Harvest is one of the most joyful times of the year. Yes, it’s taken a bit of work to get here but if the garden was well planned and Nature cooperated even a little there are delicacies to be had. Today’s walk through the squash was very exciting. The biggest Blue Hubbard’s I’ve ever seen and bright red curry are starting to reveal themselves through receding greenery.
Our heirloom orchard is having a grand year. From slugs and bees to deer and human, everyone is taking a bite of the sweetness of the season. With each day, as another tree’s apples are ready to be picked, another has all but lost its fruit. That is the sad tale of harvest. The trees are like friends. You get to know the order in which they will ripen, you know the years they will rest and you wait eagerly for their return.
One doesn’t need a large garden or an orchard to appreciate harvest. A single tomato plant will do. There is some undeniable kinship we have with the earth and the sustenance that comes from her. And there is an undeniable fulfillment in co-creating with the soil and dancing with the seasons.
Gratitude and celebration come easily at this time. Even when the onion crop is a bit on the weak side, there are friends and neighbors whose onions did well and we can share, barter or buy. We were made for this simplicity however challenging.
The exuberance is not only in the gathering. If all goes well we’ll delight in the abundance of harvest throughout the winter months and it will ready us for spring. Pickles, kraut, apple butter, cider and jellies galore will dress the table. And this, my friend, is the cycle of thankfulness.
Took a drive to Iowa to hike the state parks around the Mississippi. Most of the land is overly manicured with the exception of abundant trees still standing in the parks. Immense mowed lawns and fields of corn leave most of the area treeless. Not understood is the significance of bio diversity, or of how trees clean the air and help prevent flooding. They clearly have forgotten the wisdom of shinrin-yoku – the Japanese word for forest bathing.
Don’t get your knickers in a twist, it doesn’t literally mean bathing. It refers to the process the human senses enjoy when in the company of trees. We shouldn’t require science to tell us we need to spend time soaking up Nature or reveling in a forest – but here we are.
To many of us, trees are a commodity or a nuisance. Even as the earth struggles to breathe, we continue with greed and ignorance to destroy her. It is time to rethink the importance of trees.
I have fond childhood memories of the pine, apple and mulberry trees in our yard before my mother deemed them a problem and had them removed. Or the shock of learning of Chairman Mao’s “First Cutting”, the removal of China’s trees to hasten their industrial age. It took a bit of travel in Guangzhou to get to an island of trees left untouched. I still remember the feeling of ease walking among them.
They say, “You can’t keep a man from making a living”. This is the cry of people who would have us believe the almighty dollar is more important than well-being. It stems from an inherited belief in the right to harm. It is the same shortsightedness of ancient Easter Islanders and the calamity (which included rats) that brought a civilization to its end.
The days keep growing longer. The birds, crickets and frogs break the silence with sweet sounds. The fireflies are back and their magic still enchants. Walking through the forest, the scents are a tonic, each plant offering its own special gift. The soil in the garden is a balm for feet and hands. Senses are heightened and gratitude comes easily.
And I wonder why we ever took ourselves out of the garden.
If you look at your family history you’ll find it’s not been that long that our ancestors coexisted with the earth. It hasn’t been that long since they “made a way out of no way”. There is something so very basic in our relationship to the earth, so very integral. It’s in our blood. We are made of this earth and we return to this earth. It’s natural to appreciate it. It’s natural to learn from it and to celebrate it. What is unnatural is to do it harm. And this we have been doing for some time now.
From industry to industrial ag, from chemical herbicides to chemical fertilizers, this need to make our lives easier has made it a living hell.
I’m always happy to hear of people trying to end the harm. Most recently a Canadian company, McCain Foods, asked their Wisconsin potato growers to adopt regenerative practices by 2030. There are a growing number of voices both consumers and producers ready for change.
And how hard will that change be to make? Loving makes the need for change come more easily. When we fall in love with the earth and all its wonders, when we appreciate the delicacies it offers and delight in our ability to co-create, we will change. Our health and the health of the planet depend on it.
I’m weary of unending wars and war profiteers, of the bleak reality of those who have lost the ability to care and those who care but are trapped into helplessness.
