The Recycling Center near my house has been converted to a Community Garden and yesterday I dropped by to see what was going on. Everyone with their shovels and wheelbarrows hauling dirt and filling the raised beds. Recyling is a worthy and necessary venture, but one can’t help but feel the difference between sorting our garbage and aiding the creation of new life from seed. It was a spot of the ancient rural life in the midst of the urban. Everyone in jeans with sleeves rolled up, no posturing or need to be charming or alluring or sexy— in the garden, all are equal. No awards for best dirt-shoveler, no green-thumb grades or bumper stickers, no national standards of gardening to be checked off or assessed. Just everyone freely sharing their little corner of experience and advice. A step off the wheel of getting ahead or struggling to not be behind, down into the dirt of the simple life-affirming acts of preparing the bed, sowing the seed, later watering and tending and weed-pulling. And then marveling at the life that grows, later picking the tomatoes lovingly from the plant or pulling up the greens by the roots and bringing to the dinner table— life created and nurtured and cooked and served to sustain life.
Then this morning to the Farmer’s Market and that same kind of feeling of people gathering in life’s celebration. Music playing, folks tasting, talking, touching, the sun shining between the fog wisps, the smell of fresh-baked bread and ripe apples and pears in the air. This one’s carrot’s might be a brighter orange, that one’s Early Girl tomatoes may attract more than the other’s heirlooms, but no winners or losers here, no high-stakes testing or Farmer’s Market Superbowl, just folks out exchanging the fruits (and vegetables) of this good earth, with convivial conversation and warm hearts.
Last night another life-affirming event at the Young Woman’s Choral Project fund-raising dinner. The highlight was the young women (high school age) singing with the most exquisite vocal sound and ensemble texture in an impressively diverse musical styles. All memorized, all flawlessly performed. As a music teacher, I know what was behind those 30 minutes of music— countless hours of preparation and practice that calls on a person’s highest capabilities— facility with language, the cultivated intelligence of complex musical pattern, the physics and kinesiology of elevated vocal production, a developed sensitivity to the ensemble sound and contrapuntal relationships and a prodigious memory, for starters. All guided by an adult who embodies all those qualities herself and has the love, patience, discipline and dedication to pass it on. Each moment of rehearsal, each e-mail, phone call, meeting to arrange the concert, a vote for life, an act to nurture and sustain life’s promise.
And then every day at The San Francisco School. Sometimes I just stop and look around at what’s happening in any given moment to create such a loving place for children to prosper and grow. At any given moment, 300 plus souls wholly engaged in life’s fullest promise, each adult offering their corner of expertise and particular form of love for children, each child rising as they can to the challenge of discovering what they need to wholly embrace what life offers. Like any one at work, we mostly do what we need to get through the daily schedule still standing, but every once and a while, if we step back and notice, we discover what wonder we’re daily spinning in the emerging tapestry of these children’s lives. And our own.
Cultivating life is slow, patient work. Not sexy, not the crowd-cheering touchdown run, not the awards-dinner adulation, just the steady work of shoveling the dirt, watering the seed, pulling the weed, chopping the carrots. The death-dealers are everywhere— making the new Grand Theft Auto Game, selling the guns, closing the National Parks, blocking a humane health care, manufacturing and selling miniscule plastic water bottles, hurting the world with heavy shoulders of power. What happened to them? What did their family, school, culture fail to give them so they might step out of destruction and return to creation? What addictive behaviors have we created to make fast food, gambled money, explosive firearms more attractive than vegetables growing, young women singing exquisite music or children happily playing in schools with fingerpaints, dress-up costumes, xylophones, playgrounds, gardens, mind-opening books, curiosity-quenching science experiments and the like?
Each day, let’s cast our ballot for life or death and arrange our life accordingly.