Early last summer we were out of town for over a week and returned to find pumpkin vines proliferating in our garden. I had not planted any pumpkin seeds—or so I thought! When I traced the giant vines back to their source I found one, single volunteer—a plant that grew from the seeds of last year’s Halloween pumpkin casually tossed into the garden as compost. Such garden volunteers can be a wonderful surprise! Equally surprising might be the benefits of volunteering in the garden, orchards and prairie at Holy Wisdom Monastery.
Gardening is a life-giving pursuit in so many ways. Selecting seeds and planning a garden during the cold, late-winter months gives us hope and expectation of the warm days ahead. The first time we can actually smell the earth again is one of the welcome signs of spring. Getting our hands into the warming earth is even better! And then the wonderful rewards of watching the first green shoots appear, seeing the blossoms turning into fruits and vegetables, and finally experiencing the incredible taste of that first fresh strawberry or the first real tomato, straight from the garden. Could it get any better?
Gardening and caring for the earth are activities that draw many to Holy Wisdom Monastery. Weekly volunteers and monthly Community Workday participants help with prairie and orchard maintenance, ground clearing and seeding for new prairie lands. Women participating in our summer Volunteer in Community program spend many hours volunteering in the monastery gardens and orchards, weeding, harvesting, processing and helping to deliver a portion of our harvest to local food assistance programs.
These are volunteer opportunities that offer a unique communal experience. A reading at midday prayer earlier this year speaks to this experience:
“In the traditional way of life, gardens were a ceremonial event for all, an opportunity to give to the Earth as well as to receive. The seeds of good food are also the seeds of good relationship, so caretaking the garden is symbolic of caretaking all beings. The garden can be an offering to all.”
- from Voices of Our Ancestors: Teachings from the Cherokee Wisdom Fire by Dhyani Ywahoo