This post was inspired by so many people and events but it wouldn’t be fair to write these words about the environment and sustainability without first acknowledging the influence from my first ‘real-life environmentalist friend’.
When I met her more than 15 years ago, I wasn’t ready for recycled toilet paper, plastic-free shopping, boycotting corporations that exploit the poor and totally avoiding food and products that harm animals. However, she did not judge me, instead just quietly disagreed with many things I ate and purchased but always remained my friend. In doing so, she chose to lovingly and respectfully plant seeds of ‘sustainability’ within me. She knew that screaming out in anger and rage would have made me turn the other way. I write this post with thanks and heart-felt gratitude, not only for the seeds she has planted but also for her tireless work to educate and inspire others. I wouldn’t be writing this story in this way had it not been for her ‘environmental’ influences.
Louise Petherick, you have planted many seeds in your life and although you may not see them all grow, somewhere, someday, someone is reaping the reward. You are a true example of working and giving not only so that you may eat but also ensuring that others do too.
We took some time out from school this week and spent a few days on a farm. Our intention was to provide our son with an opportunity to experience life on the land and see how food is produced. As always, we learned more than we could have ever imagined.
Yes we learned some pretty awesome things about life on the farm and ate some wholesome home-grown food. However, the farm-stay turned into a story about love and life, the cycle of sustainability and interestingly a story about migration. Our experience could be summed up into three categories; those who stayed, those who left and those who went back. We learned that not all of us are meant to stay where we are born, not all of us need to leave and that some of us will always have the urge to go back.
Those who stayed often wondered if they should have left, those who left wondered if they should have stayed and those who went back often questioned why? However, it doesn’t really matter if you stay, leave or return. Everyone has their own reason and their own path to follow. What really matters is finding peace where you are.
Our place and our time in the world is more about what we do and the energy we send out rather than what we have and where we live. Knowing that the seeds we plant do not belong to us, they are merely an expression of our existence, our time here. Life isn’t a competition of who gathers the most fruit. It is an opportunity to plant seeds that will provide possibilities for tomorrow even if those possibilities are for people we may never know.
Those who left.
Whilst driving to the farm, we found ourselves exploring small towns and villages. The drive through the abundant fields and beautiful colours of summer presented an image of this part of the world very different to the reality. Between the beautiful fields of nature were hundreds if not thousands of abandoned farms and houses. Where did all the people go? Our son asked. “I guess the people moved to the cities and to other wealthier countries so that they can earn more money.” I replied.
Now if you still think that we have nothing to learn from the children in our world then just wait for this reply.
“Why can’t they earn more money here, the trees and the rivers and the fruit is just the same as in the wealthier countries”?
How do you explain to an 8 year old that the lure of wealth, possessions and status has removed the people from the land with a promise for a better life?
How do you explain to an 8 year old child that farmers are robbed of their right to earn a decent living due to ‘below’ bottom-line margins that maximise profit for the few greedy pigs at the top whilst a growing number of the world’s people go without food.
How do you explain to an 8 year old that the world is set up in such a way that poor countries and poor people are needed so that corporations can exploit them.
How do you explain to an 8 year old that this is an age old problem and in fact it is such an old problem that we have simply become used to things being this way.
I must admit that the conversation did get to the core of me and in that moment looking at so many abandoned farms, I felt a range of negative feelings about the current state of the world. However, as always, something happened to make me notice that somewhere in the world, seeds of hope for tomorrow continue to be planted. If you look close enough, even in the darkest hours, something always shows up with a little flicker of hope. My favourite quote about this is by Fred Rogers.
Hope for tomorrow was found in this beautiful and abundant land, just as rich in its natural beauty and fertile soil as the wealthier countries surrounding it. We found the helpers amongst the abandoned farms. There were only a few and they were largely out numbered but the point is they were there, working tirelessly to bring life back to the land. We discovered that this time, the seeds of hope for tomorrow were not just a metaphor but reality and I will share that story next, but first I want to talk about those who stayed.
