Black Cherry Tomato
That is the picture of my very first tomato. I picked it about two weeks ago and my husband and I split it at dinner. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted a more delicious tomato, but perhaps I’m prejudiced. In fact, I know I am.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about daily spiritual practice. In Christianity, at least in the church I went to, prayer, meditation, fasting and Bible reading daily (well not fasting daily, but regularly) were (are) strongly emphasized. I suspect it’s the same in most denominations, especially those with more conservative leanings.
As I’ve transitioned out of that church/Christianity I’ve wondered what life looks like being in another set of beliefs (or having no firm set of beliefs). Do people cast circles everyday? Do they meditate? Yoga? Pray? Is there fasting? Maybe they read books on their god/desses, research their pantheon…I don’t know.
And then, like two magnets pulling on each other, the confused burble of Christianity/pagan/whatever belief practices began to run through my mind. I have no other way of explaining it, except as I showered a few minutes ago my mind erupted into thought.
(In full disclaimer, most of it catalyzed by the fact that tomorrow is my evening to share at our church home group. What in the hell am I going to talk about? I wondered as I stared off at the tile, counting the small holes in the grout. The Great Rite in high/ceremonial Wicca traditions?)
So as I stood there both streams of thought that had been alternating throughout the week merged into a rapid confluence, chaotic as a mountain stream in spring.
And then, for some reason, all of this reminded me of our garden. I thought of the big Purple Cherokee tomato that is ripening on the vine, and the Black Cherry I had picked, and how J had hung CD discs in the yard yesterday to discourage the birds that were discouraging me, and how I needed to fertilize but wow…the basil might have died but weren’t the lemon verbena and the pineapple sage just beautiful?
Then this word came to me, clear as a bell:
And I promptly soaped up, rinsed and toweled off, and came to write, the word tending, tending, to tend, tending ringing in my ears.
So here I am.
I’m looking out at my garden right now, through the sliding glass doors, and I can see that it needs watering. We had rain last week but the temperatures have been so hot, and the sun so relentless, that the earthen plots look like they’re fresh from the oven. Nothing has begun to droop yet, except the borage, which is the garden version of a canary in the coal mine. Once the borage droops, I water.
I can honestly say that this garden might be the most consistent thing I’ve tended in my life. For sure the most (visibly) successful. The garden started with a flurry of activity: we bought hay, compost, had dirt delivered, shoveled, planted, dug, watered, fertilized and mostly watched with bated breath for the first signs of growth, the first flowers (gasp!) and then—the first fruit (gasp! gasp!). However, since the plants have been planted tending slows down—a lot. I water every couple of days. I curse the tomato cages at least twice a week. Jonathan hung the CDs. I fertilize occasionally.
The garden has been established; now, we tend. We harvest the fruits. And, in distant parts of my mind I have begun to gather lessons learned and anticipate fall planting in the waning days of August.
(Central Texas has two planting seasons, one for hot crops and one for cool crops. In late August we will begin preparing for the cool season.)
Much has been made about the connection between spirituality and gardening, so I’m tilling (excuse the pun) no new ground here. But the concept of the act of tending and how it relates to all spiritual practice rings so true to me.
Spiritual practice, or craft, whatever it may be, is the act of tending something already there–and I don’t think that necessarily means a certain religion. More, it’s an act of tending the soul, or the spirit, or whatever makes you human and makes you feel alive.
For me, tending comes in the form of gardening, yes, and my daily walk, and reading good books, whether they be fiction, non-fiction or poetry. Sometimes it does come from reading the Bible, especially Jesus and the Psalms. Yoga and meditation. Sweeping and dusting. Baking. Driving a long distance with really good music.
There are other kinds of tending too, and I would be remiss to leave them out of this musing. I think they grow out of tending our own self. I tend my relationship with Jonathan, in various ways. We read out loud together, we enjoy good food (and wine, back in the day) together, I make him biscuits and gravy on Sunday mornings. We air out our dirty laundry to each other on a regular basis, without judgment. Most importantly, for two introverts in a relationship, we give each other space and understand the need for it.
When this image came to me, or concept, that there was no set, specified way for me to tend—and indeed, what good gardener doesn’t have to improvise sometimes?—the mountain rush slowed down to something more peaceful. I felt I could sit next to the proverbial stream and stare into its depths instead of running for high ground.
(Truly, I hope this post makes sense. I wrote it fast, but I don’t feel like I should reorganize or edit to thoroughly yet—it’s probably a first draft to something longer, later.)
(And a p.s.: I think if I write the word spirituality one more time I might have a fit. There has to be another word, right? All of these posts feel so redundant..)
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