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) is a Congregational Life Consultant and program manager for Leadership Development.

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