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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year Earth Care:

Putting in Earth Time
Christina Baldwin     

It’s the night after Easter weekend, and while we started off Friday evening enjoying an amazingly professional concert of sections of the Brahms Requiem performed by the local Methodist church choir and island musicians, my main spiritual practice this past weekend has been largely focused on gardening.    

We put in about 6 hours a day prepping garden beds for our household and neighborhood vegetable plots, cheering the peas that have come up under the Remay cloth and the spinach forming a straight line of green down the black soil, and turning in compost for receiving seeds that will be planted in the coming week–and if that isn’t a study in resurrection … Besides the hours in garden beds, we dug out a 20 year old fuchsia bush that had died in our colder-than-usual winter, and moved a lilac bush into its place, and then helped friends transplant several dozen ferns and open up space for fruit trees at the edge of their woods. Not too bad for an almost 63 year old, almost 60 year old, and an almost 11 year old dog. Putting in earth time.

There is a big difference between this year and last year in how a number of folks around here are looking at gardens and gardening. We are seeing it as an integral part of island life. Not to get too bucolic, this little neighborhood is fairly suburban in how it looks, it just happens to be hanging on a cliff edge. The infrastructure that sustains us is more rural and vulnerable than many suburban areas that are hooked into huge metropolitan grids: here little housing areas are developed around shared wells and each lot has its own septic system. It’s a climate that fosters flowers and spring is a marvelous season that lingers four months. Most of the island farmland has been parceled into smaller lots and developments and the era when Whidbey was a floating truck farm sending tons of vegetables to Seattle food markets has faded into vague history.

The island itself was formed about 12-10,000 years ago when retreating glaciers created a huge river delta of debris that spewed out from the melt, then froze and compressed down into dense layers, then melted, then froze and compressed again–and when you try to put in a garden you come to understand this process rock by rock, clay by clay, sand by sand. Despite the glacial till, we do get things to grow here and more and more people are augmenting the grocery store with the garden bed.

One of the reasons we are having such a strenuous garden start-up is that we have joined with three other neighborhood households in collective gardening in the sunny back yard of one of the bigger lots. This is our second season: we have the fence in, the bunnies out, the beds tilled and early planting begun. We have jumped over the idea of strict property rights and everyone needing to do it themselves into an experiment in sharing ground, work, expertise, and food. The family with the shadiest lot is starting to raise chickens that will become part of the exchange.
There are many tangible and fairly immediate benefits to this experience and there is an underlying shift in our perceptions about what it means to live together. We talk about things: ask each other how we’re doing. All of us are hard working folks dependent on making a living to sustain our families. We are creating a safety net for whatever comes. Growing food together, and listening to each other’s anecdotes about daily life lessens our fear and increases our confidence. It is one of the signs of readiness I believe is coming up everywhere in America this spring, and hopefully sprouting all over the world: a resilience in our community efforts to take care of each other and the natural world. To me, this seems like the only agenda there: taking care of each other and everything else.

Somewhere out there grunting in the rain, shoveling around the rocky soil I composed this letter to President Obama. He and Michelle are gardening this spring–I hope they are actually getting their fingernails dirty, not just posing for the occasional photo-op. And now they have a puppy who will want to roll in the lettuce patch. All these things humanize their lives and connect them a bit more to the ordinary lives the rest of us lead.

I hope you are inspired to find your own ways toward increased community resilience, and to communicate with the leaders who need to be assured of our populist wisdom, willingness, and determination. Speak up, bend down, plant and rant.

Dear Sir,
Attached to this letter is the most disturbing article about your current policy challenges that I have read since your inauguration. Bill Moyers is the most integral voice of true liberalism, realism, and statesmanship that I know. To be the President you promised us you would be, you must listen to his voice, and include perspectives like Moyers’ in your thought process!
It is my deepest hope that you understand your job is to retool the global economy for planetary sustainability and survival of the human species. Right now, in an attempt to get the economy stabilized enough to make this shift, I call what you are doing “feeding the lions.” This is a dangerous task: for while feeding the lions, you must not let your mind be eaten by their voracious agenda.
You said you offered “change we can believe in:” I am believing in your ability to name the full scope of that change and to invigorate our willingness to step into a hugely different world than the one that has been sold to us. I also believe we are ready. I notice how we are taking leadership at the local level in tens of thousands of ways—preparing our communities to hold together in this challenge. The collective mindset of America knows the old way is over. We elected you to lead us through the largest correction of course in human history. Yes, we can—can you?
Christina Baldwin

Copyright © 2009 Christina Baldwin. All rights reserved.

An influential figure in the therapeutic writing movement, Christina Baldwin is the author of five books and a renowned teacher, conference presenter and co-founder of the educational company PeerSpirit. Baldwin has contributed two classic books to the exploration of journal writing, including the well-known classic, Life's Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Practice which has sold over 100,000 copies and was recently revised and reissued by Bantam Books.  Her most recent book, Storycatcher: Making Sense of our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story (New World Library) reminds readers of the necessity of story to communicate in all areas of professional and personal life.  Baldwin lives on an island near Seattle, Washington, where she is currently at work completing The Circle: A Leader in Every Chair, to be published by Berrett-Koehler.   
Books and Audio Baldwin is the author of the following books and audio:
  Storycatcher, Making Sense of our Lives through the Power and Practice of Story (New World Library, 2005)
  Lifelines, How Personal Writing Can Save Your Life (Sounds True, 2005) audio curriculum
  The Seven Whispers: Spiritual Practice for Times Like These (New World Library: 2002)
  Calling the Circle: The First and Future Culture (Bantam: 1998)
  Life's Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Practice (Bantam: 1990 & rev. 2007)
  One to One: Self-Understanding Through Journal Writing (M. Evans: 1977, rev. 1991)
Anthologized essays include:
  Field Guide to Relationship-Based Care, Visions, Strategies, Tools and Exemplars for Transforming Practice, ed. Mary Koloroutis, et al, (Creative Health Care Management, 2007) "Inspiration, Four Leaders' Reflections"
  The Change Handbook, The Definitive Resource on Today's Best Methods for Engaging Whole Systems, ed. By Peggy Holman, et al (Berrett-Koehler, 2007) "PeerSpirit Circling, Creating Change in the Spirit of Cooperation" with Sarah MacDougall
  Light of Our Times, Conversations with Today's Leaders in Health and Spirituality, edited by Daphne Michaels, (Vibrational Health Press, 2006), "On the Power of Story" The Soul of Creativity, Insights into the Creative Process, edited by Tona Pearce Myers (New World Library 1999) "Writer and Witness, Healing through Story"
  Walking in Two Worlds, Women's Spiritual Paths, Edited by Kay Vander Vort, et al. (North Star Press, 1992) "Solo Dancing on the Spiritual Quest"

Christina Baldwin                                                                                                         
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