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Holy Work of Raising Soil, Sample Chapters2016

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Holy Work of Raising Soil, Sample Chapters2016

  1. 1. My Heartis Indigenous:Of Mennonites,BeesandLand Land: The Holy Workof RaisingSoil AnitaAmstutzSample Chapter2016 Matter Matters Matter matters. It sounds trite. But it’s true. We are of the earth and the earth is of us. Many religious theologies and beliefs about God are more interested in concocting and defending ideologies and doctrines that are not grounded in created matter itself. Despite many of the earliest cosmologies that inspired love of created matter, the devotee is not taught that it is an absolute necessity to be deeply connected to the constant sacred in the material world that is around us, through us, within us. Their gods would be sky gods, peering at a distance, deeply suspicious or skeptical of this life, hoping for an escape hatch from life on planet earth. Yet, despite this, Christianity, my particular path of devotion and training, has as it’s root, an incarnational God who came to earth as a body in the form of the Jewish Rabbi Jesus— identifying with the human experience of joy and suffering, sorrow and delight. It has, at the core of it’s scriptural creation story of human bodies made from soil. The first dirt being scooped out of the earth1, Adam, a derivative of the Hebrew word adamah (clay or earth) was called to the holy work of raising soil, tilling and tending it, nurturing it as a baby.2 The first farmer. This Judeo-Christian cosmology reminds us where we came from and where we will return someday. Reclaiming our kinship with the soil ignites wonder and curiosity, as a rising movement of young and old alike reminds us. We are being called back to our body and soul roots. In fact, we are all Indigenous—living in a particular place of soil, 1 Genesis 2:7 NRSV 2 Genesis 2:15 NRSV
  2. 2. 2 [Type the document title] water, and air at any given time. We only need to awaken to this truth and look around at our earth neighbor. “Soil. It’s so common we can easily forget how precious it is. It is so rare in the universe that we can easily miss its significance to our planet…the foundation for all living things, including humanity…. It is the virtual breeding ground for all life on earth… Planet earth is unique for having soil. And that soil forms from rocks broken into pieces from weathering and erosion, glaciers, volcanoes, releasing vast quantities of nutrients, combined with plantlife to create soil”3 The precious skin that covers our earth is filled with billions upon billions of micro organisms needed to grow stuff, purify and regenerate. Without it, there is no life. If our economies had any inkling of the most indispensable jobs in our economy and paid its workers accordingly, farmers and teachers would be billionaires. I am sure of it. But as we know, that is not the reality. Small farmers have been driven out of business and rural communities have fought to survive as their products have been devalued by the mainstream economy. We want to pay the smallest price possible for food at the grocery. And still the poor struggle to make ends meet and feed their children. Yet, survival for those who grow our food has come at a cost—to the land and our own health. Bio-Tech, Big Ag Industrialized farming methods have been 3 (The Wonder of Creation: Soil, The Foundation of Life https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEETdcLYhsQ)
  3. 3. My Heartis Indigenous:Of Mennonites,BeesandLand Land: The Holy Workof RaisingSoil AnitaAmstutzSample Chapter2016 peddled to our Universities and agricultural world as the only way to make a profit. The returns of this promise have depleted the soil, drastically increased chemical use and mono-cropping in order to receive federal subsidies. The soil is no longer treated and revered as a living substance, an extension of our bodies, to be nourished and cared for, but a dead, inert substrate to be beaten into submission for a profit . As I crisscrossed the Midwest in the Fall of 2016, heading northward, towards my writing residency in Minnesota, everywhere I looked small, Midwestern communities had drunk the poison. Or perhaps they were force fed. My people, those Bread Basket farmers, stewards of the land, had sown cornfields and soy lined with signs. Like proud banners they announced GMO Roundup drenched seeds by such companies as Pioneer, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow. “At a July 2008 meeting, Monsanto officials announced plans to raise the average price of some of the company's triple-stack maize varieties a whopping 35 percent. Fred Stokes of the U.S.-based Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM) describes the implications for farmers: "A $100 price increase is a tremendous drain on rural America. Let's say a farmer in Iowa who farms 1,000 acres plants one of these expensive corn varieties next year. The gross increased cost is more than $40,000. Yet there's no scientific basis to justify this price hike. How can we let companies get away with this?"4 All of this is in the name of the “green revolution” to feed the world. There is 4 http://gmwatch.org/gm-firms/10558-the-worlds-top-ten-seed-companies-who-owns- nature
