I love gardening. Well, I love it in the Spring. And the Fall. I just about hate it in the South Carolina heat.
We did our spring planting last week — just in time for this week‘s frost. Doh! We lost a few tulips, but we didn’t lose the tomatoes I foolishly planted too soon. And I grew these babies from seed. Brandywines!
But every time I go out in the backyard the same thing hits me.
We bought four creeping figs last year for our new wall. We had talked to a green-thumb-friend about it. We consulted our gardening books. We went to the best nursery in the city. We asked the people there for advice. We planted them carefully and watered them regularly. We did everything right.
They died. Well, all but one. And my first knee-jerk response is “It’s my fault. I didn’t work hard enough.”
I walk past the Space Bags at Target. I have about a dozen of these already at home. None of them work. Not one. And I think, “It’s my fault that they don’t work. I didn’t try hard enough.” And I have to stop myself out loud (“Keep moving, Camille!”) to walk away and not buy more. Capitalism thrives on this kind of egocentric self-loathing.
I find a bag of moldy pumpernickel in the pantry. Pangs of guilt shoot through my body. “Why did I let this happen? I’m not careful enough.”
Fundamentalism taught me this. “No doubt the trouble is with you,” right? Well, living in an abusive ideology taught me this. And it’s not just my previous life. There are countless examples. The hyper-focus on sin and an obsession with humility is a tactic for control, not a command from Christ. It’s too egocentric to be from Christ.
As I read these early contemporary conservative evangelical books, I realize that this ideology — whatever I should call it — reduces the entire person to the will. There is no body or even gut or heart — no “dreams and bones.” Just a will. You either choose to do right or you choose to do wrong. That’s all there is to it. An on-off switch. Simple compliance. And every problem can be explained away as such. If you can’t do the right thing, you have too weak of a will. If you can’t stop doing the wrong thing, your will is too strong. Back and forth — same old Keswick crazy-maker.
You see, ’cause no doubt the trouble may not be me. The world doesn’t rise and fall on my making simple choices. Take the creeping figs. Maybe the sun is too hot in that spot. Maybe the soil is bad. Maybe the plants are diseased. Maybe the bugs got ’em. Maybe they were just cursed. Whatever it is, it’s not all about me.
And gardening forces this very product-oriented INFJ to throw caution to the wind a little bit. It forces me to stop the habits-for-the-sake-of-habits and think about what works. “Well, the petunias didn’t work here, so let’s try them over there. Or forget them altogether. Let’s get azaleas. Carrots taste bad in this red clay, so I’m not planting them again!” Habits are not a virtue. And when I reduce myself or when I’m reduced to mere habits — mere will — I’m no longer acting, but simply just moving.
Besides, I can plant and I can water. But come on now, God gives the growth. Inch by inch. It’s not all about me.
For the last several years, my main motivator for those deep-down personal things that would probably go unnoticed to the world at large has been self-loathing. Egocentric self-loathing. I would (can I use the past tense for this?) actually shame myself into sticking with a particular habit, telling myself that I don’t deserve any different.
Stupid. I admit that it’s stupid. But I have to get it out in the open to work past it. It’s not the way I was raised. And it’s taken this long to realize that what I endured 10-15 years ago is the same thing I’m reading about in my project and that pushed us out the door of fundamentalism. It’s a pair of book ends around a multi-volume set.
Sigh. . . .
I found some brown romaine in the vegetable crisper drawer today. And slimy cilantro. So into the new composter it goes. It’s really invigorating to do that, you know? Turning slime into black gold. Composting is like grace for garbage. 😉 Turning my failures into the best fertilizer for the flowers.
Now if I could just find a composter for these Space Bags.