“Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both sides of the river. Their leaves will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing,” [EZEKIEL 47:12].
June may be a month of hope, July of waiting; August can, alas, be of acedia.
In this season of the right wing GOP’s assault on reproductive rights and environmental protections, with Russia still attacking Ukraine, and new record heat buckling roads and threatening the integrity of steel bridges slowing and stopping traffic in London, England– it has been hard to know what to write about, what organizations to send emergency aid money to, what to hope, or what to hope for “this side of heaven.”
I found my first glimmer in the tiny green leaf tips that began to poke through some dead-looking branches on a mulberry tree in the back yard.
She had sprung up, a “volunteer” beside the house. Very very close to the house. Much too close to old basement foundation, where concrete walls were slipping a little bit apart here at the surface, near to where the back basement or fruit cellar walls were a little damp-stained, the whitewash curling away, and where there was at least one little chink to daylight. And water pipes, to the outdoor spigots and the plumbing of the house: mulberry trees will, I read, seek water anywhere, will find weaknesses in pipes, and leaks; she couldn’t stay there.
I love mulberries. I would love to have a mulberry tree feeding me and birds and bees and whomever would come dine; the wildflower patch out back is meant to be shelter, and to be food for pollinators and neighborhood herbivores and the eaters of bugs, and the soil itself. If I tried to move her, could she survive?
Her tap root– big as my wrist– turned like a giant pipe elbow ninety degrees to go under the sidewalk– going back far enough to bring a root bundle to transplant would require tearing up concrete and– more than I have equipment or muscle or mind for. I felt strongly that I had to do this now– the spirit (or Spirit?) was on me, and the tree, to whom I explained my plan, told me her name, and helped me, even though I had to saw her off at the root. I managed to move a decent boll from which her three boughs or trunks and a fourth, low, branch grew, some root, but not nearly as much as I hoped.
She was all green when I put her in her new ground on June 30, but over the next week she went brown, and soon looked like a dead tree. But I knew that what was happening invisibly, underground, was what mattered. I prayed that she’d dig in and live, watered and waited.
I do not have a garden per say, but a patch or “wildlife corridor” where there used to be a hemlock hedge, which snows had broken down and which had been removed. I bought a pack of zone-appropriate wild flower seeds last year and scattered them prodigiously, some to grow, some to feed the chipmunks. This summer have sprung sturdy, velvety, big, gorgeous Gloriosa Daisies and black-eyed Susans, and a crop of wonderful evening primroses which have grown six and seven feet high as if they imagine they are cornstalks.
I began to think that maybe I should try some vegetables, next year, Three Sisters and other companion combinations, as a vote for planet earth, our mother. I joined Facebook groups on native plants and organic gardening to start learning. Pictures from gardens, from windowsills and rooftops to small farms and greenhouses, posted from around the world– USA, Switzerland and Norway, England, Pakistan,New Zealand– and I have felt hope swell: there are people in all hemispheres restoring land and green life, bringing life back to the soil.
Hope: not for this nation at the moment, not for our civilization as we know it or see it in commercials, but– for Nature, Life. Humanity, if humans return to God’s and Nature’s ways and remembers how to participate, to return, to give thanks and to share and not only take.
Modern man has managed to destroy and kill a lot of soil.
Our industrial and war wastes and chemicals have ruined dirt.
Drinking Water Hazards by John Cary Stewart in 1990 tells how dumping and industrial and farm wastes have poisoned our waterways and our drinking water, how by 1989 the EPA had a National Priority List of toxic water sites to clean up, and “most severe” Superfund sites numbered over 1,160. Cancers and leukemias come with toxic pollution, and reproductive systems and fetal development have been shown to be affected: researchers found over 100 halogenated hydrocarbons and plastic compounds in human newborns’ umbilical cords, in levels even higher than those found in their mothers’ bloodstreams– PCBs and benzine, carbon tetrachloride– chemical names I ran across often in the studies of the dangers of hydraulic fracturing for cheap easy natural gas.
I’ve read about the air and water. I started Paul Bogard’s The Ground Beneath Us, but the thought of how we were paving, building on and digging under, blasting and stripping and “developing” the land, turning, thousands of feet out and deep, the very soil, which is made up of millions of living species and organisms, into dead clay or dirt with nothing living in it, was too depressing. If we ruin the ground, what is there? The more I learn of the wondrous workings and communications of the vegetable world, the more sad I am about our fallen state.
