Friday, August 21, 2009

Earthy ponderations: part one

This is the first post in a series of three in which I take excerpts from the chapter in our book, a chapter titled Grounded, where my mother and I hold forth about gardening, vacationing, and being stuck at home. I share this with you now because I know I'm not the only one struggling, trying to keep my head above water as I swim through August's harvest days.

Now, go grab a glass of ice water, sit down, put your feet up, and breath deep. Enjoy this little reading break for all it's worth.


Me: “I think this chapter on gardening is more a chapter on sustainability,” I said to mom on the phone the other day. “Gardening in itself is kind of a dead end street, don’t you think? Aren’t we wanting the bigger picture?”

“Umm,” I had to wait while she took a big swig of coffee and cleared her throat, ridding it of the sticky particles of her last bite of earthquake cake, her traditional afternoon (and sometimes morning) mood elevator.

“Sustainability? What’s that supposed to mean?”

“A way of living your life so that you don’t get worn out, so the earth doesn’t get worn out. You know, having a rhythm.”

“Sustainability? Is that the word you want? It sounds too much like ‘subsistence’. Subsistence farming. People living hand to mouth, scratch-dirt poor.”

“No no no! With sustainability you’re concerned about maintaining a balance, being both a giver and a taker. If you’re talking about farming, that means crop rotation, composting, using ground cover and green manure. The farmer is regenerating, too, not just consuming. But it’s much bigger than that. It’s about being intentional with how we live our lives, being life-giving instead of destructive. Keeping ourselves in balance with the people around us and with the earth.”

“Oh.” More throat clearing, louder this time. “So you mean balance.”

“Yes, that’s it exactly. People are famous for their passing interests. I see the concern for a productive and slower, less-money-oriented life among the young, but then it disappears. You know when Barbara, one of the middle-aged women from our church, heard that I made my own bread she said, ‘Oh yes, I used to do that too when I was your age.’ It made me so mad! Like making my own bread is some impractical little whimsy!"

I barreled on. “Do what you want, when you want, and it’s cool. But if you dare to claim a lifestyle choice, people make fun of you because then all your inconsistencies show through. But at least I’m trying. That’s the problem with everyone. They do something counter-cultural on a whim and then when maintaining those choices starts to require a sacrifice, they give up. Poof. It all dissolves and they go the easy route. I think we should operate the other way around. Choose what matters, the non-negotiable values, and then live our lives in support of them.”

“Well, I still think a chapter on gardening is important.”

“Sure it’s important. Our food supply is our most obvious connection to nature. It provides a kind of balance. It slows you down. It keeps your lifestyle from spiraling out of control.”

“Yeah, right!” Mom squawked. “Summertime is super crazy, busy beyond belief! It is out-of-control, all the work that has to get done.”

“Okay, right, so it is frantically busy, but there’s a sane pattern to it. And it keeps you home. Stuck. Grounded.”


  1. what is sane about being stuck at home?

  2. my impression is that it is the rich and famous (not ordinary people) who are concerned with staying grounded

  3. I like being stuck, grounded, out-of-control busy. But not because it appeals to my flesh. It doesn't.

    Those who are not 'stuck' at home, but are busy flitting around looking for vacation and pleasure and peace, can't find it, they are always searching. The rich and the famous are living proof to us all that one cannot find saneness in things. They who have found and gotten it all; money, fame, beauty, family, options; they are still lonely and empty, with a heightened sense of needing a non-negotiable reason for life.
    Because until you come to a point where you understand that: A. you are forgiven and B. you are loved with an everlasting love; all pursuits, whether they be for money and fame or home-canned tomatoes and apple snitz will be empty.
    The sum total must be Jesus.


  4. So I guess life is pretty much empty for the Muslims and Buddhists and the Jewish too.

    I think, S, you can see the problem with your statement. It just isn't true. And I know plenty of people who know Jesus and who are not at peace.

  5. Dr. P

    Sorry, I did not mean to imply that one, anyone, cannot find satisfaction in tasks whether they be mundane tasks like cleaning the commode or more lofty tasks like performing a Vivaldi opera or humanistic tasks like feeding the hungry.

    But as many have discovered, there is a big difference between satisfaction and fulfillment.

    It seems best to me not to draw this out too much since is has been quite awhile since the post and consequently you likely won't be seeing this anyway, so in closing I will say this:

    I know there are many who 'know' Jesus and are not satified, fulfilled, healed. But that is not because of a shortcoming of His.

    One day, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, both those who believe and those who don't. And many shall come from the east and the west, but not all shall have a wedding garment...


  6. It is interesting that some see baking bread or gardening or composting or recycling and similar pursuits as a fad or something you do at one time in your life and then grow up or out of. That has not been true in my life. I was lucky enough to have apartment managers when I was 22 who taught me about recycling, including separating by type into different bins...and provided bins for all the tenants...and that was over 30 years ago. Now it is easy to recycle and no one thinks much of it, but I still do it with pleasure...adding to the balance as you described it. Sounds like you understand the difference and have and will find true contentment. Hope you finish the book! XOXO Elle