A Gardening Poem about Living

Wednesday, August 10, 2016 - 5:30 am

A Gardening Poem about Living

Here is one of my favorite poems. On the surface, it’s about gardening. But, as you’ll see, it’s really about living.
Our culture favors a “manufacturing model” of life. We “make” money, we “make” friends, we “make” time, we even “make” love! But we are plants, not products, and we need to treat ourselves and each other the way a good gardener treats green and growing things.
I’ve heard it said that while an American child will ask, “How are babies made?,” a Chinese child will ask, “How do babies grow?” So, “How does your garden grow?” is not just a line from a nursery rhyme! It’s a good question to ask about everything that involves human beings and humane values.

“The Seven of Pentacles”
by Marge Piercy

Under a sky the color of pea soup
she is looking at her work growing away there
actively, thickly like grapevines or pole beans
as things grow in the real world, slowly enough.
If you tend them properly, if you mulch, if you water,
if you provide birds that eat insects a home and winter food,
if the sun shines and you pick off caterpillars,
if the praying mantis comes and the lady bugs and the bees,
then the plants flourish, but at their own internal clock.

Connections are made slowly, sometimes they grow underground.
You cannot tell always by looking what is happening.
More than half a tree is spread out in the soil under your feet.
Penetrate quietly as the earthworm that blows no trumpet.
Fight persistently as the creeper that brings down the tree.
Spread like the squash plant that overruns the garden.
Gnaw in the dark and use the sun to make sugar.

Weave real connections, create real nodes, build real houses.
Live a life you can endure: make love that is loving.
Keep tangling and interweaving and taking more in,
a thicket and bramble wilderness to the outside but to us
interconnected with rabbit runs and burrows and lairs.

Live as if you liked yourself, and it may happen:
reach out, keep reaching out, keep bringing in.
This is how we are going to live for a long time: not always,
for every gardener knows that after the digging, after
      the planting,

after the long season of tending and growth, the harvest comes.

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is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Wednesday.

He is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include Healing the Heart of Democracy, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.

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