Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Lesson from Gaia

Last week, it rained from Sunday to Friday.  Seven days of rain!  Each day, I'd look out the windows at my gardens and see it growing before my eyes.  It was so green and lush and I longed to get out there with my flowers and plants.  I would get a few minutes here and there, when the showers were very light, almost a mist, or when they would cease temporarily until the next one would come along.  I didn't mind the rain but after a few days of no sun and no real outdoor time, I was starting to get a bit stir crazy.  Finally, this past Friday, it began to lift.  I was able to get outside to cut some roses for my vases in the house and clean up the rose bushes a bit.  I did a bit of weeding in the front garden beds.  At times, I was so intoxicated by the fragrances of the roses mixed with the rich scent of the wet earth that I would just sit or stand there being in the moment, at total peace.  That evening, I walked around my house, sipping a glass of wine, and stopped at each vase of roses I had filled earlier in the day and once again was overcome by the scent of fresh roses and greens in the house.

Saturday morning I awoke to a very pleasant surprise.  The sun!  The windows of my house were bursting with golden light and I jumped out of bed, giddy with joy.  I grabbed my first cup of coffee and headed right out the back door in my jammies to create a mental Garden To Do list.  I got the regular household chores out of the way and then headed out to the garden later that afternoon.  I spent four hours weeding the garden beds in the back of the house, pruning old blooms from the lilac bush, cleaning and refilling bird feeders and bird baths, and pruning the Burkwood's Broom.  Although I was tugging away at weeds and contorting my body around this plant or that plant so as not to disturb them while I worked around them, I was once again at total peace.  I looked forward to another day of sun, as promised by our local weather reporters, on Sunday.

However, Sunday dawned as an "iffy" day.  The sun peaked in and out.  It seemed damp, chilly and unsettled again.  My husband and I ran errrands in the morning.  When we got home, I went back and forth on whether I would work out in the front gardens.  Finally, I grabbed my basket of gardening tools and headed out there.  My focus for the day was the ivy I have growing across the front of the house.  It was beginning to grow out of control because of all the rain, invading my rose bushes and my neighbor's garden beds, and was creeping closer and closer to the house.  I aplogized to the ivy as I began cutting it back.  I truly did feel bad about it.  After all, it was doing what ivy does but the other plants and flowers did not appreciate it.  As I began pulling long tendrils of ivy from under the bushes along my front steps and clearing out the leaves and other debris that had built up under them, the scent of fertile soil hit me.  A thought then occurred to me.  I had cut the ivy back before over the years but it had been some time since I had last done this.  The leaves that had been trapped beneath the ivy had composted down to provide essential nutrients for the soil.  Here I was clearing the debris out when it could get put to good use.  After removing the ivy, I set about returning some of the more decayed and wet material back under the bushes and around some of the garden beds.  The flowers and plants seemed to stand taller and say a silent "Thank You" as I did this.

Later that day, my husband had to make a trip to the hardware store to get some items to repair my fountain that sits in the garden bed outside my front door.  I went along for the ride and wandered about the garden section.  It was there I had an "Ah-Ha Moment".  I was turning from one aisle to the next when one word caught my eye - COMPOST.  I could not contain my excitement!  I must have looked crazed as I went speed walking through the store to locate my husband and calling to him.  I brought him over to the aisle and showed him the compost bins there.  "We should be doing this!", I announced.  "We're putting garden trash in plastic bags and sending it to some landfill somewhere when we could be composting it and using it in the gardens!  We're ruining the planet and trying to save it all at the same time.  We're bad gardeners!  Mother Earth is not happy with us right now!"  I was beside myself with guilt but joyful at the same time that the Universe of Infinite Solutions had smacked me in the face a few times this weekend.  The hubby agreed with me on all levels and we are now in the midst of pricing and investigating compost bins and figuring out where we'll put them on our very small property and how to compost properly.  We have even gone as far as to begin to investigate gathering rain in a barrell to reuse in the gardens (a thought that dawned on me when it began raining again later that evening).

In contemplating the past few days, I have come to another realization.  Perhaps it is very good thing that I am becoming an avid gardener and wanting to preserve my very, very small section of the planet.  With all the talk of doomsday scenarios lately, maybe it is a good thing to know how to grow things, to recycle, to reuse, to repurpose, to preserve, to create balance among the elements in my own backyard.  What if, one day, a solar flare takes out our entire electrical, technological and mechanical grids as some scientists predict?  How will we survive?  Mother Earth is already raging from the insults human beings have slung at her over the years.  We are seeing some of the biggest natural disasters in centuries unfold in some parts of the world on a more regular basis.  She wants Her fertile Earth, Her crisp clean oceans, Her clear blue sky and Her abundant flora and fauna back.  I want to help Her heal Her wounds and reap the benefits of living in Her graces.  I want my son to grow up to care for Her and to teach his children to do the same.  Yes, I have much more work to do to attain that goal.

Today in writing this and doing some research about gardening and how it benefits the Earth, I came across a study performed by Dr. James Lovelock FRS (Fellow of the Royal Society) and Dr. Sidney Epton in the 1970's.  It is called the Gaia Hypothesis and is based on two propositions:  one, that "life exists only because material conditions on Earth happen to be just right for its existence" and two, that "life defines the material conditions needed for its survival and makes sure they stay there".  Their conclusions in this study were that the Earth "seemed to exhibit the behaviour of a single organism, even a living creature" and that "in man, Gaia has the equivalent of a central nervous system and an awareness of herself and the rest of the Universe. Through man, she has a rudimentary capacity, capable of development, to anticipate and guard against threats to her existence".  I think that speaks volumes to us.  The full account of this study can be found in Dr. Lovelock's book entitled, "Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth", a book which I will be purchasing this week to accompany me on this journey.