Getting Grounded

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N_Leah

A new friend walked with me through our garden. She pointed at the white cloth draped over a row of growing carrots.

“What’s that white cloth for?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I replied.

She looked at the garlic bed and remarked on how many green shoots there seemed to be.

“How many varieties are you growing?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I replied.

She pointed at a moth fluttering over the cauliflower.

“Is that a good moth or a bad moth?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I replied.

And then I crumpled to the ground.

“I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know,” I wailed, clutching my head with both hands and swaying dramatically on my knees. There might have been screechy violin music in the background. The sky might have turned black and the clouds rained blood.

And then I woke up.

Not having a Jungian dream interpretation manual at the ready I had to go with the obvious when reflecting on this nightmare: namely, there’s a lot I don’t know about our garden. There’s also a lot I don’t do.

I used to know something. I used to grow vegetables — years ago when we owned our own home and I had my own backyard. We grew lettuce and zucchini and peas in four raised beds we built ourselves. Then, out of a devotion to our calling to steward God’s creation, my family moved to A Rocha’s environmental centre and a real farmer and his interns were assigned the food growing duties. When A Rocha moved its operations down the road, we bought that first centre with a group of friends. The newly dubbed Kingfisher Farm came with a farmer who carried on tending the vegetables, while new interns came to weed and harvest.

Some days I have felt like a plantation owner. Sitting in my second floor suite, typing away on my latest talk on environmental stewardship, I have a view of the gardens and fields, full of animals and field hands. I am above and beyond the sweat and grime of it all. While I don’t have a sad indentured servant fanning me while I sip my iced tea, my table is laden with a bounty I didn’t actually grown.

My nightmare opened me to the possibility of getting my hands dirty again, breaking a sweat, growing some food. Such acts not only have the power to create empathy and solidarity with those on the bottom rungs of the agribusiness ladder; they also have the power to ground me, literally, in and on the earth as I become aware of the cycles of seasons and weather; as I slow down and give thanks for the gifts of rain and sun and good soil; as I acknowledge the generous hand who provides it all. As I find my footing once again on the earth, my other more public and educational work of earth keeping is given credence.

If done intentionally, gardening can become an experiential bridge not only between us and the Creator, but also between those for whom growing food is a romantic hobby and those for whom it is a grinding way of life. Sore muscles and callused hands can prompt us to pray for and remember our less fortunate brothers and sisters. By planting a garden we proclaim that we are part of a bigger human community – a bigger body – as we give honour to those who appear least.

So I started gardening again. I became one of Farmer Paul or Angela’s farmhands one morning each week through the spring and summer. I’m putting my muscles were my mouth is, as it were, and am living out my devotion to the Creator by caring for creation with my heart and my hands.

__________________

Image credit: hardworkinghippy

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Leah Kostamo
Leah Kostamo is the author of Planted: a Story of Creation, Calling and Community, a book Eugene H. Peterson called “remarkable” and Margaret Atwood called “clear-sighted and humorous.” She likes to read (and write) wise and winsome stories that inspire people to be the change they want to see in the world. She can be found online leahkostamo.com and @leahkostamo. She ministers with the Christian conservation organization, A Rocha.
Leah Kostamo
Leah Kostamo
Leah Kostamo

Latest posts by Leah Kostamo (see all)

  • I love what you say about gardening being a bridge between those that do it as a romantic hobby and those that do it to survive. Such great insights here.

    • Yes! As someone who falls into the romantic gardening side, I agree! How can I be more intentional with the food I grow, even though I don’t need to grow it to survive?

    • Leah Kostamo

      Thanks, Michaela!

    • ME TOO! I love that observation. 🙂

  • There is so much I love and connect with about this post! I have been practicing the art of saying “I don’t know” lately. It’s not easy (I love knowing) and I’ve been trying to rest in and learn from those who do know. And, as a small family gardener, I’m learning that it’s ok to plunge in, even when I don’t know. We plant, we harvest, but there’s so much we could do better. I’m learning to enjoy our garden – flaws and all.

    • Leah Kostamo

      Thanks, Annie (love your name by the way — all the women in my family have Ann(ie) in their names somehow)! Yes, you can never learn enough, best to just plunge in!

  • Your honesty is so refreshing, Leah. It’s one of my favourite things about your writing. Along with your heart and your self-deprecating humour, of course. 🙂 Even as you are in the trenches, working out what this earthcaring way of life looks like, you are honest about your humanity. Thank you for that.

    I just cleared out most of our little garden bed this week. We’re still hopeful the green peppers will round out a bit more, but I’m not too sure with all this rain. I am so new at all this, but what a joy this small garden was for our family and the kids on our street this year. I loved how the boys and girls gathered around that box in the daytime, discussing how the carrots were coming along or whether the onions would make it. (They didn’t.) Just last night, I cut up the very last of our cucumbers! Amazing.

    Although our muscles didn’t really get sore–our garden is too small–there was solidarity in the growing and the eating. I love what you say here: “Sore muscles and callused hands can prompt us to pray for and remember our less fortunate brothers and sisters. By planting a garden we proclaim that we are part of a bigger human community – a bigger body – as we give honour to those who appear least.”

    Yes, THIS.

    Thank you for this very hands on reminder.

    • Leah Kostamo

      Thank you, dear Idelette! And, whaaat??, you still have cucumbers? You must have an awfully green thumb for a beginner. 🙂

  • – “There might have been screechy violin music in the background. The sky might have turned black and the clouds rained blood.” <— You HAD me at "the clouds rained blood!" 🙂

    – "While I don’t have a sad indentured servant fanning me while I sip my iced tea, my table is laden with a bounty I didn’t actually grow."<— Hilarious phrasing. You are a wonderful writer. So much to consider here!

    – "My nightmare opened me to the possibility of getting my hands dirty again, breaking a sweat ________ Such acts not only have the power to create empathy and solidarity with those on the bottom rungs of the __________ ladder; they also have the power to ground me, literally, in and on the earth as I become aware of the cycles of seasons and weather; as I slow down and give thanks for the gifts of __________ and ___________; as I acknowledge the generous hand who provides it all."// I live in an apartment so I don't have any soil to have my way with except for the mini-roses I bought from SAFEWAY last week. But I have been thinking about the value of breaking into a sweat as an act of worship lately. There is something about scrubbing a bathtub on your hands and knees that help me feel grounded lately. I find that if I can find a way to be mindful through the many mundane acts that fill my day, I embody and ooze praise for the Creator.

    Love your candid and powerful thoughts here, Leah.

    Hope our paths cross soon!

    xoxo

    • Leah Kostamo

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment, Tina — you certainly have a writer’s eye! Yes, indeed, there’s something about breaking a sweat that “incarnates” our beliefs and transforms mere thoughts into worship. I hope our paths cross soon too! xox