So this is my way out of weariness:
To the Old: do not give up on your hopes for better humankind. Do not give up on your youthful dreams of peace. Do not let inhumanity become normal to you. Do not let your finite nature keep you from cutting a path towards Freedom that others may find shelter long after you are gone. With every breath there is hope. As long as we dream, we can also manifest. Don’t worry that you cannot do what you did before, what you can do now is as great. Hold onto the best of what can be and melt your will into the Greater Will. Then marvel at how magnificently strong you still are and will always be.
And to Youth: keep pushing. But as you push do not make the mistake of following those to your left or to your right. There is only one avenue worthy of your footsteps and that is found within. The significant voice capable of guiding you is also within. It won’t be found in abstract thought. It resides in heartfelt clarity. There you will find your way home. Do not let your impatience turn to cynicism. Life is an ongoing experiment and an experience for the living. Do everything you can to be as fully conscious as you can be. Pundits, who warn of human ignorance and human folly, and are only half right. If you must listen, find those who exalt in the gratitude of being alive. Find those who have not lost their innocence. They are ageless. Their truths are worthy.
If the past few years have shown us anything it’s this: it’s time for us to rediscover the meaning of the Zulu word Ubuntu, “I am because we are.” I say rediscover because I have a firm belief that Ubuntu is rooted in every human being. It’s just that some of us have forgotten.
A society that has lost its ability to care for one another – that holds individual freedom, wealth and ownership as top priority – has lost its way. And while we may be top heavy in wealth we are lopsided in humanity.
A society that does not support the welfare and goodwill of all will fall short of its dreams of equality. A people who refuse to acknowledge the sins of our forbearers and do not act to correct them will remain divided. A house divided will surely fall.
People boast of patriotism. Flags are waved. The Pledge is affirmed. The checklist is checked and then we go on our individual way. But the celebration of individuality is a curse unless it’s rooted in the understanding of oneness.
People demand freedom. We have fought wars with “freedom” being the carrot that drove our youth to their graves – not to mention the blood of countless innocents.
The word freedom should not be used lightly. It demands a reawakening to Ubuntu, and the resurgence of our collective humanity and our strength as individuals.
That reawakening is internal. It cannot be taught; it must be felt. It cannot be found in useless debates of right and wrong. It won’t be felt in the endless game of judgment.
But there it is. Waiting. Tied to our compassion and our empathy. We are worthy of this reawakening and we are capable.
For those not paying attention: The earth is undergoing traumatic change. Debates can rage, but facts are undeniable. We’re having one of our driest years. A few years back the waters raged. These are the fluctuations predicted for us. Our terrain gives way to a downward flow but history has informed us trees and grasses play a significant role in slowing the floodwaters when they do arrive.
Wood is at a premium right now. And taking down mature forests make sense to the pocketbook, but little sense when we consider trees’ advantages.
Trees give us oxygen and improve the air we breathe. They sequester carbon, preserve soil, conserve water and support wildlife. Not to mention the joy of a swing and other childhood memories they provide.
I’m not a gambler, but taking into account climate swings, odds are pretty good that we will have some heavy rains and flooding in the not too distant future. People living in valleys are particularly aware of the dangers of fast moving run-off.
If you’ve driven around lately, you can see that short-term gain is winning and old growth trees are coming down. The mills are loaded and “useless” treetops are an ugly sight on our hillsides. While I understand the need to survive financially, I must wonder why we cannot find better ways.
I know I’ll hear, “I can do what I want with my land.” Unfortunately that is true. No one can make anyone care about consequences to wildlife or to the future of our grandchildren’s children and what they will inherit. But we can try.
Never give up your fighting spirit and learn from others who refuse to conform.
I had an older cousin who spent the last four decades of her life in a wheel chair. In her early twenties she was paralyzed from muscular dystrophy and could barely move her hands or her head. The first time I learned of her, it was because I heard her voice singing in church. It was a strong and clear voice. It embodied love. When I realized the powerful voice I heard had come from her seemingly broken body, I was amazed.
She then became my Sunday school teacher. She was devout to her faith, but what I witnessed in her was an unyielding ability to be true to her self. She didn’t tolerate sympathy, because she did not feel lacking. She was not satisfied with Sunday worship alone; she lived her faith and cared for those less fortunate. Many a Saturday I spent ripping sheets apart and rewrapping them to be sent to lepers’ colonies. Many more were spent volunteering at a local Down’s syndrome home – under her supervision. Simply put, she was a powerhouse.