The Organic Gardening group raised my hopes and stirred my own compost heap of imagination, and at the Goodwill store I saw and bought The Basic Book Of Organic Gardening edited by Robert Rodale in 1971, who was declaring then the urgency of returning to organic– natural— farm and garden practices to feed and restore and maybe save the planet earth from our chemical and toxic ways. And in 1971 he was quoting the “Father of the Organic Growing movement” Sir Albert Howard, who in 1940 was writing warnings of the dangers in the widespread use of chemical fertilizers and insecticides.
My hope wavered, a little. None of the information about the dangers of our modern methods is brand-new, even if the internet makes it seem so. But EPA regulations are being rolled back, the Right– that nomiker is so hard to use! The far right, alt right, white trumpy right, Big Money right– wants its oil and fracked gas, wants its urban development, wants chemicals to scent the household air and the laundry for weeks, wants the cheap grocery items and the cancer drugs to sell, wants the money…
Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Ag– who is this, how is this, how can these Lobbies be? To what end, if the chemicals are killing us, like crack and heroin and meth, fentanyl and Oxy are killing.
My ever-naive, in despite, imagination asks, Why are there even artificial fertilizers? Don’t dead plants and waste from birds and rabbits and horses and cows and critters fertilize? Insecticides– don’t birds and bats and other bugs eat the insects? In deserts, in stricken places where the people are starving, humane science and technology would do well to step in– but the storing and transporting industries could also provide food and water directly; the Heifer Projects gives animals, seeds, birds which provide foods and materials for more foods and incomes for improvements of situations: helping others in fact works…
But the Big Ag farms– hundreds or thousands of acres growing single crops to mass market– using the chemicals which alter the plants themselves, spray by spray kills the organisms living in the soil and replaces the organic matter until only the crops raised with artificial aid will grow, and the insecticides that poison everything poisons the life forms who would eat the unwanted insects, kills the bees and butterflies that pollinate our plants. Vicious, deadly cycles thus begin– the developers and sellers of the chemicals making the chemicals necessary to the buyers and growers, meaning there is a lot of Money in it, and Power– if you own the chemical-making factories or the giant farms which have so taken over that only one per cent of the US population farms, yet one-hundred per cent of the world population must eat.
Terrorists may buy fertilizers and use the chemicals for bombs.
Timothy McVeigh used fertilizer and fuel to blow up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, April 19, 1995.
This seems a key to the Who and Why; my theory is:
The Military-Industrial Complex: the manufacturers with government and military contracts, who lobby and run much of this American Capitalist-Imperialist system.
In WWI, nitrogen was used in making explosives, and after the war was marketed (advertised, pushed) as fertilizer, because crops need nitrogen. Before it was Roundup which gets sprayed around our yards, the same was the Agent Orange defoliator used by America in the Vietnam War.The fertilizers– like the insecticides and weed-killers, worked amazingly quickly and well, and indeed European fields were devastated by the battles, the trenches, and help and hurry was needed for basic bread, after the Great War, but these are immediate and short-term treatments, unhealthy to all links of the food chain and threads of the feeding web, from algae to us.
We have arrived at Greed: each land crisis into which wealthy businessmen have introduced equipment and materials which poorer small farmers could not afford, forcing them to sell the land which they purchased or have banks foreclose on , has sent more people into the cities to serve as a supply of cheap labor in the factories and sweatshops, and turned them into consumers of food from supermarkets (wrapped in plastic, on Styrofoam) from growers of food. The rich grow richer at the expense of the rest.
“Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it.They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that that move on the ground– everything that has the breath of life in it– I give every green plant for food,” [GENESIS 1:29-30].
Our culture has made us sick, and hospital supplies such as sterile plastics are provided by petroleum concerns, drugs by multi-national pharmaceutical corporations who offer us vitamin supplements to replace what foods no longer contains in the amounts they once did (while growth and sex hormones have been fed to the cows and pigs and chickens bought in grocery stores since the ’50s).
You will say, we can’t all be farmers; everyone in the cities can’t grow their own food, and by now we need the cities, and what have you even eaten that you’ve grown, don’t you, also, get it at the store? Yes– and I know, and I am too easily, too often discouraged by it all. Humans have known, but done little. Change is possible– but not profitable enough for those in control, or comfortable. Many of us live comfortably– between rounds of treatment for our diseases…
And here is my worst and probably main or most dangerous sin: Acedia.
