keeping the dandelions

I was walking home last night up to the house and for the first time that I can remember felt a sense of shame that our house was looking dowdier and more run down that the other houses in the cul-de-sac. It could use a lick of paint and the grass ‘needs’ cut.

The thing is that I don’t think the grass really needs cut but feel obliged socially to fit in with the narrative of the tidy lawns in all the rest of the homes.I don’t think that the grass needs cut because I was watching two goldfinch eating dandelion heads on my lawn, dandelions that would be obliterated by the lawnmower or house proud gardeners who think of them as weeds. No dandelions means no goldfinch. I’d rather have the goldfinches on long grass than a billiard table surface. It seems a bit pointless to spend money on buying in seeds and putting them in feeders to attract goldfinches when you grow your own.

The pressure to fit in is powerful though. I don’t want to be the blow in that brings the neighbourhood and makes the place look untidy and unkempt. So instead I will pay for petrol and pay for getting the lawnmower serviced and walk around keep the grass short all summer. Somehow keeping the grass short  has become tied in with being some type of Christian witness (because I’m respecting the culture of the place). I’m not sure I want to go too far down this road mind you..Image

 

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dominion over hake

There is a verse in the opening chapter of the bible that has been bothering me.

“Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

It is this command to subdue the earth and have dominion over other creatures that troubles me as it seems to legitimize treating other creatures as natural resources to be exploited for our enjoyment.

I was looking at the words on the STEP Bible software :-

Subdue =to subject, subdue, force, keep under, bring into bondage
Dominion =
to rule, have dominion, dominate, tread down

The idea of subjecting, forcing, keeping under, bringing into bondage seem like aggressive even violent words, especially since they are words given before the fall of man.

Similarly the idea of having dominion, dominating, treading down don’t seem to be words that are in tune with the idea of the lion lying down with the lamb. It seems like a rough way of living with little affection.

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On Sunday  night a kind lady popped around  with fish  that had just been landed from the North Atlantic.
She kindly gave us a big white box of some type of fish and some prawns.
The box was unmarked but checking a book I reckon it was probably hake. Reading on book then said:-

‘We all have our weaknesses, certain things – like roulette, scrumpy or chocolate – we can’t quite  trust ourselves to be around. The Spanish tend to lose their heads over fish, and none more so than hake. Merzula, as they call it, is their fish of choice, bordering on a national obsession – and now bordering on an international ecological disaster… much of it is caught by Spain’s extensive deepwater fleet, the biggest and most heavily subsidised in the European Union. Few species apart from cod and bluefin tuna are under more pressure”
The River Cottage Fish Book, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Nick Fisher

The verse in Genesis with the idea of dominating and treading down doesn’t seem to fit easily with the idea that we should fish gently and carefully.

And that was a command in the Garden of Eden before sin had entered the world. Now that sin has entered how much more aggressive and violent is mankind?See the tuna fleets clearing the sea out.

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we plough the fields and scatter

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I have to admit to getting a bit annoyed when churches think that having a Harvest Thanksgiving Service is something from a bygone era that has no relevance to people today. (Not that I’ve heard of any church doing this, it’s maybe just in my imagination).

It especially irritates me when urban churches think like that because it seems to show a lack of awareness, thankfulness  or insight of where the food they had today in the town or city came from.
It doesn’t matter if you live in a bustling town without a cow in sight.  Somewhere on planet earth your food was planted. More than that, your future meal is either growing or being stored in a tiny seed for future growth for us to eat..
We are all dependent on the marvels of the soil and humus which if you are of a Christian persuasion God created just as much as he created you or me. Which has implications.

We usually sing the old harvest favourite

‘We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land
But it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand’

Yet that isn’t quite true. I can see this from growing the few things that I got the time to plant this summer.

The soil here was tired, rocky and dry from bushes and shrubs that had grown the last 20yrs. So I had to take the bushes out, make a small bed and throw in some well rotted compost to try and improve the soil so that the lettuce and leeks would grow more healthily. In fact, one of the neighbourhood cats did his business beside a few leeks and they are noticeably larger than the other leeks.
Humans have to be custodians of the soil and sometimes add fertilizers, manure and other things if they want to keep on harvesting food from the land year after year. In one sense the soil is fed by humans as well. That is why gardeners keep compost heaps or try to get their hands on some well rotted manure.

Or during the heat wave the ground got scorched  dry and my lettuce started to bolt so I had to water the soil by going to the tap with my watering can and adding lots of water. Humans might have to irrigate and water their crop and plants, especially in areas of low rainfall.

So what I think about those lines in the hymn is that   they underplay the role that humans (all humans?) have in looking after creation in that we have a bigger role in the harvesting of our food than those lines suggest. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t all ultimately come from God, just that God put Adam in the Garden of Eden to look after it.

