At the beginning of his book, Grass Roots: The Universe of Home, Paul Gruchow poses these questions: “What if one’s life were not a commodity, something to be bartered to the highest bidder, or made to order? What if one’s life were governed by needs more fundamental than acceptance or admiration? What if one were simply to stay home and plant some manner of garden?”
These are questions that not only set the mind to thinking about tilling the springtime soil or planting daffodil bulbs in the fall, but about more elemental matters of who we are exactly, and how it is that we understand ourselves to be located, to be from somewhere and to be at home in that place — to be inhabitants, not merely occupants; dwellers, not just passers-through; persons practicing fidelity to a particular place.
“To inhabit a place,” says Gruchow, “means literally to have made it a habit, to have made it the custom and ordinary practice of our lives, to have learned how to wear a place like a familiar garment, like the garments of sanctity that nuns once wore. The word habit, in its now-dim original form, meant to own. We own places not because we possess the deeds to them, but because they have entered the continuum of our lives.”
Gardening is the practice of making a plot of ground a home – a home for the production and distribution of abundance; for welcome and hospitality; for respite and renewal. It is a shared home – one with plants, people, and non-human creatures dwelling in it and, as such, it is something of a sign of the kingdom of God: a community bearing witness to the truth that there is no such thing as autonomy or self-sufficiency; that salvation itself is rooted in “health” – in the well-being of the entire created order that God desires to heal and redeem.
When we grow food together we learn that our lives are linked not only to one another, not only to the plot of ground that produces vegetables for us, but to faraway people and places affected by the choices we have made about food, indeed by the choices we hyper-consumers have made about how we live our lives in their totality.
And so we must continually ask ourselves: where are we most at home? Are we most at home in the world of domination and exploitation, of self-rule and over-consumption, in which what I eat (and where I live and what I drive) are my own business, thank you very much. Or have we made our home in that place where there is more than enough for everyone if we would but have eyes to see?
It is in the Eucharist that we most profoundly experience this kind of “home-making”: where we gather and are fed at a table of abundance and then sent forth to feed and to bless in the name of Christ.
This is where we have been invited to be at home: in that overflow of divine fullness that surpasses all human measure, in which the ordinary deeds of our ordinary lives – hoeing corn, feeding hungry neighbors – are themselves doxological acts offered in praise and thanksgiving to the triune God whose abundant self-giving makes our own lives possible.