In the middle of winter, when the cold creeps in everywhere and the snow whips outside my window, I begin dreaming about my next garden. This year I enrolled in a Master Gardner’s course and a recent class was devoted to the study of bugs. There’s a whole world underneath our feet that most of us know practically nothing about. Insects have inhabited our earth much longer than we have. There are also many more of them than of us.
Don’t dis bugs! We’re more closely related than we imagine. We share about 80% of our human genome with insects. Furthermore, life as we know it wouldn’t be possible without them. They pollinate the food we eat, attack other insects like aphids that destroy our gardens, and are a vital link in our food chain.
With that in mind, I find myself meditating on the prophet Isaiah’s image of God “who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers” (Isaiah 40:22). The juxtaposition of the heavens and insects feels disorienting. A vantage point from above the circle of the earth seems unattached from life as we know it.
Yet, the space program and those photos of earth from outer space forever changed our perception of our planet and our place on it. They have shaped the ecological movement because they help us understand how marvelous, yet fragile and self-contained the earth is. There’s no other place to go if we humans make it uninhabitable through a nuclear war or global warming.
Isaiah’s primary concern is human relations but we could extrapolate from that to include our relationships with bugs and all God’s creation. Isaiah was writing to a people whose land and cities had been devastated by war and who now lived as captives in a foreign land. Such devastation is aptly described in the words of William Butler Yeats, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”
Isaiah cuts such seemingly invincible forces of destruction down to size. Like grasshoppers, or the grass in the field, they’re here today and gone tomorrow. He reopens our minds and hearts to the incomparable majesty of God and restores our sense of location in a vast universe. I find that gardening helps me do that by connecting me with the web of life.
On the grand scheme of things, a community garden may not seem significant. However, from the perspective of supporting life on our planet, the generals and politicians in our world don’t count for much. They tend to create more harm than good. But the things the plants and insects do in our forests, fields, and gardens are a vital link in the whole web of life.
Talk to me if you want to help with our community garden. It could get interesting!