This is a spiritual despondency and enervation, self-disgust and apathy, sloth and depression, a temptation and a sin.
In the fourth century, it was one of the Eight Deadly Sins: the desert monk Evagrius of Pontius listed gluttony, fornication, avarice, sadness, anger, vainglory, pride, and acedia, which he felt was perhaps the most dangerous of all. This was easily true to the Brothers and Sisters who were living ascetic lives in deserts and waste places as hermits or small communities, and while it has been knocked off the common “Deadly Sin” list, it remains. It pervades. It is what makes some of us know that something can be done, but we are not leaders or rich and can’t do it, can’t do enough to change anything or help anything.
Acedia tells me that it’s probably too late, humans won’t change until after the disasters when none of their known lives are possible and everyone will have to gather or hunt or grow to survive again. Then, it’ll like be like Mad Max unless God comes. When Jesus comes on His white horse…
Acedia, that sort of bad-taste-in-the-mouth disgust and hopelessness makes us dislike ourselves and others, bored to death alone, unhappy and dissatisfied with community, with work, with life and everything– this is the sin that can lead to suicide, unless you just don’t give a crap enough. Or to just doing nothing, because nothing is worth it.
Doing nothing for the glory of God; doing nothing through the strength of God within. Smothering Holy Spirit, losing connection with Holy Spirit– and bread and Living Water, becoming as dead as the clayey dirt that has no living worms or bacteria, roots or rhizomes in it, dead as the ground under Manhatttan or post-War London.
This is a temptation. This is the Demon that knows me best.
Acedia is the opposite of Hope, and the sin that allows the robber barons to snatch up, force out, exploit, poison and oppress others and ourselves, the land and animals, indigenous peoples and women generation after generation, the world over.
It may be the Sin that has reared its head again, after centuries of exploration and progress and education– look at how plastic water bottles, disposable goods and wrappers and our industrial waste has trashed our planet in less than a hundred years; even ten years ago you could get things in glass bottles and jars: does anyone remember powder detergents (no plastic jugs) and returning bottles or cans for the 5 cent deposit? Isn’t this tossing of everything into oceans a sign of not-caring?
Is this since the development of nuclear bombs? Ever since we’ve known that we can destroy the planet fourteen times over with our stockpiled nukes, we have been all about disposable diapers and razors– nothing needs to last anymore, because our military likes to use its best toys somewhere, eventually. The costs of those warheads and missiles and delivery systems could irrigate, seed, feed, clothe, house, and educate the population of the world, probably fourteen times over.
But we have tanks and pits full of radioactive waste; every stage of development, testing and transporting of nuclear weapons has created dangerous waste. Storage facilities leak into groundwater and the ground– it is hard to be hopeful about much of anything. It is very hard not to fall to that “noonday demon” as Evagrius called it, to give up even on God.
Which is exactly what the Devil, the enemy wants.
But the international members of the Organic Gardening group page on Facebook have been posting pictures of their plots and farms, bees and Monarch caterpillars, the summer’s produce, for some the first ever– oh the delight and joy of the first-ever watermelons, first -time harvests of carrots, potatoes, giant tomatoes, gorgeous leaves and blossoms, rainbows of flowers and green, and green, like acres of paradise, and jardiniers of Vrindavana, where Sri Krsna dwells and eats His lunch with His friends, a land spiritual to those who are not world- or illusion-conditioned, and only material to those who are spiritually blind.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb…On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations,” [REVELATION 22:1-2].
The mulberry tree was all brown on July 1, her leaves had died– as they would have in the fall. I did not expect to know until next year if she had made it, and only thought to hope if she stood over winter.
But, on July 25, I saw a sprinkling of green on the low branch, and I was overjoyed: it seemed a miracle! Two days later, some tiny tips of green on one higher branch showed, and I almost cried with happiness. There have been more, two or three, now four more, and the leaves are spread over her– still small, but unfurling and bursting and bright green, and this, this “God-sighting” as we’d say at Vacation Bible School, delights my heart. This delight is a stem for joy, the kind that acedia may try to poison, may oppress, but, I pray, will not overcome.
“Be glad, earth and sky! Tell the nations that the Lord is king.
Roar, sea, and every creature in you; be glad, fields, and everything in you!
The trees in the woods will shout for joy when the Lord comes to rule the earth,” [1 CHRONICLES 16: 31-33].