I experienced both last week: a garden at the outset of the week and a baptism at it's end. Both were refreshing and loaded with promise. New beginnings fit me like a glove motivationally. I'm always most alive in the exploring, creating and launching.
A week ago today, Tricia and I drove a short ways up Route 9 to Florence. Imaginista Trey McCain had secured a plot for the church. It's a great way to meet folks and grow fresh food for the needy which is our motive. So we were heading out to prepare the beds and begin the planting. Trey had already begun his planting in the plot adjacent to ours. He's been doing this sort of thing since he was a kid. He knows a ton about it. He told us of Permaculture farming, and using what I always considered as useless detritus such as stumps, cardboard and weeds, as beneficial fertilizing components. Fascinating stuff.
Being able to do the garden in Florence was also a special treat for Tricia who loves nothing better in the Spring than to get her hands in the dirt to plant gardens with flowers, herbs and vegetables. She planted and maintained six gardens at the Center For Renewal where we lived and worked in Simsbury for 20 years. No matter where we lived, she cultivated some sort of garden. Even our apartment today has flora abounding. I'm writing in the midst of it. A year ago, we had one on the roof!
So Tricia, I, and imaginista, Jenn Swick began the afternoon by learning the ropes of community garden etiquette, (such as don't step on anyone else's plot!), where the tools and materials (tools, wheelbarrows, mulch, and loam, etc.) were located, and what needed to be done to get going.
Tricia did the planting on a bed already prepared by Trey. Jenn and I dug many wheelbarrows full of mulch and dirt to build up the next beds. I laid out rows to mark where we'd put the beds - not always a good job for me, but I managed to get it done. It went smoothly and I think we all enjoyed seeing and working with each other in this setting. We'd not done it together before .
We worked for a couple of hours and then went over to Trey and Amelia's (they live right nearby also in Florence), and had a lovely dinner, courtesy of Amelia. Trey brought out a jasmine beer he'd been working on. It was delicious with the brightly colored and tasty food Amelia made. He loves to experiment with brewing beers, and he's quite creative. The dining experience was a fitting way to end the evening.
Beyond the happy experience of hanging with imaginistas, and doing something worthwhile was the new experience of doing a community garden. Tricia and I had never done that before. We didn't know just what to expect.
Soon, I ran into Steve, who, apparently is sort of a fixture at the garden. He's always warm and friendly. I'd met him the first time we visited the site. He's easy to talk to and a gentle soul. There were people around us beginning to prepare their plots and plant. Others were already ahead of us in getting the initial stages done. Everybody was helpful if we needed it. The entire experience just felt good and alive. It felt right to do.We seemed to fit right in.
Notably, while we were there the first time, there were two killdeers going to and fro intently looking for a place to nest right near our plot.They were very engaged in their search, looking for just the right spot to birth their young. Last Monday, when I arrived I noticed they'd planted a nest about 10 yards to the south of us. When we got there, both the male and female let us know this was their homestead. Soon though, after they determined we seemed no threat, he took off (in search of food?), and she settled onto her eggs; all the while keeping an eye on us just in case. Love it!
I also love the fact they were bringing new life into the world and so were we. We would prepare the growing soil, plant the seeds, and tend to the plants as they took root and grew to be what they're supposed to be. Then, we'd harvest the fruit and give it to folks who don't get to eat much fresh, homegrown food. IN turn, the young killdeer parents would hatch their brood, tend to them, then release them to continue the life of being killdeers in God's Creation. Planting, birthing, cultivating, then harvesting- we and them, side by side serving God.
Yesterday, was a different kind of birthing, but perhaps the most profound. From reading this blog you'd know I've mentioned we have had the privilege over the last few years of getting to know Smith College students. Imaginista Crystal Fryer is the IV Staff person on campus, and has been with us for three years or so. She's encouraged young women to come and see what we're about. Some have stuck. One of them is a freshman by the name of Angela.
A few months ago, Angela said she was ready to be baptized and wanted to do it at imagine/Northampton. So yesterday we did just that. She is our third baptism and the second we've done at Paradise Pond on the Smith campus. I wrote about Nhung's baptism at the end of the semester last spring. Each one is a sheer joy as we get to see new birth into an adventure and mission of a lifetime. It's a genuinely-felt privilege for us to be at the beginning.
We had imagine worship together earlier, then met at one for the baptism. The day was brilliantly bright and sunny. The air was warm, but the water was still very cold - toe-numbing actually. We gathered at the boat ramp, Jim set the stage, we prayed, and Angela shared a little of how she decided to be baptized. After, Jim and Crystal walked with Angela into the water. He asked her two questions about if she was ready to follow Christ. She said "yes" and they baptized her. When she came out of the water we all applauded. Crystal said a few words of what it's been like to be a part of Angela's life in the last year, and then we sang the Doxology. A round of celebratory pictures were taken, and we headed back to have lunch together.
It was simple in form, but the meaning of new birth into Christ is far from simple and never loses its allure. We witnessed a mystery wrapped snugly in a plain gesture of faith, individual and corporate. It's interesting to note that as we baptized Angela, two women came by in a canoe. They slowed. I'm not sure they knew what was going on, but they turned and spoke to each other as if they'd stumbled into something intimate. Indeed it was; intimate and public.We wanted it that way.
I'm not sure whether, beyond we doing so last year in almost the same spot, anyone else has been baptized in Paradise Pond. I hope they have. It's a lovely place for the Kingdom of God uniquely to alight for just a few minutes testifying simply without pomp and circumstance to the astounding Kingdom of the God of new beginnings, new birth, and new life everlasting.
So we had a week of planting and baptizing and birthing. Kingdom stuff both. Good stuff. Rich stuff. Life-giving stuff in more ways than one.