Gardening not Guns

My Mennonite ancestors taught me to plunge my hands in the good earth. It was that body memory of farming the land and animal husbandry that eventually led me full circle to honeybees. As I hear the news of yet another mass shooting, this time in the tiny town of my alma mater, Hesston Kansas, I need the peace of wild things (thank you, Wendell Berry) to help clear my head. The madness of gun violence continues unabated, while the insane conversation of politicians suck up all the airspace. We are plagued by denial and partisan narcissism. There seems to be no national will to heal our humanity. We are soulsick as a nation.We do not reflect on our collective lives and the dis-ease of violence that afflicts our society.

An historical novel, Acalan, by Anthony Conforti (Putun Press) takes the reader back to the ancient and complex indigenous cultures that gave rise in the 14th and 15th centuries.

In one exchange between a Mayan priestess, Ixchel, and the Priestly Scribe, her mentor, she says:

My Lord, once I read in a book that creating a garden is the highest form of peacemaking. The scribe smiled at Ixchel, constantly amazed at her depth of learning and understanding.” Yes! I think the act of creating a garden out of nature, the desire to heal fellow human beings, and the ability to write down ones thoughts are the highest virtues of civilization.”

This is a provocative idea.

It occurs to me that patience and care of a garden plot full of humble plants, birds and bugs prepares me to care for others. Certainly it nourishes my soul, leading me to self reflection and hopefully, right relationship with all living beings.

Today was a warm Spring day. The bee yard, aka my backyard, was filled with my golden girls taking flight. I could see the top of the apple tree next door unveiling her pink blossoms. The nectar flow was beginning. I opened one of the hives, exposing the industrious and complex society of the honeybees inside. Amazingly they were filling up the empty combs with honey. It was a collaborative hubbub. They didn’t pay any attention to me as I pried open the bars to gaze inside. I was soothed by the pungent smell of honey, the low hum of many busy bees and warmth emanating from the hive. It was the peaceable kingdom—or queendom, as it were. A virtuous civilization.

Perhaps it is time to get down on our collective hands and knees in the good soil and begin to clear and sow that Spring garden. Or keep bees.

I light a candle tonight for you, Hesston Kansas. I am with you.

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