Those who stayed
As we drove through the streets we stopped at a house with a ‘for sale’ sign on it. We met an old woman who lived across the road. She was the only one left in the village. The old woman was so persuasive that she could’ve been a real estate agent. I felt so sorry for her I just wanted to buy the house, plant some flowers and bring life back into this forgotten place. She begged us to buy it, she begged us to live in the house and let our son run in the fields like so many children had done in the past. That was another time though, a time before they all disappeared into the arms of consumer giants only to work for their ridiculous profits whilst divorcing themselves from the land that once fed them.
The old woman walked us through every plant, every tree, every material used to build the house as though it was all something she had created herself. “Look!’ she said while pointing at a pear tree. “The earth is so rich here not even this pear tree wants to die, it’s so old and nobody has ever pruned this tree yet it is still giving fruit whilst crawling on the ground refusing to die.”
As we drove away from the house and the old woman I realised she was one of few who had chosen to stay and I wondered if she was at peace with that decision. There she was in a village all alone with nothing more than a pear tree refusing to die. In her eyes and in her soul there was a deep knowing that the rich soil was reason enough to stay but the reality of her loyalty to the life giving land had given her a lonely and difficult life.
Those who went back
The other pear tree in this story was planted almost 200 years ago and although the family left, the tree stayed. In this story the tree slowly lured the family back to the land where they now run a small eco-farm for tourists and school groups. In a twist of several events all happening at the same time, we found ourselves (the adults) drinking a home made liquor made from the fruit of that tree to celebrate the arrival of a baby in a city far away. Literally, the family were celebrating the birth of their grandson that very day we arrived. The tree and the baby were far apart in distance and in age but not in love. The seeds planted by the baby’s great great great grandfather were still the source of fruit, love and life. We had the pleasure of sharing a very special moment with this family. A family that took a chance on nothing more than a pear tree and a strong feeling to go back to the homeland. A family, content with who they are, where they are and what they have. A family, grateful for the opportunity and possibilities given to them because someone, many years ago, lovingly planted seeds for a family he would never know.
To have been randomly part of that moment was no accident. It was a timely reminder for us to never give up on planting seeds of hope for tomorrow. Gratitude for now may be for things planted by others and the cycle of giving more than taking should continue so that tomorrow can also have something to be grateful for. We don’t plant seeds for our own tomorrow because there is no guarantee it is ours. We plant for the unknown of tomorrow even when we know that it may belong to someone else. We should do it with love and kindness in our hearts and we should all get into the habit of only taking what we need. Leaving more not less, for those who we will never meet.
It was under the same pear tree that we also met another young man living nearby, making organic pumpkin seed oil on the land in his grandfather’s village. Another sign of life and of hope that some are choosing to return to this abandoned land. Hopefully the old woman we met may live to hear the laughter of children running through the fields in her village yet again.
In a different way to the family on the farm and the guy making pumpkin seed oil, we are also the ones returning to the land. Maybe because we want to or maybe because something inside of us is saying that we have to. One thing is for sure, whether we go back to stay or only to visit, we each have our own reason. For us, even just a few days on the farm has changed the way we decide what to buy and what to eat. After all, walking to the next village to milk a cow in order to have milk makes one feel the true value of it.
Dear Adult, JTLYK about a 200 year old pear tree.
Seeds are never ending. What you plant will always pop out into the world. A tiny seed can grow into something enormous. Be careful what you plant. An enormous tree filled with delicious fruit is good for everyone but an enormous, prickly weed makes it hard to run freely through the grass. I wish that more trees are planted than there are weeds. Besides, I don’t think anyone will thank you for prickly weeds.
I liked sitting under the 200 year old pear tree and I’m glad that the guy who planted it did it with love and with care. Not only because I could sit in it’s shade, eat the fruit, watch the curious cat climb it and listen to the sound of the birds resting on it’s branches, but also because sitting under that tree made me think about what I could plant and who might one day be sitting under the tree that I plant.
Adults, please STOP feeding the children with all of the fruit. Those who planted it in the past did it so that we may eat but they also did it to show us how to plant. The cycle will end if we eat more than we plant. Show us how to plant more seeds not only so that we have food for tomorrow but also hope, LOVE, truth, respect, value, kindness and support for each other during our time here on this life giving land.
Show us that experiencing a life of giving more than taking is what really makes life full.
What are you planting today?
Not just in the soil but in our world and during our time here, through your thoughts, your words and your actions?