Welcome, dear readers, to another month of taking put out of the meditation cushion and into the world.
Last month's article Metta Stirs It Up, shared the ups and downs, back and forths, and even the clockwise and anti-clockwise of growing vegetables as a volunteer in an organic vegetable garden. This month, the growth peaked thanks to sun, rain and invisible help.
Little did I know how much invisible help would come when, one summer solstice day off, I followed a sandwich board that advertised a temple of the goddess tucked away behind a row of shops. As I walked away from the hubbub of the main street into the hushed silence inside, Melissa, the steward of the Goddess Temple that day, warmly welcomed me and began showing me around for introduce me to all the different goddesses depicted everywhere I looked.
A voracious reader and spiritual explorer, most of them were already familiar to me. In other words, all but one named Cuda, the little-known face of Mother Earth in the Cotswolds – the region I am currently in – since the Iron Age.
Melissa and I had a conversation about the goddesses who spoke to us at different stages of life, and I shared that I currently felt closest to Guanyin for her dedication to compassion and Kali for her dedication to new departures.
Before leaving, I was invited to an outdoor solstice ceremony later that evening.
When I arrived, I joined a circle of about thirty women of all ages and one brave man. Several of the celebrants were in costume and as we turned in different cardinal directions to invoke various goddesses, it was fun to find out who they were impersonating. Venus, the Greek and Roman goddess of love, in her fiery red dress and crown of flowers, was perhaps the easiest to recognize. And Sabrina, the Celtic goddess of the River Severn, in more floaty, subtle blues.
Gathered on the bank of the Thames and Severn Canal as the sun set on the longest day of the year, we welcomed Sabrina to help nurture growth over the coming summer and took turns to embody the bodies of water to which we felt personally closest. As the icebreakers went, it was an unusual way to learn each participant's name and help bless the waters they felt flowing through them.
Back at the farm later, I sat with what a goddess put could incarnate himself as the only member of the team who lived on site. Cuda immediately reappeared asking me to help regenerate her land and feed my co-workers in the process.
And so, with respect to the guest that I am here, I began to offer my daily gardening efforts, our weekly harvests, and the farm itself to Cuda. Interestingly, this private invocation opened up all kinds of unexpected conversations with my colleagues about women in agriculture, the challenges of motherhood, and how best to nurture the land we were regenerating. And it also inspired me to start making surprise cakes and cookies for the team with produce from the market garden.
At our weekly stand at the local farmer's market, passers-by started commenting on the femininity of our vegetables. It was fun for me to recognize the Solstice Ceremony celebrants who were now buying produce. When I addressed them as the goddess they had embodied, they would do a double take and laugh at their more down-to-earth human weekend clothes. And when a sitar player in town for a sacred music festival strolled within earshot, the soothing effect of his ragas on the hustle and bustle of the market was like a collective lullaby.
At the close of each farmers' market, merchants will often offer what goods won't keep to other merchants. When we gave the street sitar player a bag of salad leaves, he kindly offered to play for the farm.
A few days later, he did indeed arrive with his sitar, sat cross-legged on the floor in the orchard where the team usually lunches, and began serenading a table full of exhausted women. The same market lullaby effect soothed my colleagues and it warmed my heart to watch their slow breathing and slumped shoulders as they ate.
Just as the raga was ending, a heavily pregnant colleague's husband burst into the orchard carrying none other than . . . A chocolate cake! We all turned around surprised, including his wife. He looked a bit shy and blurted out, “When we talked earlier, you sounded like you needed some cake. I bit back a chuckle at how every woman at the table silently fell in love with him for this sweet offering, and how clearly I wasn't the only one answering Cuda's call to nurture. our team.
The sitar player went on to explain that sitars are carved from dried gourds. It made me laugh out loud this time after a morning spent weeding the squash patch in the market garden. He then showed how to construct a raga by starting with certain notes, and letting his surroundings and audience flavor what happened next. He let us all try to pluck all 18 strings of his sitar, one of which is the loudest signature string that drives the neighboring sympathetic strings.
Well, that metaphor was not lost on this put meditating, and silently resolved to continue my efforts to generate put for the team and welcome Cuda to his land without knowing who it might entail.
I then offered to show the sitar player the market garden that had produced the salad he liked so much. Her childlike delight in the sights and smells was palpable, and her questions made me realize how much I had already learned during my two months of volunteering there.
When I showed her the propagation tunnel full of seed trays I had sown a few days earlier germinating, it was her turn to laugh out loud. Apparently there was a saying among the other sitar players not to keep checking the seeds once they were sown, and he had never seen such a literal display of what they meant.
He explained that when constructing a raga, sitar players could not predict its direction and simply had to trust the seed they planted would eventually sprout and grow without constant checking – i.e. say trying to control the ongoing improvisation as it unfolded.
Well, that metaphor was not lost on this put meditating either, and I silently resolved to trust my efforts to generate put for the team and welcoming Cuda to his land would eventually pay off.
And so, dear readers, whatever Goddess you currently feel called to welcome – or even embody – keep sowing: you never know who your efforts may lead to or what your efforts may eventually sprout. There may even be a surprise cake!
Or for put-morph Tears for Fears song "Sowing the Seeds of Love":
Open hearts, feel it
Open your mind, think about it
Open your eyes, every minute of every hour
Open your eyes, I love a sunflower
Open your eyes, I believe in the power of love
Sow the seeds of put
The seeds of put
Sowing the seeds
An end as needed
And the politics of greed