Ancient Touchstones

Death Valley, California

Gardening is America’s most popular hobby, and is likely to maintain this status for reasons that reach far into the origins and ancient past of humankind.  I believe that the deep satisfactions we experience when creating beautiful gardens are rooted in sensibilities people developed when small nomadic bands survived by hunting game and fish, and gathering nuts, berries, grasses and fruit from wild plants.

Long before the dawn of recorded history little tribes of people gradually spread across the plains, hills, jungles, deserts, mountains, boreal forests and even the arctic regions, learning how to survive by their ability to work together and by shrewd observation of the natural world, the cycles of the seasons, and understanding when, where and how nature would yield food and sheltering materials.  These people may have been primitive in terms of some of their technology, but I suspect that over countless generations they finely tuned the ability to observe and analyze the natural world, and understand the ways nature could provide benefits.

To really take this process to its highest levels, I’m pretty sure these tribal people had to utilize every fiber of their beings, including their spiritual sensibilities.  As their ability to observe and understand the natural world improved, there must have been efforts to also understand the greater meanings of existence, the purpose of life, and all things spiritual.  The desire and drive to constantly ask WHY is a very unique aspect of what makes us fully human and spiritual.

Eventually, people who constantly roamed the planet in search of sustenance asked themselves, “Why not stay in one place long enough to plant and harvest a crop of life sustaining grains?”  So began mankind’s relationship with the cultivation and nurturing of plants for food, and later to create beautiful surroundings.  As people improved their agricultural skills, they almost certainly continued to ask themselves why, to find meaning in life, and build spiritual understanding.

We can’t pretend to give a detailed factual account of exactly how the relationship between mankind’s cultivation of plants and spiritual understanding has developed.  It’s enough to know that when we kneel down in our gardens, till the soil, and gently place seeds and seedlings with tender loving care, we are establishing a relationship with touchstones to the ancient part of humankind’s collective experience.

These ancient touchstones to our human spirituality are everywhere and all around us.  They can be found on a walk through a forest, or across a windswept prairie, or in a quiet small corner of our gardens.

This spring you too can find the ancient touchstone that helps you experience spiritual renewal and connectedness.  Your touchstone awaits.  Seek it wherever your heart leads you.  It just might be in the garden outside your back door.