Jesus Sembrador - a parable
After the farmer sowed some tomato and lettuce seeds, quite broadly, he went to sleep. From his bed he heard a gentle night rain for it was the short rainy season. The rain made him happy. When he got up he went to check the seeds. Some had been eaten by the birds which he did not really resent because birds need to eat too. Some seemed to have settled on the nice patch of earth and were damp, and he knew they would germinate, so he pulled a few weeds and left them alone because they would be fine without intervention. But when he saw that a lot of them were sitting on some pretty bad soil, and didn't have much of a chance, and he repented, because he knew this was his fault.
So he picked some more weeds and he went over to his sister's place because his sister was a Good Shepherd, and he shoveled a bunch of sheep shit. His sister was glad to get rid of it. Then he went to his brother's place because his brother was a Good Carpenter, and he brought home a barrowful of wood shavings. He combined the three holy ingredients and let the rains fall on the pile. And the pile did compost. He dug the compost into the bad soil, and planted in a slightly more intentional manner.
In the fullness of time he and his siblings enjoyed some every good mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, because their mother baked some very fine bread.
And they said unto him "Bro - you are a Good Gardener!"
Orienting to a New Horizon
(caveat: the following are advices to be lightly held. Maybe they will be thinking prompts. What is below is not for the newly or acutely bereaved. Some of the ideas here may be useful after a while, but they are not a substitute for a medical professional or a grief specialist.)
So here you are. By design, choice, or luck - good or bad - you are facing a new horizon. Perhaps a cyclone has dropped you into a completely new land. Perhaps you are stepping out of a broken down Tardis. Perhaps you have packed your pirogue and slid into a great river. Perhaps the people are around you are loved ones or old comrades. Perhaps you are pursuing a new love. Perhaps you feel alone.
At first glance some things seem familiar or understandable, then the differences start popping up. Maybe too many differences. My new yard is lousy with tiny dinosaurs. But we do not have mosquitos or slugs. Everything is different, some things obviously beneficial, others not so much - a lot of the time I don't really know what is going on.
I want to feel grounded - this is my goal. I want to feel like I am at home. I want to be connected with my purpose. I want to be able to find my way in this new landscape. Fortunately I am old and wily. I have flipped my world before. I have learned a few tricks. None of them absolve me from the hard work of re-orientation. Nothing short circuits the time it takes. But it is really important to have a goal and some idea of how to get to it. Re-orientation starts with observation. It requires the acquisition of knowledge and skills with all the messy short-term failures that go with it. And it requires dedicated action.
The observation stage requires you to slow down and really listen and see. Be abundantly curious. There is research to do. Sometimes it is a nicely scientific process; observe, hypothesize, test, observe, document and adjust. Rinse and repeat. But sometimes it is way more random than that. You may need to talk to strangers. Lay down your easy answers. Ask lots of questions. Ask weird questions. Ask dumb questions.
If done openly and persistently, observation will lead right into knowledge.
Here are some things you might want to know:
Here are some skills you might want to work on:
Here are some possible actions to take:
This is a start. This is what Alivia and I are doing. Again. For the umpteenth time in this life.
We will be fully oriented again.
My dad grew up in the Thatcher Woods. His widowed mother worked 2 jobs, six days a week. His older brothers also worked. He went to school, but every other minute was spent running with what he called his “gang” in the forest preserves along the Desplaines River outside of Chicago. He lived wild all summer. He later claimed that he was saved by a scoutmaster and Sunday school teacher. This man gave organization to his native earned skills, and a moral compass. He also acquired a real compass – World War One US army surplus.
The first time I remember seeing this compass was in those very same woods some forty years later. Sometimes he would take me on a Saturday to do something - just me and him. Our family of five lived in a very small flat, and I guess taking the middle girl-child out of the mix allowed my mother the space to get some things done.
The woods were his classroom; he taught me how to walk quietly through the underbrush without breaking twigs (I was a noisy child – I think this was part of the ruse.) He taught me how to get close to a rabbit by walking silently in a large, but slowly shrinking circle that the bunny perceived as tangential. I learned the look of poison ivy and oak. He showed me how to find north/south by the moss on the trees and east/west by the sun. You had to learn these things before you got to use the compass. I learned how to navigate the woods on or off the trails. Eventually he put me and the compass on a path and gave me a hand drawn map. He said he was gonna drive around to another trailhead and wait – my job was to use the compass and find the right paths and meet him there. I was probably ten.
The process is called orienteering. It is a Scandinavian invented sport. I bet Boy Scouts in the 1920’s had picked it up. You use observations skills, knowledge about the land, a compass, and sometimes maps to navigate a complex terrain to end up at a specific goal.
I bet my journey wasn’t much more than a mile – maybe 2 at most. But it felt like the Oregon Trail. I did not see another person on my trek. There was at least one fork in the path and I made my choice by my compass and map. I did not get lost. Because eventually the the woods cleared, and there was Daddy, leaning on the Ford Falcon, waiting for me – a smile on his face. We went for ice cream. I have a feeling that mom didn’t get all the details of the afternoon.
I knew I was getting life lessons. But I had no idea just how far these lessons would stretch.
(to be continued)