Easter: Spring, Gardening, and Eschatology

The weather has turned briefly warm so we’ve been in the garden the past two days. Yesterday we managed to prepare the beds before the heavy rains came. This morning we ran a soil test, discovered the garden is nutrient poor, and headed off to the garden store for some Earth friendly fertilizer. When we arrived they had yet to open so we went for a walk along the fast flowing river; now we are home and have gotten the early seed in the ground!

Truth be known, Jennie does most of the garden work, for which I, finding gardening increasingly exhausting, am grateful. Still, I do what I can, and usually manage to slowly build up my capacity to be useful. I  have decided that gardening is an optimistic activity, an expression of trust in the generosity of Mother Earth and the resiliency of the plant world, and as such warrants every bit of effort we put into it.

It seems to me that gardening is also an act of resilience. We live in a time of eschatological foreboding and the invitation to anticipate doomsday seems difficult to resist. Gardening, if one is to derive any sustenance from it, requires a pervasive and persistent belief in the continuity of things. That trust in the future is often profoundly tested, as it was last year by months of drought, and the year previous by seemingly endless rain. Somehow the gardens survived both extremes, managing to feed us, abet at a reduced volume, through the summer and into the winter.

I have been thinking lately that our government leaders have fallen victim to the kinds of extreme eschatological expectations that catch the imaginations of nations and communities every now and then, usually during times of acute stress. This being Easter we are reminded that one such epoch found Israel desperately caught up in a dream of the coming of the Messiah and the end of the Roman occupation. That period lasted a couple of hundred years and certainly influenced Jesus’ understanding of his mission here on Earth, or, perhaps more accurately, shaped his disciples’ understanding of His life and teachings.

Another such time came in the Nineteenth Century, when many Native tribes began to practice the Ghost Dance. The Ghost Dance arose as part of Indian prophetic tradition and envisioned a time when Indian peoples would be taken into the sky, a vast hole would open in the Earth and swallow the European colonists, and after the world was restored, Native people would be returned to the life they had long-lived.

As you might imagine, the colonists did not particularly cotton to this vision and set about ruthlessly suppressing the Ghost Dance and those who practiced it. From my vantage point, 150 years later, I wonder whether the colonists were afraid God might just be on the other side given Jesus most likely would not have supported the ongoing genocide that was, and seemingly remains, at the very heart of the American Enterprise.

Anyway, here we are in 2017, with a government led by folks who appear to follow a sort of cargo cult dedicated to creating the conditions for the End Time. Environmental collapse, economic chaos, and even thermonuclear warfare are apparently seen by them as acceptable avenues towards their end goal. Now I must acknowledge that as someone not drawn to their particular form of eschatological belief, I find myself rather puzzled by the gusto with which they pursue their vision. Given their behavior over the past fifty years (or five hundred years), one would think they would want to put off any final accounting for as long as possible. But then, that’s just my view.

All that said, I am enjoying sitting in the swing we returned to the front porch this morning, watching the clouds drift across the sky, and basking in the early spring warmth. We know that come tomorrow the cold will return, along with occasional showers, perfect weather for those early season crops we put in this morning. Looking over the garden I am left with a sense of accomplishment and an abiding faith in the capacity of Nature, and the human spirit, to persist. I imagine that come fall, we will look back on our efforts today with appreciation and a bit of pride, even as we take time to dream about next year’s garden. This makes a lovely, optimistic, seasonal round, eh?

By the way, if you want to help you can grab a rake; the perennial beds desperately need to be cleaned.


17 thoughts on “Easter: Spring, Gardening, and Eschatology

  1. Nice to read about your garden day, Michael 🙂
    I find gratitude, while I’m working in my garden. I do so little and then I will be gifted the most beautiful results anyway.
    I don’t have soil in my garden here, mostly stones all over, I “just” need to clean between these 😀
    There are few places with trees and other plants, which I have been working with for the last week. I hope to be able to show a post with photos of my work in short time.
    There are still weeds between some of the stones.
    Wish you a wonderful garden year.

