soil

I was pleased when my son James, growing up, showed interest in big things. His imagination sought after sun, moon, and planets, conducted orchestras beneath shooting stars, chased tornadoes, blazed trails over hill and mountain. I encouraged what must be his reaching for heaven. For glory.


Changes come, though, to every life. Imaginings, assumptions give way to what is true. James came to see his love for skyscapes meeting landscapes, twining into dust of earth from which grows food that nourishes. He discovered a knack for tending live things.

My parents grew up in years of war gardens and pruning fruit trees, but I came of age reading package directions, baking cookies from a cake mix. I've never canned. Processing and preserving are for me a huge challenge, foreign territory. I'm willing. It's just that I spend my energy writing and doing church finances, reading and sorting out riches of the faith journey I follow.

Yet there's something lately traveling with me, interior-ly, giving me fodder for pondering at 3:00 a.m. And it has to do with permaculture, the thing for which James is a certified guide and promoter. I'm coming to learn to ask one, at least, of the basic sustainable gardening questions:

Tilling the soil is what Man does. God, however (or nature, if you prefer), doesn't work with implements, and things grow. Forests are sustainable. Why is this? How come the undergrowth thrives on its own?


A few weeks ago, at the hard, dry end of summer, James and I hiked. He pointed out logs in the forest holding water. They were moist to the touch, sprouting new seedlings.

Soil in the bosom of nature lies seemingly undisturbed, and yet it is an organic, living wonder. It is ever being worked and softened. Not by grim tools nor by boxed chemicals--those are the utensils people provide themselves, doing the best they can in preparation and sweat and struggle. The sustenance of wild earth is a different thing, as foreign in concept to me as stocking a pantry, yet simple as a finch's feathers. The soil is kept, is preserved, by its covering.

I've thought about gardening and farming mechanistically. When the word permaculture entered my vocabulary my reasoning went: I get this; leaves fall from trees, plants receive nutrients. We city-dwellers want lawns, so we rake up leaves. The permaculture people put down cardboard and wood chips to kill the grass so they can let the nutritive leaves lie.

Til recently it hadn't dawned on me that things might go deeper. Covering the lawn, or even composting a field, might be turning from the usual, habitual way, my understanding, of Man with dirt. Of boy on tiptoe scanning the heavens, then taking a knee to examine, to ponder the soil beneath him.

This thought thread is only my entry. Following becomes a process, an interaction. Slow and still, it leads into winter.

Comments

Dee said…
Dear Deanna, your postings always leave me pondering. That is, you explore large subjects--the elements of life. And I thank you for that.

There are two bloggers I follow whom you might truly enjoy because they also ponder. Here are the URLs for their blogs:

DJan
http://eyeontheedge.blogspot.com

Debra
http://breathelighter.wordpress.com

Peace.
deanna said…
Thank you, Dee. I'll look into your blogging suggestions. :o)