  4. 4. 4 [Type the document title] another name for it. Profit. Massive profits as agro bio-tech companies take their “mission” globally. In 2007 Monsanto posted 23% of the world market’s sales of the proprietary seed market.5 And the U.S. Government continues to subsidize this effort, creating a vicious cycle of dependency. Everywhere Monsanto, Bayer, DuPont and other agro-tech industries use the law to bind small farmers, indigenous and rural community from using their own seeds rather than “patented” GMO seeds. In a 1998 bid to own nature and control the food supply globally, Monsanto sued a small farmer in Canada, Percy Schmeiser, for $1 million with a “patent infringement lawsuit”. Percy had been working for 50 years to develop disease resistant seed varieties for his farm that were indigenous to the climate and soil of his region. But his neighbors had agreed to test Monsanto’s canola, which was genetically modified, meaning a gene was spliced in it that made it resistant to Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup. This seed, if spread by the wind or cross pollination would kill anything living. It was a “terminator seed”. That harvest year, it irrevocably destroyed Percy’s own seed, contaminating half a century of research when it blew onto his farmland due to a massive thunderstorm. It wasn’t long after Schmeiser contacted Monsanto to come and test for the damage their seed did to his, that Monsanto filed a lawsuit against Schmeiser, saying it doesn’t matter how, when or where it happens, if Monsanto’s GMO patented seed is found in your seed, you are liable to pay them for it because they own it. Percy took them all the way to the Canadian Supreme Court. They ruled against him, saying 5 Ibid
  5. 5. My Heartis Indigenous:Of Mennonites,BeesandLand Land: The Holy Workof RaisingSoil AnitaAmstutzSample Chapter2016 that the patent held up in court. Mercifully, they did not hold him responsible for paying the fine. Instead they booted it to the Canadian Parliament to update the old laws on patents which did not include such things as seed genetics at the time they were made in 1867 and 1869. Percy continues to spread the word today, supporting seed bio-diversity, despite efforts by the agro-business giant to silence him and his wife with threats. He says, “no forms — no life forms should be patented. And terminator seeds6 should be globally banned. And we have a strong opinion that terminator seeds should never, never, ever be introduced, because, to us, it’s the — I think the most serious assault on life we’ve ever seen on this planet. When they come out with — want to come out with a gene that terminates the future of the germination of that seed, so that would totally control the world seed supply.”7 He ended by saying that we are returning to the feudal systems of Medieval Europe, but this time it’s not the kings, lords or land barons, but the corporations, jockeying for ultimate control of our food. A buzzword for Indigenous communities today is seed sovereignty. The right to grow their own food with their own saved seeds, healthy, free of poison and affordable. Winona LaDuke, indigenous activist, writer and economist has written, 6 A gene that’s put into a seed…to create… plants [that]are sterile. And so, it cannot be used the following year for seed. But the dangeralso of the terminator gene, it can cross-pollinate into indigenous crops, heirloom crops, and render those seeds from those plants also sterile. So it’s a termination of the future of life, forcing farmers to buy seeds every year, rather than to conserve seeds so that they can be used every year. From a “Democracy Now!” interview by Amy Goodman, September 17, 2010. http://www.democracynow.org/2010/9/17/percy_schmeiser_vs_monsanto_the_story 7 Ibid