I wonder if those line also have filtered down to how we understand how the climate works? It seems to be the attitude with a lot of Christians that we shouldn’t get our knickers in a twist about climate change because God is in charge of the weather patterns and sends the weather, not us.
Which might be be a problem as we think that what we do can’t effect what is going to happen with the weather patterns so we might as well do what we want.

I find the whole thing about climate change and scientists puzzling.
Obviously years ago scientists discovered that smoking or passive smoking is bad for your health, so people and the Government took that on board and outlawed smoking in public places etc. Yet not many people seem to go around being skeptical about what the scientists say there but when it comes to climate change nobody seems to want to trust the scientists.
When it comes to climate change nobody wants to take it seriously. So it is going to happen and that means that our harvests are going to become more unpredictable. For example f there are heatwaves in places that used to be reliable places to grow wheat then there is going to be less bread. If there is more wet weather in areas that used to have reliable rainfall then harvesting crops is going to be more expensive. And all that is going to happen as the population of planet earth continues to grow.

So I think that we have extra reason to be thankful for every harvest we have as well as repenting of not treating the world around us of respect.
It’s like that old chestnut that I used to get about having wear a suit to church as ‘If you wouldn’t wear jeans to meet the Queen, how much more important is it to wear respectful clothes in meeting with God?’

If you wouldn’t trash Buckingham Palace or wreck a van Gogh painting in an art gallery why would we treat the world God created with so little respect?
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The Burren/

The more I think about The Burren the more fascinated I become with it.
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In  1651-52, Edmund Ludlow wrote that The Burren

“…is a country where there is not enough water to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him…… and yet their cattle are very fat; for the grass growing in turfs of earth, of two or three foot square, that lie between the rocks, which are of limestone, is very sweet and nourishing.

And that is the amazing thing. Despite it being a rocky place there is an incredible diversity of plant life and wildlife living between the rocks in  crevices and cracks and all over the place.
Species that would normally not  grow together grow together. Plants that are more at home in the Arctic , Alpine regions or Mediterranean call The Burren home.  Crevices provide shelter, retain moisture and the rocks act like  a giant storage heater (according to knowledge picked up from watching a little bit of Coast),

I’ll have to explore it more sometime.

Meanwhile I was thinking this morning in church  that it felt a bit like The Burren. Over on the other side of Galway Bay Arctic plants grow alongside Mediterranean plants and Alpine  plants while over here we have Malaysian, South Korean, Hungarian, Cameroonian, Zimbabwean, Tongan, Nigerian, Irish, British, American,Madagascan, Indian, Ghanian, Swiss, Congolese Brazilian, Turkish, Spanish, German, Dutch, French exotics passing through for a day and others for a few months or others living and rooted.

I was thinking that church is a bit like a crack in the rocky ground, a place of shelter, warmth and moisture where the Kingdom of God can grow even if we can’t really explain or know what is going on half the time, or most of the time.
When I stood on The Burren the other day maybe something  in me was reminded of the prophecy in Isaiah when the lion lies down with the lamb and nature is in harmony, things that don’t normally grow together in health and peace do.
And I felt the same this morning in church. People who don’t normally grow together trying to grow together despite our failings.  This week The Burren and our church seemed to be hints of the way things should really be.

composting

composting

I love having a little heap of compost in a corner of the garden. This morning I went out and threw some vegetable peelings on, turned the heap inside out and breathed in sweet warm composting air. It brought me back to the 90’s when there was a F_____ family mushroom growing business   and bags of  prepared compost would arrive on a lorry in bags which I’d smell. That same smell 20 yrs later.
There was a moment this morning when I just looked at my compost heap and felt content with the world. That doesn’t happen that often so I wanted to note it down. What is it about the compost heap that made me feel so content?
Well it is a sign that death and decay isn’t necessarily the end. There is life in decay as well. The rotting vegetables will decay and in a few months I will put it back into the soil to help grow new vegetables.Tomorrow’s fresh green lettuce and leeks will be nurtured by today’s rotting vegetables and grass. There is the promise of resurrection and new life in death and decay. A moment of contentment.

seal

The walk home along the canal brought someone I haven’t seen for year or more, the seal. I rummaged around in my bag for the camera as I had to capture him (why  exactly did I have to capture him on camera?) and by the time I had it switched on I had lost him, just a few grainy out of focus shots and a video of the waves.

Walking home I was reminded of  a Wendell Berry poem I’d read last night.
It has been a tough week with things that have kept me a awake at night. News of family friend in hospital far from home and  family, fear and panic, far from peace.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Wendell Berry
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