Thursday, July 23, 2009

Finding Beauty in a Broken World

This place is more a prayer than a garden

A piece of the planet so long abused for the sake of human progress

Sparkplugs are more common than worms in the earth here. If you can call it earth. This conglomeration of dirt and concrete and car parts and plastic pieces and broken glass. This pit where dirty automobile oil has been sopped up and vitality of life has long been forgotten. This place is where I want to build a garden.

So to the old abandoned factory lot I bring in compost and discarded tree parts to hold the soil in place. I bring in seeds and a hose.

I plant a prayer

Terry Tempest Williams entitled her latest book “Finding Beauty in a Broken World”. And this is exactly what I have set out to do here.

This place is lifeless and I want to bring life back to this point on the planet. I want to heal what is broken.

Inside and out

I put a blue plastic tarp in the back of my chevy astro van, buy a cheap shovel from the neighborhood hardware store and get to work filling up my van with composted suburban lawn debris. Day after day, load after heavy load I go back and forth from the recycling center in Morristown to the factory lot in Boonton until I just can’t shovel anymore. Until the dirt is so far lodged in the van door that it won’t shut. Until the compost pile has become a big mass of muck. Until I got a phone call from my mother asking that I take her to the hospital. Her blood pressure is 80/50 and the visiting nurse was insistent that she go to the emergency room.

Big black leather boots

Big black rubber treads on big black leather boots


Glossy waxed white sterile hospital floor

Antiseptic antibiotic hygienic controlled environment

Mud ripped clothes rustled hair wild microorganisms

Finding Beauty in a Broken World

I planted seeds

Water fell from the sky

Death and disease lingered around the edges of my world

The seeds sprouted. Life bursting forth from the mysteries of the dark earth. A salad was eaten of spicy arugula, freckled lettuce, dark green spinach, mustard greens, and red russian kale. All it takes is some nurturance of micronutrients, water and sun. Vibrant green life entered me, invigorated me, brought love and gratitude to my heart and nourishment to my body

30 year old woman, cardiac arrest, maybe it was the alcohol mixed with the anti-depressants, maybe it was the years of bulimia, maybe it was just a mistake, but the fact remained that a loved one was dead.

Groundhogs devour the garden. All life that had sprouted was gone. Depressed and determined I erected a fence.

Seeds planted

Peas, beans and greens sprouted

Rain rain rain rain rain rain rain rain rain

Rain rain rain

No light, no sun, no growth

Critters comes and eat it all (again)

Then one day the sun came out. I watched after weeks of rain how 2 days of sun can create such a burst of life. I build trellis’ for the peas.

Erect a bigger fence

More seeds planted

More time in the hospital with mom

Another young loved one dies in a car accident

Uncle dies of sudden heart attack

Critters eat whatever grows (again)

Another fence around the fence. Tomatoes and herbs that were started indoors go out.

I have planted something here

And it wasn’t what I thought it was

Grubs, wire worms, ground hogs, wasps, ants, dragonflies, robins, beetles, crows, flies, rabbit, cat, bees

The food on this ground would have been toxic to me anyhow.

I am growing hope

For life

Life carries on

In this lot of death and toxicity, these critters come and thrive now. In those quiet moments of hopeless despair, I know that I have provided refuge for fellow beings on the planet. When their world looks like it is being gobbled up they found a place to settle in where they are not threatened (when I am in the right frame of mind of course). These are the underdogs, the ones that humans are all too eager to label as pests and exterminate.

A big fat groundhog waddled in front of my moving car yesterday. I had the opportunity to press my right foot to the skinny gas pedal and put an end to that gluttonous marmot; put an end to the devouring of gardens and hope; put an end to all the disappointments and pain of loss. But it was in that moment of choice between braking or accelerating that I realized that the fate of this place depends on my relationship to it. That the only way to really find beauty in a broken world is to see clearly what is before me and not to be governed by selfish desires. We are one being on this planet with many parts and my fate is dependant on the land on which I live. So I nurture what needs to be nurtured and clearly it is my heart and the marmot's belly.

My prayer continues to grow…


Cylia said...

Hi Tammy: We are all given choices -- life and death are in our woman hands. You have brought forth life. Keep on posting. cylia

Fabulous said...

why did you kill the groundhog? maybe it was eating the fruits of your garden was too toxic for you anyway.


altogether, i could turn this story into a f-ing good sermon. beautiful.

jamie said...

Hey T, beautiful writing, very moving, and impressed! Keep up the powerful, from the ground up work your doing to change the world.
much love, j

Tammy Toad Ryan said...

I DIDN'T kill the groundhog!?!

Thanks for the feedback.