    1. Oh, Irene, we have plenty of weeds to share. Vermont is a very rocky place so we have raised beds for our vegetables. We also have many trees so our gardens are shaded and miss sunlight. Still, they, like yours, respond to our care with generosity.

  2. Oh, Michael, I smiled and chuckled as I read your post. We have just finished packing the car and will be heading out tomorrow for Michigan and my flower garden. We have always used Melorganite for fertalizer on both the flower beds and the lawn. It is made in Wisconsin from sewage, so is natural, gentle and slow releasing – but doesn’t smell particularly good. That keeps the deer away from my plants, mostly. (A few years ago there was a shortage and we had some laughs about the digestive tracts of the people of Wisconsin.)
    I laughed out loud as I visualized the Europeans’ response to the Ghost Dance. Maybe we could all have a Ghost Dance in a ring around Washington.
    Most of all you gave me the courage to leave my beloved winter home to travel north to my beloved summer home. I always get a little crazy when I am in these transitions but you reminded me of my flower garden of faith and my porch swing that will go up on Thursday. Growing perennials is always a act of faith in the future for me. As I watch everything die back in the Fall, I say good-bye to them knowing I will return to new growth and a few surprises. Kind of like life.

    1. Milorganite is made in Milwaukee, and I watched the city workers dump it down the sewers once a month when I lived in the city. Now that I’m in the country, I’m going to try my hand at gardening!

      1. It’s the Milwaukee Organic Nitrogen that they put in the sewers (contraction = MilOrgaNite) and that’s what starts the breaking down of waste; the fertilizer is the solid waste left at the end of the process. Or at least that’s my understanding.

      2. We love it but are not great gardeners. My former wife didn’t like gardening so I did it all except for strawberries. After we divorced she became a Master Gardener. We laugh about that and Jennie and I call her for advice.

    2. Sadly, the European response was quite violent. Do you remember Tim Leary trying to levitate the Pentagon?

      May your trip north be filled with pleasure, and your garden ready for your loving touch!

      Oh, we try to use fertilizers that don’t drive our neighbors away…..

  3. I garden, too. I do find it an optimistic hobby. My little strawberry patch, mint, blueberries, and rosemary come back every year after looking quite wretched through the winter. I plant lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, etc. and fight like hell to keep them from succumbing to the bugs (organically, of course). A little microcosm of real life…

    1. Our gardens sound very similar. I think maybe Jennie and I are a bit more relaxed about the bugs, but that is a day-by-day decision making process. I think all our vegetable beds total maybe 300 sq. feet. Even that seems a lot to care for some days.

  4. Very fine post Michael. I would gladly grab a rake. My Grandson and I did plenty of raking and cleaned up the gardens to ready for planting. It is still early for this area. I am not sure if things have changed much politically or ideologically in the United States with Trump at the helm. Perhaps people are feeling hypocrisy more. The United States have been responsible for so many human and environmental atrocities around the world over the past several presidencies. It has been catastrophic and few raised a voice. Is this the start of the country crumbling from within? If it is we shouldn’t blame politicians, especially the inept blowhard who has 100 days in. We should blame ourselves. I include myself and Canadians. We are the ones benefitting from such policies. In this day and age we can eat a big steak and not have to consider how it arrived on our plate. Wounded Knee is happening all around the world, often initiated on behalf of us (Canada & The United States), but we are not holding the rifles and wielding the bayonets, so we consider ourselves innocent. It is easy to sit and point out the injustices of history. It is much harder to look inward. How will history judge you and I. Storm clouds have sailed north to south today bringing cold rain. In between the sun shone warm. Everything is bound to green up. The garden should need planting by mid May. Take care. Bob

    1. Bob, I think history will not treat us kindly. That said, we can only do as we are able. I’ve been thinking about how the Plague was a great social leveler, and how our human populations must at some point crash. Biology and ethics waltz together across human experience. (Fuzzy metaphor?), and I suspect biology is more in charge of things than we are.

      Having the early seeds in is a relief, as we have been late with them the past few years. Now we wait to see whether they survive all the rain. Best, Michael

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