Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Week 49: Soul & Soil Creates Hilde-Garden

Harvest! Mary Grace, Karla and Donna

Karla Kauffman bought a farm. E-I-E-I-O! And on that big centenniel farm...she decided to grow people. So she invited women in ministry to come for one morning a month for a retreat called Soul and Soil...

...and to cultivate a Hilde-Garden. A what?

For the last nine months a group of six women have gathered on the third Thursday to follow the Benedictine rhythm of study, prayer, work and a common meal. Karla was inspired by the writing of Hildegaard of Bingen.

Hildegaard (1098-1179) was a medieval woman of many talents: Benedictine abbess, theologigan, visionary, poet, composer, gardener, chef, healer. Karla opened to us her visions and the artistry that portrays them. Alongside we studied the contemporary mystic, Gunilla Norris, and read her book, A Mystic Garden. And we took a close look at soil.

After study, silence. Ah!

After silence, garden work. Creating a Hilde-Garden by following her lists of recommended plants. Well, easier said than done.

#1 This was a brand new garden. Yikes! Where do we begin?
#2 Weeds needed removing, an old wall rebuilding, and soil improving.
#3 And how do you find medieval European herbs in 21st century Michigan?

With rosie cheeks we proceeded. Weeds, be gone! Plants were found. A lovely new rock retention wall was grounded.

That first Thursday in April we were rewarded with butternut winter squash souffle, a salad of early nettle greens and dandelion flowers, and dessert of wintered over apples. Ah! beauty, food, fellowship after study, silence, sweat, sweetness, and smooth earth ready for plants and seeds.

So, here we were today, on a rainy October day, seven months later. We pondered Hildegaard's vision of the circles of heavenly beings, drawing all creation toward celebration and justice. We paused in silence and conversation and ponder Hildegaard's words:

Everything that is in the heavens, on the earth, and under the earth, is penetrated with relatedness. (Hildegaard of Bingen, Skiveas)

October Harvets! Parsley, sage, borage (for courage...but what do you do with borage?), onions,some last beans and green tomatoes.

For lunch, after an appetizer of butternut squash soup with carmelized sage, we had fried green tomatoes with cranberry and walnut muffins and fresh Honey Crisp apples.

As we left this season of retreats and gardening together, Karla brought a basket full of Hilde-garden butternut squash up from the basement of her old farm house to share with us. I took a sprig of sage to carmelize as well.

Maple Tree Meadows, Karla's farm, has been growing people, me, these last months. Before and after sabbatical trips to Costa Rica, these times kept my hands in Michigan soil. We marked the seasons in earth, herbs, and good eating. At at harvest time, we remember abundance:

We do not bear fruit for ourselves. We bear fruit for lfe itself.(Gunilla Norris, A Mystic Garden)

Now, entering a fallow time, we await the return of perennials and new seeds and sproutings.

Thanks to Soil and Soul-Mates Karla, Kathy, Mary Grace, Becky, and Donna.

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