by Maria Bergh, former resident of the Epworth project
As fall finally settles in and the harvest slows, I find myself grateful. My summer months were spent on Mustard Seed Community Farm, a part of the Catholic Worker Movement. This began during the Great Depression when a journalist named Dorothy Day met a teacher named Peter Maurin and they started talking and publishing their vision. Pretty soon people were knocking at the door asking for coffee and then bread and soup (as any good missional monastic community would expect). Finally someone was so bold as to ask if they could spend the night and that settled it. Peter formalized the Catholic Worker as a three-legged stool: houses of hospitality, clarifications of thought (roundtable discussions) and “agronomic universities” – also known as farms.
On our farm we grew food for equal numbers of paid Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares, volunteers, and donations. No one is paid, no one is in charge, and no one is turned away. It was a hard year physically, mentally, and emotionally. Nothing went right, harvests were low and costs were high. And yet, what stands out to me is the Wisdom of Abundance, which is the Wisdom of the Garden, which is the Wisdom of God.
The first thing that strikes one upon arrival is the plenty. I was asked to decide the fate of a sixty-foot row of lettuce. Summer’s heat causes lettuce to bolt (go to flower and seed) and take on a toughness and bitterness which can be cut with plenty of ranch dressing, but isn’t delightful. So we tilled it in, but not before it fed bees and bugs, and rejuvenated our soil for the fall crop of carrots. Everything in the Garden is food for something, Abundance is the rule.
The next awareness is the work. Every day stretches out beautiful, immense, and full beyond our strength to manage all that nature was doing around us. For instance, I eyed the plum tree, bent to the ground with fruit. But when I went to harvest I couldn’t it – it had sprung back up to its old shape after being picked clean by critters that noticed its sweetness before I had. There is gratitude even in disappointment, as the Garden is a community of unseen eaters: bacteria, bugs, birds, bats, and beasts make our garden grow, and they work faster than I do. As I fell asleep aching from my work each night, running to keep time with Mother Nature, I couldn’t help but marvel at the mystery and be grateful for the Wisdom of the Garden where diversity is strength.
And now, as I retreat to the warmth and rest of a big city for winter, I sit and wonder, “why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves” (Isaiah 55:2). While I worked hard every day to meet only my basic needs, I also had the gift of working up to my elbows in creation, renewing a small piece of the face of this earth, cooperating with the immense mystery of the Wisdom of God. Society no longer acknowledges this Way exists, but it is the most fulfilling and peace-filled Way imaginable.
And so, as I go on my pilgrim way, I hold in my heart an awareness of gratitude for the shortening days, the slowing work, and the increased rest. All are gifts of the Creator who showers us with Abundance, Beauty, and Wisdom in every walk of life. Open your heart, and it will be filled.