Giving life

Daily Reading for October 21

I once had a colleague whose home contained an impressive array of house plants. Looking at the abundance of healthy green foliage, I asked her to share her secret. “My secret?” she responded. “When they begin to die, I throw them on the compost heap.”

Throwing away plants—whether they be houseplants at the end of their lives or vegetable seedlings at the beginning of theirs—onto the compost heap is extremely difficult for me. The back of the carrot seed package directs me to “scatter seed in the row at the rate of three to five seeds per inch.” Then come those awful words: “When seedlings have three leaves, thin to stand two inches apart.” I usually cannot bring myself to follow the directions to the letter. I cheat, hoping that they will grow equally well if they are only one-and-a-half inches from their neighbors. I want to hold on to the houseplants and to each carrot seedling. I need, instead, to learn that their dying is a way of giving. Their dying contributes to living.

On our nature walk, Stuart Mace explained that death is the keystone of nature’s life cycle. If deciduous trees stubbornly clung to their leaves, there would be no black loam at their roots to nurture next year’s greenery. Giving is the pattern in the animal world as well, although it might also be seen as taking, depending on one’s place in the chain! Algae give their lives in the fish’s watery cafeteria, who in turn meet their end when a sharp-eyed seagull plunges to spear them. Each death gives life to something else. The things of the earth give themselves for one another and for future generations.

From Organic Prayer: A Spiritual Gardening Companion by Nancy Roth. Copyright © 1993, 2007. From Seabury Books, an imprint of Church Publishing. Used by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY.

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