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  • Rob Gieselmann

Some Seed fell on a Rocky Path ...

Years ago, I tried to grow tomatoes. I planted them in the yard and in patio pots. I planted them in full sun and watered them well. I beat back pest and pestilence, yet for some reason, the great tomato crop I envisioned never came to fruition. Actually, I managed to produce two tomatoes, but just as they were ripening, my dog at the time picked and ate them himself.

I’m a decent ornamental/flower gardener. Growing ornamentals makes me feel at one with garden and earth, and the earth responds to my passion with whimsy. It is as though nature takes care to respond to my spiritual posture.

Could it be that nature is responding to my spiritual posture when it comes to vegetable gardening? Indeed, I have never cared much for veggies, growing or eating them. I have treated backyard vegetable gardens as the stepchild of real gardening, as a bit of a waste of time. Why grow vegetables when you can go to the Saturday farmer’s market? When you can grow peonies and iris and daisies?

When it comes to vegetable gardening, I have, in both fact and essence, ignored the fundamental principle that every cell in my body is metamorphosed earth. It now seems quite obvious that my backyard tomato plants refused to be grown, to waste their fruit on the likes of me.

But I am a man of amended ways. I am no longer the rocky pathway I once was. I value the earth, its produce, and my role in the life cycle. I’ve taken-up vegetable gardening with a new passion, and although I am but a neophyte, I appreciate now more than ever the obvious link between our physical bodies and the good earth that spawned them. Vegetables are mediator, and the earth arbiter. Touch the earth and you somehow touch God.

The concept of Earth and Altar - that our religious or faith experience is connected directly to our physical experience with earth - is not primarily about gardening. Rather, Earth and Altar is about one’s relationship to God and others. It is about growing a stronger link to God, and gardening provides a conduit. (Remember, God is the first environmentalist!)

But, gardening offers a fruitful conduit. Vegetables are not just between God and you (and me), but between us – Christians - and a world in need of a different way. Gardening - vegetable and ornamental - has the potential to reconnect us to a healthier lifestyle and a more meaningful life, to teach us that a life well-lived is most often the life simply-lived. That life derives meaning in relationships. That one’s value is not found in the number of sports one plays, but in the quality with which one plays each sport.

So why not plant a garden at home? A vegetable garden, to remind you and your children of the connection each of us has to the earth (our island home)? To remind us to care for the earth.

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