An Apology to the Earth
I have come to the realization that I have never truly valued you until now. You see, this past week, I moved into an intentional community, the Nashville Greenlands. I think you’re familiar with each other. The Nashville Greenlands is a secular Catholic Worker community of four houses that center themselves around ideals of sustainable living, social justice, and urban farming. Just in the short week I have lived in one of these houses, I have already begun to realize how much I depend on you for, well, everything.
I’ve never been so aware of how much I rely on you for food. My house has a garden now, and while it’s not a big piece of land by any means, we cultivate every bit of it that we can. We grow cherries, pears, apples, onions, garlic, lettuce, kale, carrots, beets, Brussels sprouts, squash, blackberries, black raspberries, spinach, tomatoes, mint, lemon balm, cucumbers, shell peas, snap peas, and much more. Growing up in the city, I have little to no experience of gardening and have no idea how to orient my life alongside you, Earth, and the cycles of your produce. Gratefully, I live with a seasoned gardener who is showing me the ropes. I have already spent hours in the garden planting seeds, weeding, mulching, and figuring out ways to grow more things with care on such a small piece of land. Astonishingly, I have already watched you turn tiny miniscule seeds into fruit and vegetables. I am truly impressed with your ability to feed us.
For example, I tried my hand at picking our over-abundant cherry tree this week. As I climbed up into the tree with my pail and scissors, I was able to see the tree and the fruit in a way I have never before. I don’t know if you know this, Earth, but cherries are not just red—they are yellow, pink, crimson, vermilion, pale, strong, rosy, blushing. Cherries are absolutely beautiful. Previously my only experience with cherries was that they’re always on top of my milkshakes at Sonic. Until then, I’ve always hastily tossed them out of the window in annoyance, but I swear I will never treat your cherries with such disrespect again. While waiting for cherries to ripen is highly inconvenient and I could much more easily buy cherries at a store, I think I prefer watching you create.
I already feel these rhythms of gardening beginning to change me. I’m now noticing the bellies of birds, rabbits, squirrels and various insects; it’s clear they’re after my garden just as much as I am. I’m even growing respect for ants—they are perpetually in my house, and since my community strives to not use pesticides, they are not easily ousted. I am trying to learn to coexist with the hard working creatures. I know that they are looking for a home and for food just as much as I am. I guess they’re really not causing me as much grief as I have thought.
I don’t mean to sound accusatory, but your mood swings are beginning to define my life. (I know you prefer that I call them ‘the weather’ instead.) The other day I had to do laundry, equipped with a machine washer and a clothesline. Not only was the clothesline a bit much for this city kid to figure out, but I also had to—gasp—wait until a warm, sunny day to do said laundry or else my clothes could take days to dry. As I watched my clothes wave in the breeze and soak up the sunshine, I realized I had never really relied on the wind or the sun to do much at all for me before. I’m sorry I haven’t paid attention to you lately.
Lastly, I’m trying out some different ways of transportation so I can tread more lightly on you, Earth. I’m taking the city bus to work some, which also involves a lot of waiting—waiting for the bus to come, waiting for the bus to get to my destination, and so on. It’s actually not that bad since I get to take a moment to pause and breathe on the bus stop bench. I’m starting to notice my neighborhood more, the puke on the sidewalk, the trees dancing overhead, the graffiti on the wall, the patterns of the grass and weeds. I also got ahold of a mountain bike from a Vanderbilt dumpster, which works quite well. However, as I was riding to my friend’s house a few blocks away, not only did I notice how out of shape I am, I realized that there was definitely a speed limit to my little bike. I pushed and pushed and pushed, but on a flat street, there’s only so fast you can go. And…that’s okay. Because even when I was going significantly slower than I would in my car, I could watch the clouds a little more. I felt the breeze and listened to the quiet streets. Highly inconvenient—but the inconvenience too is beginning to change me. I’m beginning to let go of my constant need to be punctual as I’m taking my time to get to where I need to be.
All of these tasks are highly inconvenient— waiting for cherries to ripen instead of buying them immediately at a store, waiting for the sun to dry my clothes, waiting for buses. But Earth, you’re a bit slower than us in most ways. Maybe that’s a holy thing? I know for sure our western culture is addicted to convenience and it’s ruining our relationship to you. Living inconveniently is teaching me to slow down, to notice the hues of the cherries, to watch your patterns and your beauty. Can we make up?