Daily thoughts on aesthetics and theology, and the entire world in between.

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About those raised beds ...

Several weeks ago I wrote a post about the raised beds we were building (see May 10). Well, here is where we are. And here are some thoughts I had while building them:

1. Sweat and fatigue are unavoidable in tilling the land. And this is the one activity Adam and Eve were given after the fall. If they wanted to live, they had to labor for their food. Today, less than 3% of US citizens are farmers -- and they have John Deere to help them. That means 97% of us are not
directly experiencing the sweat and toil of tilling the ground for our sustenance. I am among that 97%, so I felt a certain kind of embarrassment that I was doing it all for a hobby.

2. I was doing it all for beauty. What do I mean by beauty here? Well, probably no more than picturesque-ness. The picturesque is an aesthetic category that involves variety, pleasant vistas, quaintness. In other words: neither the transport of the beautiful nor the awesomeness of the sublime. Just a pretty picturesque scene, a kind of framed postcard of our aesthetic wishes imposed upon a wild nature. C.S. Lewis once said that we all long for a beauty not simply to look at,
but to be a part of "from the side." Hmmm: to be on the inside of beauty. I often yearn for that.

3. To achieve the beautiful -- or even the quaintness of the picturesque -- required an unbelievable amount of
subtractions. The beds themselves are a 60% reduction of the plantable garden area we have. Then the beds needed to be armored with wire mesh on the bottom so the pocket gophers can be subtracted from them. Then landscape fabric was put down to subtract the possibility of purslane encroachment. Getting to beauty by subtraction. Sad.

4. There is a difference between work and life. You can do the work; but you can't produce the life. After all of that sweat and labor, it is still a mystery how vegetables will ultimately grow in those beds. Which returns to that question about what 97% of us non-farmers are doing (see item #1): many of us mistake work for life. And so we think our work is our life. But it is really only sweat and toil. Life comes from somewhere else. Only God grants life, and it is as mysterious as ever.

5. This was the first year I really got "into" gardening. And by gardening together with my wife who has gardened for many years, I found a new way to experience being one flesh with her. And that is a beautiful thing. Even if I did throw out my back.


Genesis 3.19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

1 Corinthians 3.6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

From C.S. Lewis, "The Weight of Glory": ... you know what I mean. For a few minutes we have had the illusion of belonging to that world. Now we wake to find it is no such thing. We have been mere spectators. Beauty has smiled, but not to welcome us; her face was turned in our direction, but not to see us ... And part of the bitterness which mixes with the sweetness (of beauty) is due to the fact that it so seldom seems to be a message intended for us, but rather something we have overheard ... we pine ... in this universe we are treated as strangers ...(But) our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation ..." The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, Harper San Francisco, 200, p. 40, 42.


Anonymous June 8, 2009 at 5:47 PM  

Enjoyed the article. What is planted in those raised beds.

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