  6. 6. 6 [Type the document title] “There are two kinds of law. The white man’s law and the Creator’s law”. Being indigenous to a place means supporting and nurturing all life, not poisoning the very land that supports yours or anyone else’s community. Lorenzo and the Bees Not all farmers have bowed. Shortly after I began my beekeeping adventures, I met Lorenzo at a local farmers market. An heir to one of 6 original families from Spain who were deeded vast tracts of land in New Mexico, he is part of 300 years of tradition—- land that has been in his family for 7 generations. He was surrounded by young handsome men with long black hair and beautiful smiles, a mixture of family friends and interns who work his farm. Close to seventy years old, Lorenzo wore his usual, a trademark handkerchief around his neck, a straw hat and overalls. He is small in stature, as a former horse jockey, but what he lacks in height he makes up for with a robust spirit and eyes shining with curiosity and intelligence. We connected over bees and spirituality. He invited me to come and see what he is doing on his family land. I finally took him up on his generous offer. I saw his 4 acres of family land down in the South Valley that he brought back from the brink of decay over 20 years ago. He left his home as a young man, for a promising career as a horse jockey. Beginning in Chicago, he criss-crossed the South and mid-Atlantic states racing horses during his career. He had a natural affinity with horses and lots of experience growing up next to the intelligent horse nation. He describes that time in his life as intense. A time of skyrocketing to financial success, but leaving him empty inside. He called the business “corrupt and ugly”. Farming for him was like taking a breath of fresh air
  7. 7. My Heartis Indigenous:Of Mennonites,BeesandLand Land: The Holy Workof RaisingSoil AnitaAmstutzSample Chapter2016 after not breathing for a long time. Lorenzo exchanged his old life for a new one, hands in the dirt and began the humble and authentic life deeply connected to the roots of his people and the biotic community. Lorenzo dug up the trash that had accumulated, began to irrigate, nourish the land and plant food. He jokingly said that he is still looking for a tractor that disappeared. It took him 15 years to clean and prepare the land. It was full of Chinese Elm, an invasive species that sucks the land of water and nourishment. Now, after 5 years of production, Lorenzo’s land has more food than he knows what to do with. He sells food, gives it away to the community, brings young people from schools in to learn about it and to work on the land. He says, “Farming is not a vocation or a hobby, [for me] it’s a passion”. For Lorenzo, this place leaks life giving energy and he radiates the joy and love for the land which he has nurtured back to health. He understands this call as a way to serve his community and Mother Earth, whom he talks of reverently and respectfully as a member of his own tribe. There are row upon rows of succulent blackberries, a half acre of asparagus, chili, blue corn, pumpkins, cucumbers, and an outdoor year round kitchen and hoop houses. What does all this have to do with bees? As Lorenzo talked about his land and the relationship that he has cultivated with it, I felt the same sense of connection that I have with my bees, welling up in my own heart. He talked of the food he grows as not just edible plants but a living life force which create consciousness as you partake in growing, nurturing and eating their
  8. 8. 8 [Type the document title] gifts. “Every cell of your body reacts to “real food“, he said, his eyes lit up with delight. Yes. This is what I feel when I eat raw, freshly harvested honey, pollen or propolis from the hive. All of it is living food. All of it has healing properties, untouched by chemicals or human degradation. It is a sacrament from the bee’s gift economy —– given by their very life and hard work. Lorenzo’s approach to farming is a blend of indigenous spirituality and Spanish Catholicism. Lorenzo remembered his Native grandmother, who taught him to love the land, be respectful and know the native herbs and plants. Before she cultivated any herb, she would listen quietly for its essence or spirit to speak to her, honoring it’s particular quality for the person to be healed. To this day, he is highly complementary of the feminine as a carrier of special spiritual wisdom and tradition--- an empowered female role which is rare in a macho Latino culture. Lorenzo talks of the deep spiritual aspect to the food growing tradition of his ancestors—the spiritual growth that comes from caring for the land. “We don’t own the land, the land owns us.” This flouts the Western European concept of ownership. I remember my earliest mentor, Wally Ford, a minister ordained in the Disciples of Christ Church, who told us that the original scriptural text of the Lord’s Prayer was not “Forgive us our trespasses…” but rather translated, “Forgive us our debts(Matthew 6:12 NRSV) and forgive us our sins ( Luke 11:4 NRSV). These were wedded to Jewish scriptural mandates which saw debt as sinful, oppressing the poor, according to the law and the prophets. But with the advent of the Feudal system in Europe between the 9th-15th c. , “sins” became translated as “trespassing”.
