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Nature as Beloved

By Renee Ruchotzke

Permaculture Revolution Gardening

When I first visited Ilze and Oskars on their permaculture farm in Latvia as a WWOOFER, Ilze sent me out to pick “salads” for dinner. When I asked where the lettuce garden was, she told me to pick wild greens. I asked her how I could tell the right ones. She gave me a wry smile and put her pinched fingers to her mouth and said, “just taste!”

Since then, I’ve learned a lot about edible plants, first in my Permaculture Design Course at Blue Sky Farm, and in my own backyard. My spouse and I now use the Latvian method of making a salad – we go out and pick any greens in our garden that taste good (or at least don’t taste bad) – some that we planted (arugula, cress) and some that we used to call weeds (wood sorrel, garlic mustard).

I’m also learning a different way of seeing, a different way of moving through the world, and a different way of being as I interact with my garden and with the landscape. Every morning we walk through the garden and greet the plants, tree and fungi as friends and express gratitude. I touch the bark of a concrete-surrounded city tree in sorrow and consolation. I notice the little patches of wildness in yards and along roadways.

This practice of noticing extends to fellow humans, as much as is possible during a pandemic. I strive to greet and express solidarity and gratitude in my human encounters, if only with my eyes.

We talk about interconnection being a core value of Unitarian Universalism, but practicing and experiencing it in an authentic embodied way happens less than it should.

As we move into the new normal, we have a chance to find models of community and connection that reflect our vision of who we are. One model is the Community of Communities, a framework offered by Paula Cole Jones. Back in June, we recorded a workshop for General Assembly. I had hoped to bring more about how ecological frameworks might inform organizational frameworks, but we ran out of time. Instead, I created this “bonus material” video.

About the Author

Renee Ruchotzke

Rev. Renee Ruchotzke (ruh-HUT-skee) has served as a Congregational Life Consultant in the Central East Region since September of 2010. As program manager for Leadership Development, she is responsible for providing consultation, programming and training material (including webinars and videos) on...

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