Have you ever stood in the field at the end of the rain and noticed the way in which the sun, breaking through the clouds, turns drops of water into sun catchers? Every branch of every tree that has beads of water hanging becomes its own rainbow. As the wind blows these tiny prisms off their branches they burst into light then air. What can anyone possibly do that is more valuable than savouring such moments when they appear.
In our busy lives we see beautiful moments as expendable because they don’t serve our vision of progress. Nesting birds must yield to ploughs or haybines. Precious wetlands yield to agricultural drains. Complex shoreline ecosystems yield to housing and development. All this we call progress. I just set down an article whose premise was that progress in particle theory within the field of quantum physics was on the verge of unravelling the secrets of the universe. What arrogant nonsense.
The nesting birds, the complex wetlands, the myriad of life along the shoreline are our guides to understanding the universe and our place in it. What’s more, we already know that, yet we pretend not to know so we don’t have to respond. There is no difference between nesting birds and young families, no difference between the social order in wetlands or shoreline and our own communities. By choosing to see them as societies of lesser importance within nature than ours, we give ourselves permission to plunder them for profit. But this is a tunnel with no turning because plundering for profit is what we do to one another, even knowing that it is madness. Ultimately, how we treat the least able among us will determine how close we come to understanding the universe in any meaningful way.
Understanding is the great gift of a garden. You plant a seed in the ground using methods that have been handed down for generations. The very nature of the task links knowledge of the past with hope for the future. Then, in a ritual as old as time, you wait for the miracle to begin. This is the secret of the universe. It is a miracle of infinite power and beauty that has nothing to do with money or progress and everything to do with life. The age of the sower is irrelevant to the garden as long as the knowledge is there. Gardening honours age and experience. It teaches us to respect those who hold the knowledge even when they are no longer able to garden without help. Community gardens offer young people with their enthusiasm the opportunity to learn techniques from the elderly with their knowledge, while honouring the efforts of both. Neither can take credit for the miracle but together they can coax the earth to create new life. Humility and sharing are the beginning of understanding.
The pace of gardening is the pace of life itself. The seasons of gardening are the seasons of life. The stuff of which gardens are made is the stuff of which we are made. The lessons of gardening are that we protect diversity, honour nature, sow with hope and reap with gratitude; that the miracle is not ours to own but nature’s gift to us all; that the knowledge of the elderly has value for us all; that we best serve ourselves when we humbly seek to share with others; that the key to understanding the universe lies buried in the earth waiting for us to plant a seed to set it free. See you next time.