  9. 9. My Heartis Indigenous:Of Mennonites,BeesandLand Land: The Holy Workof RaisingSoil AnitaAmstutzSample Chapter2016 The privatizing of land during Medieval times consolidated power and wealth for the church, as well as feudal landowners. The Lord’s Prayer, instituting it as a sin or a crime to cross feudal landowners privilege and power. This kept the lower classes in check. The people’s commons and loosely held ownership of land became concentrated with the wealthy. This concept of land ownership paved the way for the ugly 18th and 19th century land reforms in Scotland. Fuadach nan Gàidheal, the "eviction of the Gael", otherwise known as the Highland Clearances, evicting the small scale farmers of the Scottish Highlands. Commonly held lands were taken and enclosed for sheep, creating a reverse revolution in agriculture for the Scots. It was carried out largely by hereditary aristocratic landowners, brutally and forcibly, devastating the cultural landscape of a people indigenous to their place for generations. 8 It was only the continuation of the colonizing of the Land as commodity, as the people’s who had co-evolved with the land was privatization for the few who were part of the owning class. In 1795, Thomas Paine, a Founding Father and political theorist, blamed civilization. He acknowledged that private property, though an unnatural construct, is the price we must pay for developing agriculture. But, he wrote: It has dispossessed more than half the inhabitants of every nation of their natural inheritance, without providing, as ought to have been done, an indemnification for that loss and has thereby created a species of poverty and wretchedness that did not exist before. And so, he proposed, not as a charity but as a right… 8 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highland_Clearances
  10. 10. 10 [Type the document title] To create a national fund out of which there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of 21 years, the sum of 15 pounds Sterling as a compensation in part for the loss of his or her natural inheritance by the introduction of the system of landed property and also, the sum of 10 pounds per annum during life to every person now living of the age of 50 years and to all others as they shall arrive at that age.9 Clearly, this has not panned out in rural America. Today the highest rates of poverty, in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, lie in rural America. For Lorenzo land was and is about relationship— at once communal and personal. Sadly, his ancestors experienced the ugliness of an unwarranted racism and marginalization at the hands of the Anglo colonization which continues to this day. Anglos were harsh and brutal in their treatment of the people they found in the 19th c. There was a flinty hardness in the heart and eyes of those seeking riches and domination of this landscape. What they found was a mixed race of people who had merged, intermarried and were eking out an existence with unlikely alliances, side by side on this often harsh, waterless Frontier. There were the Pueblo people along the Rio Grande, nomadic Apaches, Comanches, and Ute, as well as Hispanos and Mestizo, a blend of Indigenous and Spanish. In a pecking order, the Anglos came to despise and scorn Hispanos even more than the Indigenous, a racism and prejudice against their culture and what they saw as a “backwardness” among these people of Spanish and Catholic descent. 9 BrookeGladstone, host of WNYC’s "On the Media," in a new five-part series: “Busted: America’s Poverty Myths." (September 28, 2016)
  11. 11. My Heartis Indigenous:Of Mennonites,BeesandLand Land: The Holy Workof RaisingSoil AnitaAmstutzSample Chapter2016 “The Americans had begun to think that their national destiny was somehow “manifest” and that the entire continent beckoned them with an enormous economic and territorial mission. The New Mexicans, on the other hand, were essentially a pastoral people. Although their ancestors the conquistadors, had been driven by a sense of destiny that was at the very least as aggressive as the Americans’, the intervening years had bred in them an outlook much like that of the Pueblos: a settled feeling of permanence, a sense of completeness in the present, of being unchanged through time. Between cultures of such opposite temperament, conflict was inevitable.”10 One of the most grievous chapters of the Anglo colonization of New Mexicans was the land grant grab that happened after the original conquest. “The United State conquered New Mexico twice. The first conquest was carried out by traders, miners, ranchers and speculators–‘rugged individualists’ who served only themselves. The second conquest proceeded concurrently but was the work of soldiers, scientists and other professionals who represented the United States as a collective.”11 As the hordes of settlers and prospectors moved in, mapping began in earnest by the U.S. Geological Survey. Every nook and cranny of the topography was accounted for, including the land held in commons by the “manitos”12. These were Lorenzo’s ancestors, a combination of Moorish and Jewish settlers sent by Queen Isabella of 10 William DeBuys, Enchantmentand Exploitation: TheLifeand Hard Times ofa New Mexico MountainRange(Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2015), 86. 11 Ibid,141. 12 Manitos was a shortened version of “Hermano” and “Hermana”, a sign of familial affection and spiritual friendship found amongst the small villagers when the Anglos came.
