Working with my hands
Oh, the tiredness, the sweat, the dust
But, oh!–the reward, the satisfaction
Fruits of our labour
(A new section I’d like to add, to keep you updated as crops cycle in and out of season. But mostly, because our veggies deserve their own heading.)
On Monday we pulled our first carrot and fresh garlic harvests out of the ground! These carrots are by far the sweetest carrots I’ve ever eaten (no exaggeration). And the heads of garlic? SO INCREDIBLY MAJESTICALLY HUGE! Lucky CSA members.
It’s been a lot quieter and calmer at the farms, with school out for the summer. Good times for reflection. This week, I want to delve deeper into some of the “heart-level” things that have been percolating for me recently. There have been many strands and strings hanging–in conversations and work at the farms, and in my personal life. I will attempt to tie them together a bit.
I just finished reading a book. It’s called Bare: The Misplaced Art of Grieving and Dancing, by Sandy Oshiro Rosen. Though seemingly unrelated to farming, it explores the idea of the interconnectedness of body, soul, and spirit–something that I believe is important to recognize in our role as eaters, growers, and inhabitants of the land. I picked up this book because I am on a journey of reconciling a very precious loss and stepping into a new place of hope. Here is a passage that I love:
“Where she could not find hope in what she knew, she began to find it in all sorts of small beauties around her–little flowers in the pavement, a tiny bird. In these basic things, she found a strange, indescribable joy. It was as though by knowing death in such an intimate way, she had become acutely aware of life. These became hope-generating in ways she couldn’t express.”
(Sandy Oshiro Rosen, Bare: The Misplaced Art of Grieving and Dancing, page 155)
Coming to the farms and working with my hands has been a great blessing for me. Anyone who has experienced any disappointment in life, or the separation or loss of a loved one will know the emotional roller coaster that one involuntarily gets to ride. When the road is bumpy and full of uncertainty, it is comforting to be in nature and experience something constant, steadfast. Something as simple as weeding the beet bed, or watching a bee gather nectar from the zinnias.
“Skepticism seems most quickly turned by unanticipated wonder. Because skepticism is linked to disappointed expectations, it can sometimes be circumvented by the marvel of an unexpected gift.”
(Rosen, page 156)
Farm work–daily gifts, indeed.
The gift of weeding, I have particularly appreciated. Being a farm that grows organically, we’re quite literally weeding all. the. time. As much as we yank, and dig, and battle-cry them out, weeds will always come back. Perhaps, though, in lesser and lesser strength. As intern Gerson described it once, “it’s a battle of attrition”.
If time is tight, we’ll do a quick-fix weed: plucking off the flowering heads of chickweed before they go to seed, pulling out the taller weeds before cutting a bed with the salad cutter. But, other times, we’ll take the time to be more thorough: doing our best to clear every purslane plant we can get to, using digging forks to turn up the soil in which deep horsetail roots lie. There is something about digging deep to get to the end of a weed root; something about spending the time, care, and gentleness needed to remove a rhizome in its gnarled entirety.
Something freeing, and healing.
This connects with something I learned on Wednesday as we weeded and thinned the beet bed. One of our volunteers, Cass, is studying social work. Her interest in urban agriculture stems from a vision to bring an environmental lens into her field. Cass shared about how social work values working with people in their environment, but ironically, the natural environment is not included. Having a physical sense of place, and working on and with the land–truly, these are just as important as emotional and social support in nurturing a person to wholeness.
Life that grows “organically” will always have weeds.
Feeling completely, living and loving deeply.
As weeding requires persistence, recovery from loss or trauma requires persevering courage to process the past through the lens of present and future.
As weeding thoroughly requires gentle handling of snap-able roots, recovering deeply requires tenderness in holding oneself or one’s loved ones in the messy in-between.
For anyone in a similar place of journeying through pain and sorrow, may we be comforted in knowing this: that as we dig deep in the soil, as we follow nature’s rhythms of weeding and grieving well, the soil of the ground and of our hearts are being prepared for a planting of new seeds, are being made new for a new season.
“Grief, strangely, can become the blessing of contrasts. Truly, in coming out of a storm, the normal can feel calmer. In coming out of a cave, the day can appear brighter. In coming out of numbness, the senses can be more awakened Like a blind man seeing for the first time, grief can make the ordinary seem extraordinary. And this, quite naturally, can provoke the very thankfulness that can bring restoration…Thankfulness does not replace what has been lost or smooth the ripple of the impact of loss. But it does revive me, and it encourages me to look outward after a long, grievous period of reflecting inward.”
(Rosen, pages 180-181)
For weeds, for pain, for joy, I am thankful.