Tag: Atheism

Gardening is Like Religion

Echinacea Purpurea

I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in God(s) or Deities that are imagined in the likeness of human beings. I don’t believe in higher powers with lists of rules and regulations that must be followed to avoid spiritual stagnation, or worse, damnation. The idea of a higher power with a thirst for blood, vengeance, and world domination seems like a shabby reflection of humankind rather than an elevated and evolved energy/being/power. Most depictions of Gods and Devils bear a striking resemblance to the emotional maturity of a human toddler.

Every time I talk about my garden, about gardening in general, about how I feel when I’m in the thick of my plants, I’m talking about my version of religious practice. In my garden there is no plant that is lord of all the plants, there is no law that is the law of all beings, and the idea of virtue is egalitarian. I give dandelions pride of place just as I give roses pride of place.

My garden is a small ecosystem, a universe constantly expanding and contracting with the seasons, with new information, new ideas, established roots, thick bark and thin. Within the small ecosystem of my garden there are micro ecosystems and all of them reflect the greater universe all around it.

When I finally got myself a diagnosis for my mental illness it was clear that I needed the support of medication to keep myself safe and healthy, but my psychologist asked me what I do in my life that is calming, that makes me feel good, centered, and happy. I told him that deadheading my roses always pushed my anxieties aside, that it brought a quietness to my brain that I rarely experience otherwise. I told him that one of my keenest pleasures was to cut roses to place around my house. He suggested I make my roses part of my daily self-care, part of my mental health-care routine.

This morning I watered my front and side gardens and then deadheaded my roses. I brought my cup of coffee out there with me. I was still in my pyjamas. When I’m out there with my plants I’m not an infirm obese middle aged woman, I’m just another spirit among kin. The plants speak to me in color, in shade, in density, in volume. They speak to me in shattered petals, old scabs, and new sap. When I’m in my garden I make sense, I belong, I am never shunned nor judged. I am not lord of my garden, I’m part of it.

My garden full of wild sproutlings, sudden inexplicable deaths, and regal insectary towers reminds me at all times simultaneously of my insignificance and my influence on the outcome of universal truth. I matter here, I just don’t matter more than anything else does. I am equal with the plum tree and dandelions alike. When I’m weeding I know what’s truly bothering me the most because nothing amplifies my worries more than total silence and the bitter tears of false dandelion smeared across my hands. I can’t make my brain stop playing the endless tapes that cause it so much distress, but when I let them play while I’m buried waist high in my wildflowers, their power over me is diminished as everything is leveled among the plants and the locusts chewing on them.

I’m struggling pretty hard right now to be okay with humans, with BEING human. I’m struggling pretty hard right now against my own brain that doesn’t exist peacefully in the world in which it must function. Even with medication I can’t shut out all the noise of all the pain others are going through, all the spirits being crushed  by systems that oppress love and celebrate hate.

My garden is my religion. My religion is the smell of hot blackberries hanging heavily sweet on the summer air. My religion is camouflaging myself among the Lacy Phacelia as though I grew from a winter seed up into a six foot tall flower that looks like a synchronized Busby Berkeley number performed exclusively by purple caterpillars.  My religion is trial and error, accidentally thick pasta, opera playing full blast over a bowl of rising bread dough, my accordion playing Amazing Grace into the golden hour. My scripture is knowing to deadhead roses to a 5 leaf set.

It isn’t my place to give benediction, it isn’t my place to request favors of a God I don’t believe in. What I CAN do is let my plants breathe with me and you and the stars above.

My garden is my religion. It’s a place of healing, belonging, and perspective.

Silent Disclosure Of Imperfection


Before everything I say, before everything I think, before everything I commit to writing there is a silent disclosure of imperfection you should be able to hear with your heart: I’m a flawed passionate being. I’m in constant flux, constant evolution, a constant state of deconstruction and reconstruction.

I’ve got a broken set of keys to a shady universe. Your keys might look different than mine but they open into the same rooms of despair, of wild love, of earthly hellfire, and humiliation that shifts into peaceful bird cries cleansing dawn air. You might see saving where I see desperate loss in the same room. It’s okay. Hold your heart carefully, I’ll hold mine the same and we’ll find our way to fresh air together.

I know it doesn’t seem possible how I can not believe in God when God is so precious to you. How I can believe there is no divine purpose or plan when it is so vivid for you. I know it doesn’t seem possible that I can embrace your belief while not sharing it. All I can say is that if you can believe in any kind of divinity at all, in any kind of miracle, in the kind of magic that keeps a seven day supply of oil burning for eight days or a crucified Jew to rise from his tomb then you have a place already carved in your heart to  believe that an atheist can love and respect a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Mormon, and every kind of mysticism.

 But dudes, seriously, can we please show Jesus with brown skin as he almost certainly had to have? How is he not beautiful with brown skin? If you can’t love a dark skinned Jesus then you don’t get Jesus AT ALL.

I don’t care about faith. I don’t care about creed. Not when we’re stripped down to the bones of our humanity. When we stand naked and flawed next to each other we are equals. All of us. Doesn’t matter what our ethnicity is, our background, our last names, the schools we’ve attended, the color of our skin, the tradition of our beliefs – we are all equals in everything but in individual character we show through action.