Her fighting spirit helped keep my own alive. I know her unwavering determination to love caused many to keep her a bit at bay. They respected her, but few could keep up with her. They wanted her to conform to their understanding of what her seeming illness could and should do. But she was defiant, and her resistance to become what others expected of her was a great teacher to me.
We never walk alone. Take courage from those who give it so freely. Let the love and compassion that pulses through us be the victor. Hold onto your fighting spirit. Resist normality. It was never meant for you.
As the gardens wane and cooler mornings greet us, the revolution of time presses on. The afternoon light is more vivid and it seems a shame to not sit a while and take it in. This time is made for memories. The hopefulness of spring and the vigor of summer can still be felt, but the coming of autumn holds the reckoning of all that has gone before.
It’s a time of remembrance. Memories of loved ones who have walked on and of those too distant to hold close. It’s a time to reminisce and count the Goodness that has played a part in shaping our becoming. Bringing in the harvest and celebrating abundance is a universally shared experience. And in doing so the spirit of community becomes its own blessing. We are preparing for winter and the longest, darkest nights and this cycle of life and of this season of closure is rich with the preciousness of being alive.
In the course of it, I’m overcome with gratitude and I realize once again that gratitude is the core of who I am, of who we are. And I wonder as I walk over the leaves that are starting to fall, “Is it really that simple?” That to know myself is to be grateful for my life and everything that touches it…and the answer wells up inside of me, “Yes. It is that simple.”
It has been well over three years now that WDRT Community Radio has allowed me to bring you my thoughts on the power of humanity and the choices we face to remain human. For that opportunity I am grateful. Community is alive and well here and it takes all of us to keep it flourishing. Thanks to all who keep it going.
There are a lot of people expressing anguish and anger these days and a lot of people riding waves of blind trust.
For those just getting around to anguish and anger, good for you. Now the choice before you is to bury your head once more or to find a way out of the turmoil. Anguish and anger are the first steps in coming to terms with the realities that we have accepted. It’s a reckoning of the choices made for us long ago. The most obvious is the disregard of our relationship to the Earth, our dependence on fossil fuels and all the wars and destruction that have gone along with it.
Another high on the list of accepted follies is patriarchy. If you’re still waffling about that one, check in with the women of Afghanistan or for that matter take a look at fundamentalists of any faith and how women are regarded.
Women and the Earth have taken a beating over these past hundreds of years as dominant thinking has driven humanity back to the dark ages. Anger and anguish makes sense; but only if they fuel a revival of love and appreciation for life. That could be our way out.
To those of you bent on following blind faith to hell or to heaven: sober up. Jesus didn’t die to set you free of responsibility while you’re here. Your prayers and good wishes need to be accompanied by action. It might be time to take a page out of his notebook and overthrow the temples and challenge the money hoarders. It might be time to take off the yoke and stand in righteousness, not just talk about it.
This is the time for courage and love. Bring on the best of humanity.
In a year when the late spring frost crushed the apple blossoms and willful and cunning raccoons killed two broods of chicks, an abundance of oyster mushrooms is a welcomed gift.
There on the dead tree the golden yellow glow of mushrooms keeps calling and offering up delicious treats. As in the immortal words of the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want but if you try sometimes, you might find… you get what you need.”
Living on the land you learn to be accepting. A friend suggested it is stoic, but that word suggests indifference to pleasure or pain and that is not the pill I care to swallow. I never want to stop feeling the magnificent range of emotions granted us. But I do welcome the ability to surf the peace that lives beneath the tides of my emotions.
And then there are the golden oyster mushrooms. Succulent and almost sweet, they combine beautifully with nearly every meal. Like finding the first eggs of the season, or pulling up garlic or digging potatoes, there’s a familiarity and an excitement that can’t be denied.
Those golden mushrooms signal a reminder that not all is lost, that among the dead and dying there is life and goodness. And when you ride the wave of acceptance and open your eyes so very much is given.
We live in a desperate time. We are ushered away from our inner solitude and are urged to chase illusive dreams of success. We’ve forgotten that being alive is the success. We’ve forgotten the earth is our garden of plenty.
We have so much to remember…
Fortunately there are oyster mushrooms for those who have the eyes to see.