def: advaita ad-vite , adjective;
1. A sanskrit word implying union. Literally “ad” meaning not, and vait meaning “two”. Not two, but not one.
I am lettuce. I am tomato. I am chicken, and I am broccoli. And no I am not crazy, but I am Nature.
This month, our theme at The Growing Club is Thanking the Earth. I have been thinking the whole month about this idea, gratitude to the Earth. Sitting in the garden, there is so much to be grateful for: the ground I stand on, the soil that provides me with all I am, the beauty and wisdom that surrounds me. The more I thought about gratitude, the more I realized how important it is for people to understand our role in nature and our relationship to her.
My relationship with nature has been changing progressively ever since I began to garden. One big mistake people make when they try to create a garden is that they try to grow plants. Trying to grow plants is a good recipe for killing plants. Plants, like children, cats, and dogs, cannot be grown. Plant DO grow and humans CAN create healthy gardens where plants can grow well, but humans do not grow plants. When I first realized this, it changed my whole conception of what it meant to be a gardener. A gardener does not spend her time trying to grow healthy plants, a gardener cultivates the Earth to create the conditions for healthy plants to happen. A gardener provides healthy food for the soil, a gardener harvests the rain from the sky, and a gardener assembles the pieces of life into a beautiful and harmonious symphony.
One morning in the garden, I sat watching the ants carrying the aphids on to Sister Kale. The ants dutifully carried aphid after aphid up the plant, depositing them on the underside of her leaves. Other ants collected the aphid dew (aka aphid poo), taking it home to the nest. Sitting there, watching this magical world unfold in front of me, I was suddenly hit by the Truth: Ants are Farmers! Ants Farm!
This truth hit me with such a force because it shattered an idea that I had grown up with and had been instilled into me since I was a child. Humans, I was told, are special. We are not part of nature. We destroy nature, and the more we do, the more we destroy. Human activity, therefore, must be limited. We must drive less, use less water, eat less meat, and watch less TV. Since humans are not part of nature, we must seclude and isolate nature in parks, in “national monuments,” in outdoor museums. Even how we grow food is not “natural.” Farming is a constant war with nature, where she tries to destroy our food, and we try to destroy her.
The farming ants popped all those thought bubbles. Like humans, ants farm livestock. Aphids are their cows. Like humans, ants build homes. Theirs underground with a variety of caves and levels, and ours above ground with a variety of caves and levels. Ants are always busy working, gathering food, collecting water, and mating. Ants are just like humans. Or humans are just like ants. In fact, humans are just like all other life, like all other nature. We are nature. Yes, we can be a little more obnoxious and arrogant than butterflies, but we can also cultivate immense beauty. We can assemble beautiful gardens, we can tend forests, we can love and care for animals and we can care for each other. When we understand our role in nature, as nature, our creativity can outweigh our destructivity. When we step into this role, we are stripped of our arrogance and “specialness.” We become humble again, and sit at our place at the table of life. We can look around that table and be grateful to everyone sitting there, and the ground that we are sitting on.
And just a reminder…
You do not grow lettuce, you are lettuce. You do not grow tomatoes, you are tomatoes. You do not grow chickens, You are chicken. And no, I am not crazy, but I am grateful.
Don’t forget to join us this Saturday, Nov. 22nd for our Monthly Potluck! You can register at this link.