Artful Land Care

Redemptive Normal

In Reflections on March 28, 2021 at 9:20 am

“I can’t wait to get back to normal.”  Earnestly said.  We’ve all said it in one way or another this last year.  

Four of us stood in the pasture.  A late winter breeze caused each of us to raise our coat collar.  We’d gathered to talk about landscape practices, the need of land care, and our struggle to maintain sustainable space in a place surrounded by commodity-based farmers and ranchers.  The cold slid our hands into coat pockets and hunched us over a bit.

As the phrase blew past us in the mask breeze of six-feet, she said, “I have little interest in getting back to normal.”  With stocking caps and hoods pulled over our ears we searched the gray grass at our feet for “normal.”  We all knew what he meant: maskless gatherings; holiday dinners with family; sitting beside the bed of our sick and dying; laughing in community; crying in community, and we all knew what she meant: too much had happened in the last year; not enough had happened in the last year; yesterday’s normal bounds of inequity.

Twelfth Day

In Reflections on January 5, 2021 at 8:17 am

White breath emerged from our masks.  On the fifth morning of Christmas a friend stopped by to load a ton of hay for his horses and cattle.  As sunlight filtered through the overcast sky we warmed to the work.

Backed to the haystack, the pickup’s tailgate left just enough space to load the lower bales when the time came.  I pulled bales from the top of the stack while he restacked them in the trucks bed.  The hay stack lowered and the truck stack rose. From atop the truck stack he pulled bales as I lifted them up.  A breath cloud surrounded his face and shoulders as he heaved back.

We experience the world differently, him and I.  Socially and theologically our frameworks wrangle and sometime clash.  However, we agree maintaining conversation is important.  One place we differ is in the use of masks.  Though he thinks masks are a bit foolish in the country—a quarter mile from the next neighbor—he wears one because I wear one.

Over the years we’ve settled into dialogues once the truck is loaded.  Some, turn into ongoing conversations.  We’ve found than in our opposite ways of thinking, once in a while the other comes up with an idea, thought, or comment that would seem impossible to arrive at from our own way of experiencing the world.  Certainly, there are times when we endure the others viewpoint, but, more often than not, our banter is amusingly thought provoking.


In Reflections on December 25, 2020 at 10:30 am

A friend gave us a handful of cuzinni seeds a few years ago.  Being a “Seeder,” the only one I know, he cannot help himself when it comes to seeds.  Whether walking a sidewalk or the countryside, he revels in the partaking of seeds freely given by plants.  When he tells a story of finding a plant that is new to him he’s just this side of giddy.  Can you imagine, the plant simply left the seeds there for me to pick up!  In the telling of his discovery story you are sure to learn everything about the encounter: plant type, soil texture, rooted structure, stem heft, and foliage; how the seeds were found: on the plant, beneath it, blowing in the wind; and how they were gathered, carried home, and stored.

If you know a Seeder then you know, sooner or later, you’ll end up with seeds in hand you know nothing about.  Seeds are special in their gift.  They reflect a relationship with creation that goes beyond self—soil, water, air, light—which brings forth unique and extortionary life.  Given by their mother plant to whomever will accept them, seeds hold the secret to the existence of life.  To hold a seed is to embrace sacredness in the palm of hand.  The exchange of seed is a solemn act of nature binding the Seeder to the mother plants place of origin and her ancient kin.  One who has been gifted seed takes a step into natures epic story where reality bends toward the mythical.  The sure tell is when, with seeds in hand, you look over your shoulder and see your gifter of seeds smiling and waving you on.  You ought to be apprehensive in that moment.  For you may well walk and plant your way into a Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale or a Johnny Appleseed folk tale.