  12. 12. 12 [Type the document title] Spain in the 16th century.13 The next wave of colonizers looked at the land with dollar signs chi-chinging in their eyes. The opportunities to open up tens of thousands of acres of fertile land for grazing gleamed in the eyes of unscrupulous lawyers, politicos, government officials, and family members willing to conspire to sell the priceless family “jewels”—land. But there was one little problem to this second wave of colonization. It had villages of people “in the way”—whose land had been bequeathed by the Spanish Crown. These villages, often isolated, located along the spines of the mountains, next to watersheds, were held in common. In the absence of a cash economy and they held their land in common. “The most important civic virtue for a man to have was verguenza, a self-effacing probity that restrained him from advancing himself at the expense of others”.14 Imbalances of land ownership was checked by something called the eijido, the commons in the center of town. “One of the most striking aspects of life in those days was the absence of fences in the villages to separate individual plots of land. Instead of barbed wire, children were employed to keep the livestock where they were supposed to be and fetch them when they wandered too far.”15 This communal land ethic allowed all to graze public lands whether you had 13 These original settlers who followedthe conquistadors and Franciscan priests into New Mexico, were an exiled and dispossessed people themselves. As the Inquisition was ravaging Europe and the Mediterranean world,the Moors and Jews,both marginalized people in Spain were given the choiceto either convertand become “conversos” to the Spanish Catholic crownor to leave forthe new worldand settle the frontier. Either decision was fraught with danger and risk. Many chose to migrate to the territory of Mexico. They became the manitos,intermarrying and mixing with the Indigenous population. (gratitude to Lorenzo Candelariaforthisoralhistory) 14 William DeBuys, Enchantmentand Exploitation:TheLifeand Hard Times ofa New Mexico MountainRange(Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2015), 171. 15 Ibid, 170.
  13. 13. My Heartis Indigenous:Of Mennonites,BeesandLand Land: The Holy Workof RaisingSoil AnitaAmstutzSample Chapter2016 10 acres or 120. Getting ahead of one’s neighbor was of “negligible value”, because it would be the demise of the whole. “People were poor in material comforts and their children slept crowded together, several to a bed, but they were rich in what they valued most: time, family, and the freedom of the land”.16 The people were bound together by religious customs that included celebrations and feasts honoring the water ditches used for irrigating (Acqueias) and to remember the Saints who watched over their farming activities. But the outside world was changing, unbeknownst to this land based people. A particular Lieutenant Carpenter noted that… “Nearly all the land in the territory that might be easily farmed or ranched consisted of Spanish and Mexican land grants whose titles were almost invariably uncertain and required long and costly litigation to protect”. He wrote: “It would be economy ‘to buy up all these claims at a good round sum and throw the land open to settlement under the homestead laws. The speedy increase in the population and amount of taxable property, and the general prosperity of the people, would soon more than repay the original outlay, and change this conservative, inert Territory into a thriving rival of her less favored neighbors’”17 And so, it began on a grand scale. Litigations and shady, fly by night court proceedings that would dispossess a whole race of pastoral and peaceful people from their land over generations, leaving landless communities behind. And they 16 Ibid, 173. 17 William DeBuys, Enchantmentand Exploitation:TheLifeand Hard Times ofa New Mexico MountainRange(Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2015), 41.
