Tending the Garden

Earlier this month our neighborhood had a gardening party. Started several years ago by a gardening expert with business ties to a local nursery, this group convenes each Fall and Spring. We begin early on Saturday morning in a backyard overseeing the canal. Over mimosas and shared breakfast goodies, we pass the time until the nursery truck arrives delivering the gardening goods we ordered.

Following the truck to each individual yard, we catch up on the latest news, stopping to unload bags of mulch, flats of flowers, pots brimming with shrubs and plants. As we share in the work of getting the right plants to their respective owners, we also catch glimpses of backyard gardens, many defying the challenge of the Texas heat while witnessing to the tender-loving care of these gardening urbanites.

After a final round of breakfast (and perhaps a second mimosa or at least a cup of coffee), we say our farewells and return to our own yards, inspired by others to continue the progress of shaping our landscape.

In the process of digging and planting, weeding and pruning, watering and transplanting, there is no doubt how much what we do affects the beauty of our surroundings. If I forego weeding for a season, I may enjoy the immediate benefits of extra time to do other things as opposed to sitting on my heels getting dirt under my nails. But it will take me twice as long next Spring when the grassy weeds have overtaken the garden if I succumb to such laziness this Fall.

On the individual level we seem to have no problem understanding cause and effect.

On the other hand, it appears our nation struggles mightily with environmental cause and effect when we move from micro analysis to macro reality. As I write this post, hurricane Sandy is bearing down on the East coast, threatening to wreak significant havoc on a huge geographical area. News reports for several days have been forecasting this major storm, suggesting it has the potential to be a weather-maker for the record books.

Yet I’ve heard few people mention the uniqueness of this storm in terms of global warming (sans a report on NPR on my way home from work today).

As I think back on this year alone, there are several indicators of global warming that should be catching our attention, and yet it appears we are little concerned, easily seen, for example, by the fact that neither President Obama nor Governor Romney mentions this looming problem in their campaign agendas.

Consider that worldwide we have had the highest recorded average temperature year in 2012. Added to this heat wave was a huge drought in the United States encompassing unprecedented acres of farmland, rendering many of them unproductive. Early in the spring forest fires sprung up in Colorado and Oregon, fires that, in some cases, were the natural result of urban planning implemented without corresponding care given to surrounding landscape. And, while much of the country suffered a lack of water, Florida was inundated with it.

In the last year I have experienced two earthquakes, one the result of aftershocks from a source in Oklahoma and the second was one that hit in the suburb where I live, right in the middle of the Dallas-metro area, this a place where earthquakes have not occurred before (in fact, we cannot even acquire earthquake insurance on our home).

All of this has me thinking about two things. First, I pray for the people of the East coast that they will be safe and protected throughout the storm surge (probably hitting as I finish writing this). Second, I hope these recurring weather events will prompt us to look again at our duty to care for this earth.

For years Christian theology wrongly asserted the earth was ours to dominate, to use at our own will and with utter disregard for its care and nurture. Today, largely because of the influence of Christian feminism, we are aware of this error, realizing instead we are called to practice dominion of the earth. As people of God we are living faithfully when we live in compassionate relationship with nature, caring for and sustaining all that is around us, nurturing our environment, understanding the depth of our connection to all living things.

The clarion call to honor our world could not be clearer.

In the words of Sister Joan Chittister, we are to “tend the garden.” So, let’s gather together and get to work!