Life and Death (and Life) in the the Garden

The creation myth recorded in the book of Genesis is perhaps the most well-known ancient story of human origins.  By “story of our origin” I mean exactly that.  It is not science, it is a story.  It is a genuine and compelling myth, and many cultures have them.  I like this framing of myth from Wikipedia:

…….academic use of the term generally does not pass judgment on truth or falsity.  In the study of folklore, a myth is a sacred narrative explaining how the world and humankind came to be in their present form.  Many scholars in other fields use the term “myth” in somewhat different ways.  In a very broad sense, the word can refer to any traditional story.

One of the reasons I adore mythology is that it tends to illustrate more deeply Truth (capital T) than does dry fact.  For example, the layering of conflict, hubris, love, temptation, foolishness, desire and loss in the Greek myth of Icarus is difficult to match.  By using a factually “untrue” story, the Greeks say more about the human condition in a few words than most others have in volumes.

Our weeping mulberry tree in November

The garden presents itself in special ways this time of year.  There is so much to learn and appreciate year ’round, but something about the autumn season seems to lend itself especially well to talking about some of the most difficult topics.  My parenting philosophy is to use both myth and nature to teach my daughter as early as possible about life.  Decline and death are difficult topics for many when it comes to talking with young children, but I find that the more I expose my child to the garden, the more naturally and comfortably she seems to absorb the conversations.

All year long, we talk about fertility, and seeds, and conditions for life.  We talk about living things thriving where they get what they need, and withering where they do not.  We discuss intervention and non-intervention in the food chain (not easy, but good).  We respect the passing of worms, and bugs, and birds.  We thank the world for sharing its bounty with us, and we remind ourselves of our reciprocal role in respecting the systems around us.

The garden is a place of joy, and loss, and natural comings and goings.  It is, in fact, the perfect place.  All the more understandable that getting kicked out was the ultimate punishment for Adam and Eve……….and all the more True that our restoration there is a natural culmination to a journey lived outside. 

Welcome, winter.  Spring will surely be here soon.

Image credit: Elizabeth Gaucher

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