I've got a garden again! Growing my own food. Ahh, happiness. One of my favourite measures of wealth is how many species are in my salad and how freshly I harvested them. And it's inspiring some very DIRTY new poetry...
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I've been co-editing the New Zealand biodynamic farming and gardening magazine, Harvests, for the last few years. Though I'm relatively new to biodynamics, I'm enjoying this gig, in large part because the people who read the magazine are possibly as nuts as me. (Um, if any of the readers stumble across this post, you can take that as a compliment.) This freedom of speaking to kindred souls allows my poetic sense to find its way into prose.
Here's an excerpt from a recent editorial I really loved writing, inspired by my deepening relationship with the garden outside my front door...
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Okay, confession time. For the last few years, I’ve been spending a lot of time at work promoting organic (and now biodynamic) production all over New Zealand – while having almost no garden of my very own. A few lettuces here, a few garlics there, one lonely cucumber plant last summer behind my town apartment. Not out of lack of desire, just a result of my particular living circumstances.
The amazing thing, though, is what it’s therefore meant to finally come back into nourishing and being nourished by the land.
I’ve moved to a patch of abundantly fertile and well cared for earth, and coming into my first warm growing season now, I find myself bursting with glee at the miracles of gardening. I don’t mean the finer points of biodynamics; I’m just blown away that seeds want to rise up out of this rich earth, to the spring symphony of rain and sun, and burst into flowers and food. It’s not like how food grows is new news to me! Ah but it is new. Every moment is new. Every new two leaves poking out of the soil where I put a seed last week arrive into my consciousness as a messenger singing about the miracles of the universe. Rain is not an inconvenience but a blessing from the heavens. My consciousness of this world, and my place in it, changes when I am intimately engaged with the source of my sustenance.
Over the last few years I’ve been introduced, by some wise teachers, into practices for contacting the spirits of plants. Suddenly things I’d do in my last garden years ago feel untenable. To rip off celery stalks without asking and thanking the plant and soil feels quite rude. To uproot a lettuce feels like something I should at least do with kindness.
I’m not seriously losing sleep over whether I hurt my celery’s feelings; it’s more that my garden is re-minding me how connected my being is to all other beings. As I engage with the sentience around me, I notice how rushed utilitarian ways of doing things can lead me to treat the world as a collection of inert objects. This same mindset is wrecking much of our planet’s ecosystems right now. I’m not a perfect eco-saint, but I’m at least striking up a dialogue with my pumpkin plants. Making peace where I stand. This feels like a foundation for a life of greater integrity.
I’ve been wondering what consciousness of interconnectedness is lost when people stop growing their own food. In my super-sized birthland across the Pacific, there are more people playing Farmville on the computer than there are farmers. When we are cut off from the source of our sustenance, what happens to our understanding of our place on Earth, and how does this affect the other actions in our lives? To those of you helping people learn to grow their food naturally: this is noble work – and it is, inherently, political, in that it has the power to change our orientation to the world around us.