April 21, 2011
We're In a La Nina Year
In honor of Earth Day tomorrow, we present this lovely meditation from Lisa McMinn, author of the book Walking Gently on the Earth. Here she reflects on the rhythms of life on their small farm, Fern Creek.
In the Pacific Northwest we’re still in the 2010-2011 La Nina year, which means cooler, wetter springs than usual. Mark and I walk Fern Creek’s gardens most afternoons like hovering parents checking on the young broccoli and cabbage transplants to see how they are managing the hardship of a cold wet spring, and to see if more snow peas, arugula and spinach have decided to break ground.
When we aren’t teaching, writing, or preparing talks we’re often occupied with tasks related to food: growing, preserving, preparing or eating it. Last night for dinner I poured a jar of last season’s spicy tomato sauce into a pan, added a few pesto cubes and a handful of oven-roasted tomatoes from the freezer, crushed up half a dried cayenne pepper, splashed in some red wine, and simmered it all for a bit before ladling it over homemade pasta. That we are still eating bounty from last year’s crops while this year’s basil plants are under the grow lights downstairs and the tomato plants are filling out in the cold frame inclines us to give thanks. Even given our worrisome, cooler, wetter-than-normal spring. La Nina or not, the earth will explode with flavor, color, and aroma as fruits, vegetables and flowers awaken. It always does.
So as we walk down rows of strawberries, or sit down at our table to eat we give thanks. Besides creating an Earth that bursts with plant life, God designed a world where one creature’s action helps another creature flourish. We thank God for that, too. I love our interdependence—all creation groans together in harmony, yearning to come into the fullness of God’s intention and glory (Romans 8:19-23).
We thank God for people who bring us food we don’t grow on Fern Creek, like dairy, wheat, and of course, cocoa farmers—who I’m especially thankful for, since we consume a lot of chocolate. Thanking God for cocoa farmers reminds me to buy cocoa in ways that help farmers and families in West Africa flourish, which means buying fair-trade chocolate instead of more familiar brands that buy cocoa funneled in from plantations using trafficked children for farm labor.
I’m also thankful for God’s critters who contribute to the food on my plate, like bees who pollinate fruits and vegetables and from whom we collect rent in exchange for housing. Or Chicken Little, Penelope, and Greta (to name a few) who give us eggs, fertilize our gardens in the winter, and eat larva that would otherwise grow to wreak havoc for organic fruit growers. And when we venture from our typical vegetarian fare to eat Tilapia for Easter I will be thankful for the fish that died so that we might celebrate life and family while drawing nourishment from its flesh.
Eating is a sacred act. Jesus used the metaphor to refer to his own life-giving sacrificial act, commanding Christians to eat in remembrance of God’s saving grace. Could I prepare and eat every meal mindfully, remembering God’s love, and reflecting God’s desire for life on Earth to flourish?
I think about these matters more now that spring has arrived and we’ll have 12 families depending on us for food. (In addition to our teaching jobs, Mark and I operate a small CSA—Community Supported Agriculture.) We find the work of farming as deeply satisfying as the joy of eating from Earth’s abundance, both acknowledgements of our responsibility to be good caretakers of God’s Earth.
Tonight we noticed the potatoes we planted in March are beginning to leaf out, and that we’ll have asparagus in time for Easter.
Lisa Graham McMinn (Ph.D., Portland State University) is professor of sociology in the department of sociology and social work at George Fox University in Oregon.
For more from Lisa on how Christians can live with intention, using the power of our choices to walk gently on an earth that is beautiful and broken, check out Walking Gently on the Earth.