lessons learned: tomato cages and friendship

The past couple of months, I have experienced the unconditional care and support of friends.  Sometimes, if you are lucky, you find people who take you as you are. I consider it “grace” when they experience it all, love on you, and accept you in all your brokenness anyway.

I am reminded of this meditation from 3 summers ago and wanted to repost it as an expression of gratitude.  ~cameron

Last night, a handful of us headed over to the community garden at our church. You see, our woman’s group decided to become the seed planters, literally and figuratively speaking, for a new ministry with and in the community.  It is a “baby step” project with commitment, faith, and dreams that will carry it beyond this first year of poor soil, weeds and groundhogs.

My goal last night was to create chicken wire cages to prop up the tomato plants heavy with fruit.  You see, we’ve had rain the last few days, and if you know anything about tomatoes, all that water creates food filled with juice.  Between Saturday and yesterday, the plants appeared to be heavy in mind, body and spirit calling out to me, “Help!”tomatoes SUMC

I was the first to arrive and began working on the project on my own, and not so effectively I might add.  If you’ve never unrolled chicken wire, it can be a doozie to keep straight without the help of another person.  That statement doesn’t even capture what it’s like to cut it in pieces.  They snap off, flying every whicha way so that my legs this morning look as if our cat used my body for her scratching post.

After a bit, however, a friend arrived.  Yay!  In no time, we were working together to unroll, cut, and place the cages then tie up the tomatoes with twine.  With the help of two other women and two budding little farmer girls, we steadied 32 plants by the end of the evening.

Before we left, I stood at the edge of the garden.  I thought about those tomato cages and how they are like friendship.

Sometimes, life showers us with situations that leave us heavy in mind, body and spirit.  We become droopy and fatigued, wondering if we can bear the weight of it all.  Then come our friends.  They can’t take away the burden, but they gather around us and prop us up–through kind words, gentle hugs, quiet reassurance, and mindful prayer, helping us to grow and blossom and lighten our load.

lessons learned: what birds can teach us about community

Yesterday, we had a brilliant snow here–I have been waiting and praying for it for some time.  On snow days, one of my favorite activities includes sitting by the kitchen back door or quietly out on the deck and watch the birds feed.  Continuing with the bird theme of this week, I thought I would repost this one. ~cameron

If your support the community, they will support you.   ~Jerry Greenfield, Co-founder of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream

Every morning around 7:30, the birds begin their early morning feeding.  Brightly colored gold finches and blue birds offset the black and white masks of the chickadees and nuthatches.  Regal red male cardinals survey the scene before calling their mates to join the feeding.  Jays, nuthatches, titmice, wrens, and woodpeckers round out the group creating a diverse community of feathered friends right outside my back door.

feb15.nuthatch at green feeder

When I have time, I grab my cup of tea and pull my little red stool up to the window to watch the birds swarm the feeders hanging in the trees.  Even typical ground feeding species wait patiently for a turn to nibble on sunflower, suet, and seed.  I observe the intricate dance of mealtime in my backyard.  I am amazed to see how the birds make a place for each neighbor—everyone has an opportunity to eat, and everyone has a chance to visit. No one, regardless of size or shape, is left out of the meal.  Chirping and singing fill the fairy tale forest scene that is my backyard.  This amazing dance of give and take makes it seem as if this community has its own choreographer arranging every move.  I don’t want it to end.

feb15.doves standing

Within 20 minutes, however, the birds usually start drifting away and leave me sitting at the window, drinking my tea, and wondering about “community.”  Here in this small ecosystem I call growing grace farm, a group of very diverse species come together three times a day and partake of a very important ritual—feeding.  Yet, in spite of the desire to meet their own individual needs, they engage in this dance of interdependence, coming and going, waiting and feeding, sharing and visiting.

I wonder—how can I do that in my own “backyard?”  What are some of the “ecosystems” which form my community—family, my daughter’s school/friends, church, work, neighborhoods.  Who am I in this community dance—an educator, a mother, a friend, a daughter.  What is my role in the “dance” of my community that will lend itself to appreciating diversity while honoring individuality, to wait my turn and share what I have, to support and to be supported?

As we move forward in our day-to-day lives, let us not forget that we are a part of a very intricate system of relationships.  Our lives, our priorities, and our concerns not only impact the decisions we make but also touch the lives of those around us.  As we work to build community in our backyards, may we engage compassionately and peacefully in the interdependent nature of our community so that all those within it are supported.

feb15.chickadee profile on feeder

lessons learned: prayer peas and thoughts on love

I wrote this one a few years ago and return to it often. ~Cameron

Many things grow in the garden that were never sown there.  ~Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732

Every year, I pick a new vegetable or fruit and attempt to grow it from seed to plant to food.  In spite of some great big failures (there’s just no way I’m going to get melons to grow in this yard), more often than not, I can delight in small successes like I did two summers ago when I grew black eyed peas.

I spent an April weekend constructing an “S” shape structure with leftover dog fencing and salvaged bamboo.   My space was so limited that I knew my harvest would be modest, but I loved my artistic trellis and proceeded to plant seeds on both sides. black eyed peas trellis

As those seeds turned into vines and climbed midway up their metal ladders, I planted another set of seeds to follow right along behind.  Tendrils matured into long green strands grasping at every opportunity to hold on and lift those long black eyed pea pods off the ground.

When the first pods had dried on the vine, I snapped a few photos, posted on Facebook, then took them inside to shell into my Mason jar.  Upon seeing the photos, one of my friends commented how she loved black eyed peas.  This same dear friend had also recently lost a loved one and was grieving, tired, and lonely.

