Over the weekend before last my parents bought a small farm north of San Antonio. I say farm because that is what the land was cultivated for, by an old German Jewish family before it was subdivided by a “group” and sold with the intention of creating a residential development. My dad purchased the farm with a friend of his and they learned what the family who had owned the land for generations raised there-goats, two field crops like winter rye/hay/alfalfa, and a few cows. We aren’t sure what we are going to do with the land yet-there has been talk of bees, goats will probably make an appearance, and my little boy may get to live out one of my few unfulfilled dreams of having his very own pet horse. (Lucky kid, lucky mama). When I was talking to my dad and asking him why they weren’t making any decisions about what to raise as of yet he responded that he needed to take some time to get to know it. It struck me as marvelous and simply right-that before making any changes to a piece of land time needs to be spend getting acquainted with it, listening to its dreams, desires, and fears too.
Later as I was pruning my garden I noticed a climbing spinach vine that is shooting up like there’s no tomorrow. A few weeks ago this little spinach had started coiling around the white wire fencing I have around my vegetable patch to keep our dog out of the squash and peas. I wanted to train the spinach to climb up the chain link fence–a perfect lattice!–and not to trail hither and yon on the temporary dog fence. So I unwound it and twirled it around the chain link fence. When I checked back on the plant’s progress a few days later I saw that it had untangled itself from the chain link fence and gone back to coiling around the white wire fencing, a pointed remark that it would go its own way, thank you very much-I shrugged because it wasn’t that big of a deal and who is going to argue with spinach anyways? Then, earlier this week I noticed that the little guy was starting to climb up the chain link fence after all–it had created a nice foothold for itself on the dog fencing, had started to flower and was ready to stretch out more. Left to its own devices it is doing just fine.
I am not a romantic about nature-raised on 10 acres in South Central Texas I have seen my share of dead creatures, killing creatures, and hostile wildlife–including prickley flora and lethal snakes. I have watched how year after year people who cultivate land have to beat back lavish vines like honey suckle and ruthlessly weed out Johnson grass in order to get their gardens to grow and not have their trees choked out. I have heard stories about the lady who has pastured chickens and might lose 100 birds in one night when a thunderstorm and cold front blows in all at once. Not only does she have to go collect the dead bodies the next morning-that’s money out of her pocket that she cannot regain. But I have also seen many “praise Jesus” sunsets and thunderstorms and baby rabbits in the field to know that there is infinite wisdom in our natural world-that often watching nature “take its course” teaches us as much if not more about ourselves than about that concept that we erroneously see as outside of ourselves and call nature. I say erroneously because we are all a part of it–not standing outside and looking in, but inside, in the leaf, the fruit, and seed.
I work with people who are often weary with trials and worries and concerns. Their hearts are heavy and their fears are real. Sometimes there is sound advice I can deliver through the use of intuition, sometimes a blessing candle needs to be lit or an elaborate ritual needs to be constructed-I do not see these things as taking place outside of nature either-blessings and praise and ritual beauty are all found in the natural world. What I almost always find though is that deep within a person’s own heart there is a wild knowing that is full of wisdom-that already holds the answer. We just need to make our ears keen enough to hear. So my petition for the week, with apologies for riffing on St. Paul: “May you have eyes to see and ears to hear…your own blessed wisdom.”