California Drought – Coming to a Backyard Near Me

Daniel Deffenbaugh is an Associate Professor of Religion at Hastings College and a gardner. He is also a theologian and author of the book Learning the Language of the Fields: Tilling & Keeping as Christian Vocation. I like his book and have been quoting from it on this blog for a year now. One of the reasons I like Deffenbaugh’s book is how he claims gardening as a critical spiritual practice. To garden, to tend a particular place is to keep one’s eyes open for God at work. It is a practice of paying attention to “other”, that which is not us. To pay attention to plants is to pay attention to a living entity that while it is very much “other” from us it still remains as much a part of God’s beloved creation as ourselves. 

Three years ago I planted my first real garden. Seeds sprouted, flowers bloomed and fruit formed and it all tasted great! So I did it again and a third time. Deffenbaugh is right. Gardening gets me out of my head and away from my desk. Gardening helps me to see the world around me. Well, to be more specific, gardening helps me to see and honor my part of the world. My specific place. And once I start to see, to honor, I can see God at work with, well, my “neighbors” which Deffenbaugh reminds us includes birds, plants, animals, bugs, even the dirt. 

Here in Northern California we are in the third year of not-enough-rain, also known as a drought. Depending on how the next two months go we’ll either be under severe water restrictions or not-so-severe water restrictions during the coming spring, summer and the fall seasons. Until the rains come again. Under these circumstances I started to wonder if I should forgo the garden this year. Why plant seeds now if I have to abandon the crop later?