I will drink at your strange fountain and I will invite you to drink at mine. I will lead you to this lean cot in my corner and I will feed you the last crumbs from my pantry because I have to believe that the most important thread of humanity is generosity. I will give you the shirt off my back even if it means I’ll be sunburned before dusk.

I will make fun of humanity, I will find humor in all faiths, in all human frailty, but I promise that when I hear your prayers I’ll grow quiet and let your belief blanket the altitudes, I’ll retreat so that your faith can find expression when you most need it without ridicule or interference.

I struggle every day to root for human beings. This is the hard truth. I rail and cry against the evil I see everywhere perpetrated by humans. I struggle to remember that we’re part of nature, that we’re animals gone feral but not evil, that there’s something good left in us.

I’m going to joke about Jesus. I’m going to joke about Mohammed. I’m going to fucking joke the shit out of L. Ron Hubbard because – there’s no religion or belief I won’t find the humor in. But this isn’t about hate or bigotry. I also joke about myself, my mental illness, my hippie upbringing.

I joke because finding the humor in the every day crap and the miracles I can’t explain and don’t particularly believe in is how I survive.

I am an incredibly flawed person working towards my own personal evolution. There’s no explanation for pure love and good will between people of wildly disparate spiritual and philosophical beliefs so let’s not even try.

Let’s simply practice loving the crap out of all human beings.

Let’s practice forgiving the shortcomings of other human beings especially when it costs us to do so.

Let’s practice forgiving our own shortcomings.

Let’s practice love.

Let’s practice peace.

Let’s see the universe through each others’ eyes and leave each other tiny gifts in the darkest corners.

Lux Aeterna: celebrating spring on Easter Sunday

Today Jesus has riz from the tomb (after having hung on a cross to die slowly).  And having rotten tomatoes thrown at him*.  Or maybe rotten medlars.  I can never quite get over just how grisly this tale is and how early children are told all this truly violent and disturbing stuff.  It’s Easter Sunday.  I’m not questioning Christianity at this moment.  That’s not what’s really on my mind.

We don’t celebrate Easter religiously.  We celebrate it as the beginning of spring, the awakening of the dormant earth into wild colorful activity.  This morning we all sat in the living room eating questionable (but tasty) Safeway pastries (because I am too busy drying nettles and drinking beer to prepare sweet doughs the night before… plus I don’t know how to make pastries like everyone else) and watched Max open his Easter surprises which don’t come in a basket because we don’t have a surfeit of baskets lying around and we don’t any of us hanker for more baskets.  His surprises are arranged in a paper mache oval box I covered with vintage magazine pages.  I asked him if he minded not getting the actual basket and he said “Why would I?” and I said “Because that’s what most kids get on Easter.” and he informed me that he likes the way I (uh, the bunny?) present his Easter treats.

While he gorged himself on candy we discussed Easter from our personal family perspective which is a funny combination of Atheist (because we really don’t believe in any god at all) and paganism (enjoying the mysteries and beauty of nature, but still without any deity).  We discussed the beginning of time from an evolutionary perspective including the evidence that shows that all mankind was most likely descended from Africans.  Black people.  Poor Glenn Beck.  Personally I don’t think it materially matters what continent or what race we all descended from but I do enjoy the idea that we all come from Africans.  We discussed how seeing the world from a scientific/anthropological perspective means that our view of the origins of everything evolve as new information is uncovered.  I think that’s magical in its own way.  That nature is a puzzle, full of secrets, full of mysteries and just like religion, science can never answer it all.  Humans can never know everything in the universe.  Faith answers our questions by saying that either “God made it” (end of discussion) or “God doesn’t mean for us to know everything.”

Easter isn’t about zombies or faith or Messiahs for me and my family.  Even in my family we have different thoughts about this day.  What’s important, I think, is that everyone is allowed to have their own meaning, and worship in their own way.  Like all seasonal holidays Easter is celebrated under different names in many different faiths.  I think the unifying message through all of them is this:

It’s a damn fine thing to get through the winter, alive, and to see the plants bud out with promise of sustenance to come.

We’re listening to the album Lux Aeterna by Morten Laurisden.  It’s so beautiful and peaceful it makes me feel completely at peace.  It makes me wish that all religions would stop obsessing over other religions.  I wish that everyone may keep their faiths, not die for their faiths which is nothing but a waste, and let others keep their faiths, and not kill for their faiths.

All this fighting, oppression, and killing over religion is deeply ironic.  Deeply sad.  Deeply wasteful.

I reserve the right to make fun of all beliefs, all faiths, all ideologies, mine included.  I reserve the right to question all beliefs, all faiths, all ideologies, mine included.  But I also have no desire or ambition to hurt**, to quell, or to destroy what I don’t believe in.

So this morning I am wishing everyone a meaningful beginning to spring whether it be from a Pagan, Muslim, Christian, Atheist, Buddhist, Hindu, or Agnostic perspective.

*Which is obviously an impossibility worse than rising from a tomb after being dead for three days and pushing a giant rock out of your way to get out, because tomatoes are out of season in early spring.  I’m pretty sure this is even true of the Mediterranean desert.  So it was more likely to have been rotten lemons.

**My questioning, my joking may be offensive to some but it is not meant to be.  I can’t control how people take it, I can only know in what spirit I say things.