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This morning, in the waves of chilly air whistling in through the irresistible opening in the front window, I can hear birds chirping and frogs singing to each other. Life outside is in full swing as creatures of all sorts revel in the slowly warming temperatures — in celebration that everything is waking up. There are seed potatoes sprouting in a box by my feet, waiting to be planted and broccoli seedlings outside the back door getting used to the natural air before moving to their soil bed in the garden. Wildflowers of brilliant blue and bright white are popping up through old leaf cover in the woods, the lilies are testing the air after a long winter’s rest, and the great blue heron has made his homecoming to the shores of the lake. After a winter that didn’t seem to ever really get a firm grip, spring has embraced the landscape again in full.

A Garden Hymn

I can look out the front window, and if I cran my neck just so, I see that a section of the field has been prepared and eagerly awaits those broccoli seedlings. They will get planted. We will water, mulch, compost and weed. Plants will grow. Some plants will not. Some will get eaten by the resident deer or raccoons.  The soil will improve. Neighbors will be curious and conversations will begin. Relationships will build. We will spend time outside no matter what the weather forecasters say. We will harvest, and we will preserve. We will nurture a sustainable way of living. We will practice what we preach and preach what we practice. We will press on, even if we don’t do it right some of the time or if it starts to feel harder than we hoped it would. We will add our voice to the community’s song in a way that harmonizes.

Farming is not our livelihood, but parts of this plot that I can see from the front window sustain us and provide food.  Roads and moderate development frame two sides of this space that holds the garden, but the land itself is teeming with wild things: There’s the big blue stem that sways with the slightest breeze, the knarled old oak that keeps watch over the adolescent maple forest, and the fox that hunts voles in the snow come winter.  There are new people in the community who value what we value and who want to talk about it.  Like the first hints of spring, it’s like we are situated on the edge of something – the edge of moving into a different way of being, a different way of interacting with the everyday, a different path than what we may have been on before.  Today this spot on the earth is a part of that something.  Maybe it won’t always be.  But today it is, and when the sun slides down past the aspen trees in the evening, casting shadows amidst a tangerine glow, something in the earth lights up and reminds me that being awake and staying that way can mean more than one thing and that there are countless rhythms that carry the truth.

And now, in spring, the world is starting to take on tints of green, the frogs have resumed their singing in full and birdsong fills the air at all hours of the day.  We have harvested wild ramps and nettles and the first of the asparagus.  The beauty of new life is springing up all around us, and even the quiet nights are humming with the prospect of abundance and growth.

BlueBird by greenhouse

A few weeks from now I will be able to say that the onions are planted, the garlic is 5 inches high and the field is anxious for the tomato seedlings and squash seeds that need warmer soil.  The resident woodchuck will have put forth a solid effort to devour the tender pepper and eggplant starts that take their time hardening off outside in the back, and the potatoes will be nestling deeper into their new earthy home.   With each passing moment, all of life is gathering silent strength for the season ahead.

So despite what sometimes feels like constant dissonance as the earth endures more and more industrial progress, the ancient rhythms of nature persist at casting shadows that have the potential to create symphonies. If we listen closely, we can hear the cadence that connects everything. Through the year, the rhythm of the garden keeps the song of our life moving toward what matters. And we can see the light that radiates when each piece of creation adds a note to the hymn that is being written.

Garden Hymn Image: Ruben Alexander, Flickr/CC 2.0

Heidi Barr

Heidi Barr

Heidi Barr is the author of 12 Tiny Things: Simple Ways to Live a More Intentional Life (due out in January 2021) as well as four other works of non-fiction. A commitment to cultivating ways of being that are life-giving and sustainable for people, communities and the planet provides the foundation for her work. She lives in Minnesota with her family where they tend a large vegetable garden, explore nature and do their best to live simply. Despite working for an app-based tech start up, she plans to put off getting a smartphone as long as possible. Learn more about her work at