After shelling my first handful of peas, I looked at my Mason jar.  I knew that over the course of the summer that I’d probably not even collect enough to fill most of that jar.  I had done what I set out to do–see if I could grow them.  Now, it was time to share them with someone who would appreciate the gift of homegrown goodness.

Every day I brought those pods inside, I’d crack the dried outer shells open and think about my friend.  Each little pea that clinked into the jar became an opportunity to pray for her or send positive thoughts her way.  After I’d finished the task, I’d put that jar back up in my cabinet and wait patiently for the next harvest.  Day by day, many prayers were lifted up and many thoughts were passed along.  I smiled thinking of our friendship and cried reflecting on her loss.

By mid autumn, I gathered the last of the peas.  As the final one dropped into the jar, I thought about how far my friend had come since I began harvesting those prayer peas.  With the holidays nearing, however, I knew that this year of “firsts” would be overwhelming.  I took those prayer peas and shared them with her.  I wanted her to know that I couldn’t take away her grief, but that I had loved her enough to keep her in my thoughts and prayers while giving her the time she wanted to mourn and heal.

What I cherish about gardening and homesteading is the opportunity it affords me to share my love for others by preparing healthy food and preserving family traditions.   It is more than just a gift; it is my way of honoring how much I value the person by giving them a piece of my garden, a piece of Creation, a piece of myself.

prayers and blessings of remembrance for this day

I have spent some time this morning meditating on prayers that have been written over the years with regard to 9/11.  I am so grateful to have found one website in particular that memorialized the 10th anniversary with a page of prayers and blessings from many faith and secular traditions.

I am including a few here that in particular touched my spirit.  My own personal prayer expressed hope and tenderness and longing and forgiveness.  May you too find your own words to remember the impact this day has made on the lives and spirits of many.

A Jewish Prayer by Rabbi David Wolpe

Dear God, how do we pray for what was lost? We cannot pray for deliverance or a miracle, for the tragedy has already burned itself into our souls. Children have grown fatherless. Families are long since bereaved. We know there is no prayer to change the past. So we pray to live with memory, with constant love, with the promise both to combat evil and to cherish goodness. Do not let our pain cloud our hopes or crush our hearts. Help us grow through this tragedy, keep faith with its victims, and sustain our trust in You.

A Christian Prayer by Rev. Dr. Jacqueline Lewis

Loving God of Peace: On this anniversary of unbelievable sorrow, comfort those who mourn, and guide our hearts toward healing and hope. Remind us of the love of Christ, love which leapt over cultural and ethnic boundaries to feed the hungry, seek the lost and care for the least. Make of Your children, no matter how we name You, one human family, bound together in the work of justice and peacemaking. Make us one with the Light that shines in the darkness and illumines a path toward understanding and reconciliation. Let love be our genuine call. Amen.

A Buddhist Reflection by Sharon Salzberg

Willa, my godchild, was three, and lived 2 blocks away from the WTC on Sept 11, 2001. She was 7 years old at the time of the London metro bombing. On being told about the London terrorism, her eyes filled with tears and she said, “Mom, we should say a prayer.” Willa begin with, “May the bad people remember the love in their hearts.” I think of Willa and her prayer — when I have been hurt or harmed, when I myself make a mistake, when I feel the need to try to start over, however difficult that may feel. Whatever has happened or is happening in our lives, may we all remember the love in our hearts. Lovingkindness meditation You can sit comfortably, or lie down if that seems preferable. Close your eyes, or leave them slightly open. This practice is done through the silent repetition of certain phrases. You need not try to force an emotion or a certain sentiment. The power of the practice comes from gathering all our attention around one phrase at a time. If your attention slips, gently let go of the distraction, and simply begin again repeating the phrases. Remember to repeat them with enough space and enough silence that the rhythm is pleasing to you. This is the song of your heart. We begin with directing the phrases towards ourselves, as though offering ourselves a gift. You can experiment with the wording, but it can be as simple as, “May I remember, and abide in the love in my heart.” After a few minutes think of someone who has helped you — a benefactor or a friend. You can repeat the same phrase as an offering to them, “May you remember, and abide in the love in your heart.” When you feel ready, move on to someone you hardly know, a near stranger. Perhaps the checkout person at the grocery store you shop at, or a friend of a friend of a friend. “May you remember, and abide in the love in your heart.” Then someone you are annoyed at, or have some difficulty with. “May you remember, and abide in the love in your heart.” And finally, an immense expanse of lovingkindness. “May all beings remember, and abide in the love in our hearts.” When you are ready, you can end the meditation, and see if you can bring some of this consciousness into your day.

A Sikh Prayer by Dr. Satpal Singh

The One Universal Creator of all, our Divine Mother and Father In Your blessings we find true and lasting comfort and peace Grant healing and solace to our wounded hearts Grant us strength to bear the loss of loved ones and to live in Your Will Grant us resilience in the face of hate, and the courage to face it with dignity May we all unite and share one another’s pain and tears May the hatred in the world melt away in Your boundless and everlasting love And living in Your Will, may all find peace, harmony and serenity.

A Pagan Blessing by Grove Harris

By the Earth that is Her body By the Air that is Her breath By the Fire of Her bright spirit By the Waters of her living womb Let the Peace of the Goddess grow in our hearts. Peace as we honor our dead with undying memory. Peace as the tears of grief are shed. Peace as we remember the world sharing our pain. Peace as the flood waters are receding. Peace as we understand that we are all mostly water. Literally. Let the waters of compassion flow. Let the healing continue. We are whole. Blessed be.