The twitch begins early – January, really. Sometimes December 25, if the right gift goes to the right person. But the twitch definitely begins in January, when the first catalogs appear in the mailbox. It doesn’t matter how much snow appears – the plans begin. On February 2nd, the words “the groundhog saw his shadow” gives hope. Soon the car takes the long way around, past the shop with its hopeful sign “closed for the season, see you in the spring.” As the snow begins to melt, there are long, wistful looks of longing around the property. Conversations never stray too far from the impending spring thaw.
And then March arrives… and friends in the south begin posting pictures of their first sightings… and the twitch becomes a full-on focus. The catalogs come out in earnest, along with the long black plastic trays… and the window sills are cleared of their bric-a-brac to make room.
And then April comes, and with it the UPS truck that pulls up and leaves a package – the first of many – with company names like Jackson & Perkins, Whiteflower Farms, Burpee.
It has begun. And while the yard may still be covered in snow, the gardener is in full bloom.
I have to confess: I am not a gardener. It’s not that I have a black thumb; in fact, I am pretty good at growing things. I know how to plan beautiful flower beds. I know the secrets of companion planting in vegetable gardens. And I certainly appreciate the fruits of a gardener’s labors. But I don’t have the passion for it. I don’t have the twitch, or the fever, or the bloom of a gardener in her element.
Yet I understand the compulsion… it’s part of that cycle of life that tells us that which has gone dormant must live again. Spring reminds us that we are part of the earth.
This is important. Too many times people act as though they are visitors on this planet, as though they have no connection to this earth. At its worst, this is played out in climate change denial and the recklessness of mountaintop stripping, mining, and fracking. It is as though these people forget we are not aliens dropping onto an M-class planet like something out of Star Trek. They forget that we are as organic as the trees outside. They forget that for our own lives to be sustained, we have to work to sustain life around us, on this earth.
And sometimes we forget too.
One of the gifts of being a gardener is the bones-deep knowledge that the earth is never far, that getting grounded is one bag of topsoil and a seedling away. There’s something about the feel of the soil, the dirt under the fingernails, the moistness and richness that reminds the gardener of his relationship to the earth.
Related to the gardener is the nature lover – the hiker, the kayaker, the bird watcher, the spelunker, the cyclist, the naturalist. The nature lovers get a similar twitch – some of them so can’t stand being away from the earth that they go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, just to be grounded in even the stark white of nature’s winter.
These people – nature lovers, gardeners, outdoor sports enthusiasts – reflect in their actions the richness of our seventh principle, “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part,” and our sixth source, “Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.”
I invite you this month to explore spiritual practices that ground you in your spirit and in the earth that we call home.