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Enriching the Earth

I spent a few days with my brother on his farm. He is in a space where satellites and towers seem to miss his place. It was nice to chat, reminisce, and laugh. I was not dressed for the farm, but still helped as best as I could. My brother pointed out several times I was setting a new fashion standard with shorts and sandals. I was careful where I walked.

I introduced Wendell Berry’s writing to my brother. Although he is more high-tech, there are qualities about my brother that remind me of Wendell Berry. They are both relatively low tech and understand the need placed on them when they use technology i.e. a car and airplane to do their work and live their life.

Farmers experience the reality of shipping animals. My brother uses Temple Grandin‘s ideas about humane treatment of animals. Good farmers know they put into and take out of the world. In some ways, we have lost sight of the cycle that we are part of in the world. We are spectators and it is easy to criticize. The cycle of life and death is entangled.

When farmers harvest, they return the parts of the plants, the weeds, and the waste into the ecosystem enriching the Earth. Human treatment of the Earth reflects the character of a person. Humaneness extended to Earth, all sentient beings, and inanimate phenomena is an imperative in enriching the Earth.

To enrich the earth I have sowed clover and grass
to grow and die. I have plowed in the seeds
of winter grains and of various legumes,
their growth to be plowed in to enrich the earth.
I have stirred into the ground the offal
and the decay of the growth of past seasons
and so mended the earth and made its yield increase.
All this serves the dark. I am slowly falling
into the fund of things. And yet to serve the earth,
not knowing what I serve, gives a wideness
and a delight to the air, and my days
do not wholly pass. It is the mind’s service,
for when the will fails so do the hands
and one lives at the expense of life.
After death, willing or not, the body serves,
entering the earth. And so what was heaviest
and most mute is at last raised up into song.

 

Daily Reflection and Peace

Daily Reflection and Peace.

We face an important challenge with mindful practice. The article linked above addresses this challenge with questions. Questions are fundamental to being challenged. When I am challenged, I ask questions. I question what is happening and what is making me feel a particular way.

When I read many articles about mindfulness, I find the articles miss the key underlying aspect of mindfulness, being present in the world in ways that improve one’s life and in that improvement the world is continuously becoming a better place. It is not about a corporate bottom line in the way we understand a corporate bottom line. I guess the bottom line is harder to measure. I cann0t apply a number to it, report it to shareholders, and make a banker satisfied. What I can do is ask, “Did I make the world a better place in some way by becoming a better person?”

Can you imagine if 7 billion plus people worked on making the world a better place through their living? That might be a number that is unmeasurable, but that is OK. It would be so big it would not need to be reported. Its quality would speak for itself.

Voice of The Inanimate

Voice of The Inanimate.

Last night, I pressed Our Grandmother from Eddie Two Hawks. In my comments, I mentioned Wendell Berry and the way I understand place in his writing. Wendell Berry’s work is used by the deep ecology movement which in many ways is not a movement. It is a way of life. For years, I critiqued the environmental movement as a corporate movement with many of the same characteristics of the business they criticized. Wendell Berry, similar to all good farmers, values the land. He speaks about as if it were living. It is not separate from us, but a part of us. When I think about this, it makes local and community environmental work incredibly important. It decries the corporate pillaging that goes on both sides of the equation.

Wendell Berry speaks of the land as a living and animate thing. This makes sense. The plants we grow happen in the healthy, which comes from the same root as whole, ecosystem. When we see ourselves embedded in this ecosystem and not overloads, it changes our relationship with nature. Alex commented the word nature comes from a word meaning birth. When certain parts of the ecosystem are damaged made, unwhole and unhealthy, the birth itself cannot be healthy.

Each contribution we make adds something to the world we live in. It is when we see ourselves as part of the world and nature that we make the greatest contributions to community. We are stewards, serving the world in loving ways. This is another analogy for the thinking of the world as grandmother. We treat our grandmothers with love.

Our Grandmother

Our Grandmother.

This is a wonderful quote. When we think of our grandmothers, we think of someone we want to treat with respect, dignity, and integrity for their wisdom. Mother Earth is the same. She possesses so much wisdom that when we are open and see ourselves as being one with the world we receive that wisdom.

Today, Kathy and I talked about place the Wendell Berry speaks about it. When we feel we live in a place, it means something profound to us. We think of those places not as out there, but very much in us and us in that place. We find community in those places because we have much in common with the others who live, animate and inanimate.

Walking Meditation

We attended a wedding yesterday and it was late when I got home. I prepared this post in advance and took a few minutes today to post it. After this, I begin or re-begin sabbath, which was largely a Saturday and Sunday event this week.