  14. 14. 14 [Type the document title] were stolen or bought for very little money. Stripped of their sovereign rights, and suddenly living on land acquired in secret deals in a town days from their village (Santa Fe), a host of social problems followed along not far behind. A people whose economy was not based upon cash, but land and community, they were ripped from that most intimate and valuable---land, family, time—the fabric was shredded. At least the Pueblos were given their reservations along the River. For the manitos, it was as though their limbs had been hacked off. These land grants, originally taken from the pueblo people, had allowed these Moorish/Jewish Spaniards of mixed Indigenous blood to have lives of self determination. Their lives may have looked primitive to the outsider, and they were indeed hard, but the villagers were self-sufficient and self-contained. Proud and dignified, they survived by traditional, land based medicine, sharing their land and bartering food and goods. As their agrarian base crumbled, subsistence farming disappeared up and down the Rio Grande Watershed. Economic disparity between the trading centers of the growing cities and rural farming communities became acute. It followed a pattern of colonization—conquest, dispossession of land, destruction of a culture and land based people. Lorenzo had alluded to the turbulent 60’s in New Mexico. He had at one time been involved in Hispanic social revolutions spanning the state to return dignity and land to the people. La Raza. The Race. Power to the People. Back then the Federal government was the thief. Today it would be the multi-national corporations.
  15. 15. My Heartis Indigenous:Of Mennonites,BeesandLand Land: The Holy Workof RaisingSoil AnitaAmstutzSample Chapter2016 I wasn’t surprised that Lorenzo and his community in the South Valley were fighting a 38,000 home mega-development funded by British multinational bank, Barclays. It would turn the sand dunes of the New Mexican desert into a high end village, siphoning off upwards of 12m gallons of water a day. In a land where people, roots and animals live on the razor’s edge of drought, a way of life would be snuffed out. As Lorenzo said, it would reduce his water flow drastically, along with other farmers and dwellers along the river. It would create infrastructure for water and utilities that the city of Albuquerque and tax payers would be paying forward. Public welfare, I think they call that. Santolina would abut a valley that is not only rich in history and resilient in tradition and land, but also ridden with gang violence, poverty and other societal afflictions. The development would be a travesty. After a sham of public forums to invite the communities to speak out—the voices packing the rooms being overwhelmingly against this development—the County commissioners handed over the land against the people’s will. I would later find that they were all cozy in the real estate developers pockets. As always, one only needs to follow the money. One thing I have learned on my sojourn with bees and farmers along the Rio Grande, a very different landscape from the farm of my childhood is that soil and water are indivisible here in the Southwest. Water is not only life, it is blood in the veins of New Mexicans. Over the centuries it has proven more than once to be bloody as generations have fought for it’s right. Water, over the centuries has been fickle and
  16. 16. 16 [Type the document title] fragile, increasingly diminished by human activities of dams, overgrazing, population, fossil fuel development and climate change. Lorenzo as a farmer, intimately connected with the soil, knows the value of water. Water is more important than money. Money is nothing, he states. Our true treasure is food and water. They are everything. Money is an illusion. If that artery of water, the confluence of the Chama River and Rio Grande runs dry, we will learn this lesson quickly. At the end of our tour, I noted Lorenzo’s beehives at the edge of the farm, empty and cob-webby. At one point, he said he had over 20 hives. “Mmmm, blackberry honey…”, Lorenzo smiled as he remembered. His bees had become run down with mites, diseases, colony collapse. He gave it up. We talked generally about the weather and I casually mentioned putting some of my bees on his farm. I could taste that blackberry honey melting in my mouth. Lorenzo was delighted. He was eager to create a partnership. It would become clear that Lorenzo wanted bees to pollinate his enterprise and to harvest sweet blackberry honey. One day I went down to visit him and see the early Spring progress as he and his workers prepared new starts in the hoophouses and roto-tilled row upon row of dark rich humus. Lorenzo, his usual cheerful 4'7" diminutive self, clothed in coveralls and his trademark straw hat and neck bandanna, pulled a rolled cigarette from his pocket, lit it and took a deep drag.
