Living Arts Weekly: Regeneration

April 21, 2019

Looking down at my hands, finally I understand

The empty space has changed somehow and it’s filled with Hallelujah now.  — Carrie Newcomer, “The Point of Arrival”

“The Dance of Life” by Mary Southard, CSJ

I walk through a patch of woods at the farm where my husband and his work crew cleared buckthorn last fall.  There’s a pile of ash left where all the thorny branches were piled and burned, bent twigs and snapped branches where the workers tramped through the forest with their chainsaws, and an odd emptiness waiting for something to fill the space.  Spring growth has not started here in this particular patch of woods, and it feels desolate, signs of destruction surrounding me as I walk.

I am happy to see the buckthorn go.  It came to the Midwest from Europe in the 1880’s and was propagated as an ornamental shrub.  By the time plant nurseries stopped selling it in the 1930’s, buckthorn had already taken a good hold of the Midwest. It grows quickly, taking over the understory of forests, crowding out young trees so the forest can’t regenerate.  The lack of native plants is detrimental to wildlife, such as ground-nesting birds who no longer have cover for their nests. When buckthorn gets into ephemeral pools it causes deformities and death in tadpoles and frogs. While there may be many ways to eradicate it, we’ve found a particularly effective method is to cut it, judiciously apply herbicide by painting it on the stump, and drag the thorny branches to a burn pile.

Yes, I am happy to see the buckthorn go. It makes me sad that to support a healthy forest we must first destroy, using herbicides that I otherwise abhor.  Still, I know this destruction creates a space for the forest to regenerate.  It’s how we come to the point of arrival.

The weekend before my “woods walk,” I found myself an amazingly lucky participant in a Growing Edge retreat with Parker Palmer, Carrie Newcomer, and 28 other remarkable humans.  It was sheer gift to be there, and also hard work.  Beginning to clear out old thinking patterns that clutter my brain and inhibit my growth, with the help of the warm, supportive community gathered, was in some ways as painful as the process of clearing away the buckthorn that chokes out life for the frogs and the trees. And just like the aftermath in the forest before the spring growth begins to emerge, the resulting open places in my soul feel raw and unfamiliar.

I am beginning to suspect this is what Parker Palmer means when he talks about “holding tension in life giving ways.”  It’s the simultaneous holding of death and life, sorrow and delight, pruning and growth while waiting for regeneration, which will come as surely as the spring peepers.  This is Spring, after all, when life springs from death.

May the blessings of new life be yours this Easter,

Mary O’Connell, Your Living Arts Weekly blog editor

Social Awareness

A lovely song about the Point of Arrival, from Carrie Newcomer’s album of the same name. This whole album is a beautiful, soulful reminder that “within us and between us is everything we need.”

Creative Exploration

Stories of the Easter Hare

Have you ever wondered why the bunny is the symbol of Easter?  The rabbit comes from the same genus as the hare, which has long been connected with themes of sacrifice.  I’ve heard it said that when a hare is at the point of exhaustion while being chased by a predator, another hare will step in to be chased so the exhausted one can rest.  I’m not a “hare expert”, so I don’t really know if that’s true, but there are stories from a variety of traditions about the sacrificial nature of the hare.

To read the Jataka Tale of the Selfless Hare, a Buddhist story, click here.

For a Christian story of the Easter hare, click here.

And click here for the folk tale of the True Easter Hare.

Happy storytelling!

Practical Activity

Hot Cross Buns

A traditional Easter treat, Hot Cross Buns are slightly sweet, light and fluffy, and lightly spiced with cinnamon. You’ll want to make these buns an Easter tradition at your house!  Click here for a recipe for Hot Cross Buns. And, of course, if you’ve got a musician in the house, you know that “Hot Cross Buns” is one of the very first songs they learn to play on the recorder or piano.

Hot cross buns, hot cross buns

One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns!

Nurturing Care

Join us in Sacramento!

Register for the LifeWays Early Childhood Training in Sacramento, CA by May 1st and save $225!  Nurture yourself, your family and the children in your care by taking the Sacramento LifeWays training.

Click here for more information!