Today’s post is the first of a series. We are ‘laying the groundwork’ for some ideas on health and healing…
First, A Weather Report From the Canadian Rockies, Home of the Epic Flood of 2013
End of March and you would think that we might have been able to put some stock in the saying, “If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb.” As I look out my window, you could optimistically stretch that and say, yes…fluffy, white, woolly lamb-like flakes of snow gently falling, but that’s all it would be…a stretch. Everyone is pretty much done with winter and snow and wind and wet and dirt and shoveling and scraping icy windshields.
After the Weather Report: An Announcement on Soil, Human Health, Birth and Spirituality
Like seeds lying dormant, waiting for the heat of the sun and the gentle rains of spring to birth the greening (with gratitude to Hildegard of Bingen for the term Viriditas**), so too my mind is busy with ideas, forming in the deepest recesses of my mind, making connections between healthy soil, healthy human life, birth, and spirituality.
Each week for the next four or so weeks, the plan is to plant these little idea seeds and wait/see if/how they take root. Rather than overwhelm you with too much all at once, we’re going to break down the next few newsletters into manageable, healthy bit-size bits. Plus…I need to get this stuff out of my head before it implodes and gets ‘weedy’ like a dandelion long past the time to prevent it going to seed and spreading willy-nilly on the changing winds.
WHERE’S THE HOMEOPATHY?
We will get there eventually because homeopathy is all about supporting the healing of all life with its sustainability, non-toxicity, and super-diluted nano-particles of material substances and potency. Homeopathy recognizes the ability of each living organism/being to self-heal given the energy that is needed to support rather than poison or harm. Which is like soil, our starting point for this entry into the world of the microcosm of all things small and mighty…microbes.
On the practical side with remedies, you will receive some great handouts on gardening remedy kits to have on hand, remedy kits for the allergy/hay fever sufferers, and some handouts for remedy kits to take the bite, sting, burn and bruise out of summer fun in the sun.
AWAKENING FROM WINTER DARKNESS AND INTO THE GREENING
Amazing how the mind—despite the snow, the cold, and cloudy days—starts to consider the season of spring with its new life, growth, and resurrection from the cold and dark days of winter.
Like the sap stirring in the trees, we are moved to action anticipating the possibilities that come with the greening of spring.
My son has started his little beds of seeds in-doors with our granddaughter, and the miracle of sprouts awakens some kind of cosmic awe. Green inside while outside all lies dormant and snow covered.
Look—the seeds have sprouted already!
And my husband has prepared the ‘nursery’ for the new life. We have a small but practical greenhouse of sorts that will house the tender shoots until we can ‘harden’ them off for planting in the yard. Our growing seasons are so short, but the determination to green our yards and grow our vegetables drives even the most garden averse to dig and plant or to head to the local greenhouse for inspiration and purchase.
THE MUCK AND MIRE OF HEALTHY SOIL
“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.”
~ Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture
(Some amazing poetry by Wendell Berry, spoken by the author. Part of my life was spent as a Speech Arts and Drama Instructor, and poetry has long been a love of mine.)
“In The Unsettling of America, Wendell Berry argues that good farming is a cultural development and spiritual discipline. Today’s agribusiness, however, takes farming out of its cultural context and away from families, and as a nation we are thus more estranged from the land – from the intimate knowledge, love, and care of it. Sadly, as Berry notes in the afterword to this new edition, his arguments and observations are still relevant today. We continue to suffer loss of community, the devaluation of human work, and the destruction of nature under an economics dedicated to the mechanistic pursuit of products and profits.”
– The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture
Our soils in North America and in the world are far from healthy where there is an emphasis on commercial exploitation of resources. There are young people who are speaking up and ordinary folk who are working at healing the land through promoting permaculture. My work is with the health of humans and there are so many parallels between the health and fertility of the soil of the land and the ‘soil’ within the human body. The soil is an apt metaphor in so many ways, and the bottom line? We are what we eat. When we eat from poisoned soil, we poison our bodies. When we eat from healthy soil, we support our health and healing.
And guerilla gardening? Meet Ron Finley, clothing designer and urban gardener, reclaiming unused land in urban south central LA, a location not known for its green landscapes. And Masanobu Fukuoka, Japanese farmer/philosopher and Wendell Berry (above), another farmer/philosopher.
“His farming technique requires no machines, no chemicals and very little weeding. He does not plow the soil or use prepared compost and yet the condition of the soil in his orchards and fields improve each year. His method creates no pollution and does not require fossil fuels. His method requires less labor than any other, yet the yields in his orchard and fields compare favorably with the most productive Japanese farms which use all the technical know-how of modern science.”
– “Masanobu Fukuoka’s Natural Farming and Permaculture“
SO WHAT THE HECK IS HEALTHY SOIL? ISN’T IT JUST DIRT?
Seems the definition of healthy soil is changing and here you have the metaphor between healthy soil and healthy humans…found in Wikipedia no less! Only now, since the 1990’s, are scientists awakening to the ‘life of soil’ and the ‘life that is in soil’:
“The term soil health is used to describe the state of a soil in:
- Sustaining plant and animal productivity and diversity;
- Maintaining or enhance water and air quality;
- Supporting human health and habitation.
Soil Health has partly if not largely replaced the expression “Soil Quality” that was extant in the 1990’s. The primary difference between the two expressions is that soil quality was focused on individual traits within a functional group, as in “quality of soil for maize production” or “quality of soil for roadbed preparation” and so on. The addition of the word “health” shifted the perception to be integrative, holistic and systematic. The two expressions still overlap considerably.
The underlying principle in the use of the term “soil health” is that soil is not just a inert, lifeless growing medium, which modern farming tends to represent, rather it is a living, dynamic and ever-so-subtly changing whole environment. It turns out that soils highly fertile from the point of view of crop productivity are also lively from a biological point of view. It is now commonly recognized that soil microbial biomass is large: in temperate grassland soil the bacterial and fungal biomass have been documented to be 1–2 tons/hectare and 2–5 t ha, respectively. Some microbiologists now believe that 80% of soil nutrient functions are essentially controlled by microbes. If this is consistently true, than the prevailing Liebig nutrient theory model, which excludes biology, is perhaps dangerously incorrect for managing soil fertility sustainably for the future.
We can use the human health analogy and categorise a healthy soil as one:
- in a state of composite well-being in terms of biological, chemical, and physical properties;
- not diseased or infirmed (i.e. not degraded, nor degrading), nor causing negative off-site impacts;
- with each of its qualities cooperatively functioning such that the soil reaches its full potential and resists degradation;
…providing a full range of functions (especially nutrient, carbon, and water cycling) and in such a way that it maintains this capacity into the future.”
That’s enough for today! Tune in next week where we begin to explore the ‘soil’ within the human body.
If microbes essentially control 80% of soil nutrient functions, want to take a guess at how many microbes make up the human body??
Join me on Facebook and put your best guess forward.
And for those who are part of the Vaccine Free: Now What? course, you will likely remember the number from our lesson on the immune system (hint: Bonnie Bessler Ted Talk). Go ahead and cheat…you have the notes! The rest of you? If inspired, ask Professor Google and see what you come up with. Oops! Did I just give everyone a hint?
Yours in health and healing,
** Viriditas (Latin, literally “greenness,” formerly translated as “viridity”) is a word meaning vitality, fecundity, lushness, verdure, or growth. It is particularly associated with abbess Hildegard von Bingen, who used it to refer to or symbolize spiritual and physical health, often as a reflection of the divine word or as an aspect of the divine nature.”