  17. 17. My Heartis Indigenous:Of Mennonites,BeesandLand Land: The Holy Workof RaisingSoil AnitaAmstutzSample Chapter2016 He looked at me with a twinkle in his eye as I inhaled deeply of the fragrant warm moist air of the hoophouse—tobacco smoke curling around us. There was a long row of Russian Kale, my favorite. Arugula, baby greens, spinach, lettuces of all types. This was Lorenzo's religion. He said, "This is our mother earth. Like an umbilical cord, we are connected to her for life...without her, we die. We humans are made of the same stuff as this earth but also of stardust. The whole Universe is right here inside us as humans! It is here in this soil! Such potential." Lorenzo, my earth mystic friend. He was still absolutely delighted by all of it, 20 years after marrying himself to the land. And like any good marriage, time had only enriched the soil of his love. When I came to visit this little 4 acre plot, I also felt that all is right with the world. It was hard to explain. In a world of so much imbalance, suffering and violence, it was like a tiny piece of the Garden of Eden. Shalom. The peace of the soil harmonizing with the molecules of plants, sipping water and air to make something edible. No chemicals used. Such beauty and goodness and health. But Lorenzo had something else to show me that day. "Look! Some bees have moved into an abandoned hive. Let me show you!" Lorenzo beckoned me. We walked over to the topbar hive, cobwebbed and dirty. Sure enough, bees were flying in and out of the slit of a doorway. When I pried off the topbars, the bees flew out. I stood stock still, since I was silly enough not to don my veil and smoker for this event. What I saw was amazing. The hive was chock full of comb and an old colony, their small bodies huddled together, noses buried in the comb, butts in the air---like
  18. 18. 18 [Type the document title] a picture from the death scene of those who had imbibed the poison of Jim Jones' Guyana. They were lifeless and still. Likely they had starved or frozen to death. Yet, swirling around this scene of death was a new hive of bees, longing for a place to call home. Busy tidying up, sweeping the floors, hauling debris, clearing out the macabre scene of death in lieu of resurrection. Wow. I didn't know what else to say. Lorenzo smiled. He knew. With his desire, he had put out a call to the Bees. The welcome mat was out there, inviting them to find a home. Mother Nature knows what she needs. The universe brought the bees here to his farm—gratis. They were right on time for the Spring bloom. Ready to pollinate. Life bearers. I thought of the Galaxies and stardust that I have never seen. I’ve been told they do exist. Bees and humans, trees and flowers, dolphins and topsoil are merely a microcosm of those far off places. That which is light years away is also here. And somehow we are all interconnected in the great Web of Life. Stewardship of the land animal husbandry must work in tandem with the nature of the creature. Whether soil or bees. Lorenzo understands that we are called to care for the soil and in return it will care for us. Exercising an earth mysticism and spirituality rooted itself in the alchemy of New Mexican clay and sand, he serves his community, respectfully included Mother Earth as a member of his tribe and
  19. 19. My Heartis Indigenous:Of Mennonites,BeesandLand Land: The Holy Workof RaisingSoil AnitaAmstutzSample Chapter2016 community. Like Wendell Berry, the Kentucky poet, it all turns on affection.18 Instead of commodity, land, soil and creatures are kin, rooted in relationship. In a book entitled My Penitente Land:Reflections on Spanish New Mexico, Fray Angelico Chavez, seeks to reclaim the rich and vivid history of a people before the Anglicization history narratives have all but submerged their story. This Franciscan priest speaks to the New Mexican reality of land based peoples. That land is at the heart of their spirituality. Northern New Mexico communities, who have had their land taken and their livelihood destroyed now fight for spiritual survival amidst an epidemic of heroin addiction amongst their young. As a Mishkeegogamang elder from Northern Ontario put it. Taashikaywin is the word for an intimate connection with the land. “It is everything….that’s our identity… our spiritual perspective. When I say part of us that means, air, water, plants, animals, and spirituality…Taashikaywin is a sacred cycle. This is what is broken and in need of repair. It’s the reason there is so much confusion, and why people feel lost. “19 Lorenzo’s farm is a vital and dynamic community presence within the intricate social complexities of rural and urban life and farming. It is a hub of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) links the city with the country dweller. Reclaiming and revitalizing our rural communities means forging necessary alliances. Healthy farms beget equally healthy communities. Lorenzo and his family and friends stand at the 18 From an essay by the same title, delivered by Wendell Berry, poet, essayist, novelist and farmer, April 23, 2012, NEH JeffersonLecture. 19 Deanna Zantingh, “Uncoveringthe Truth”, CanadianMennonite,September 21, 2016, Vol. 20, Issue 19.
  20. 20. 20 [Type the document title] intersection of addiction, immigration, poverty, and meager resources. They embody resilience itself. Matter matters.

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