When the boys were young, we would get up on weekends and go for a walk. The boys wanted to hold our hands. One son always checked my hands out. He often started with my left hand and I felt his fingers checking my palm. Not finding what he wanted he moved to the right side and completed the search. My right hand is scarred from various events and scar tissue built up leaving a bump. As we walked, our son would hold that hand and now and again rubbed the scar and bump. I don’t know if it was that reassured him, he was reassuring me, a combination of those things, or none of the above. In those moments, it was easy to sense being, linked together and holding hands.

In today’s world, we hurry to get somewhere. It is not clear where somewhere is and we are victims to trying to get out of this moment. Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us we should walk peacefully, not thinking of arriving anywhere but here. When we do this, we walk in peace and walking is peace. In holding hands, we touch each moment and kiss Earth with our feet. We feel Earth through and in our feet, its scars and make it safer for us and Earth.

We see commercials with people holding hands singing about making the world a better place. In hand-holding, we are linked physically and united. It is not an abstraction as we feel other people and Earth in linking and walking.

Take my hand.
We will walk.
We will only walk.
We will enjoy our walk
without thinking of arriving anywhere.
Walk peacefully.
Walk happily.
Our walk is a peace walk.
Our walk is a happiness walk.

Then we learn
that there is no peace walk;
that peace is the walk;
that there is no happiness walk;
that happiness is the walk.
We walk for ourselves.
We walk for everyone
always hand in hand.

Walk and touch peace every moment.
Walk and touch happiness every moment.
Each step brings a fresh breeze.
Each step makes a flower bloom under our feet.
Kiss the Earth with your feet.
Print on Earth your love and happiness.

Earth will be safe
when we feel in us enough safety.

When I Am Wise

I am not sure which Mary Gray wrote this poem. I found it, enjoyed it, and wanted to share it with others.

The poem has a Mary Oliver quality to it. Something speaks to us when we give it time and space. When we listen carefully, the wind blows through the grass giving its a voice we hear when we slow down resting our head on the ground. Humbling ourselves, we are closer to the voices of small things, the dankness of humus (the root word for human and humility), and the friendliness of weeds in our life.

As children, we often forgot our names losing ourselves in precious moments in a world larger than we were. It enveloped us and everything it revealed was wondrous. We recall running with outreached hands into the world, its silence, its disarray, and the inviting of small things in the grass which were more at our level. I remember the ladybugs, spiders, ants, etc. which were smaller than I was, entranced by them and by all that was immense. It was in those moments I was wise as I listened in ways that sometimes escape me as an adult.

When I am wise in the speech of the grass,
I forget the sound of words
and walk into the bottomland
and lie with my head on the ground
and listen to what grass tells me
and small places for wind to sing,
about the labor of insects,
about shadows dank with spice,
and the friendliness of weeds.

When I am wise in the dance of grass,
I forget my name and run
into the rippling bottomland
and lean against the silence which flows
out of the crumpled mountains
and rises through slick blades, pods,
wheat stems, and curly shoots,
and is carried by wind for miles
from my outstretched hands.

Axe Handles

I mentioned in The Wild Rose I am reading Gary Snyder and Wendell Berry. I read this poem several times over the last few months trying to make sense of it. At first, I thought it was a personal and it begins that way. Gary Snyder describes his work teaching his son to throw an axe and shaping the axe handle to fit the work.

As I reflected on the poem, I realized it is about important traditions passed from parents to children. We hone and polish what we wish to retain forming the axe handle. It is a handle for us and our children which provides security as we polish and remove the unwanted.

Most of the time, we are unaware of the work we do without taking time and reflecting. In those moments, we realize what changes, what remains, and what is added knowing each generation makes its own adjustments.

To do it well, we mindfully and attentively approach the work remaining fully present.

One afternoon the last week in April
Showing Kai how to throw a hatchet
One-half turn and it sticks in a stump.
He recalls the hatchet-head
Without a handle, in the shop
And go gets it, and wants it for his own.
A broken-off axe handle behind the door
Is long enough for a hatchet,
We cut it to length and take it
With the hatchet head
And working hatchet, to the wood block.
There I begin to shape the old handle
With the hatchet, and the phrase
First learned from Ezra Pound
Rings in my ears!
“When making an axe handle
the pattern is not far off.”
And I say this to Kai
“Look: We’ll shape the handle
By checking the handle
Of the axe we cut with-“
And he sees. And I hear it again:
It’s in Lu Ji’s Wen Fu, fourth century
A.D. “Essay on Literature”-in the
Preface: “In making the handle Of an axe
By cutting wood with an axe
The model is indeed near at hand.-
My teacher Shih-hsiang Chen
Translated that and taught it years ago
And I see: Pound was an axe,
Chen was an axe, I am an axe
And my son a handle, soon
To be shaping again, model
And tool, craft of culture,
How we go on.

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