09 Jul

Planting Hope

By Jean Giono

For a human character to reveal truly exceptional qualities, one must have the good fortune to be able to observe its performance over many years. If this performance is devoid of all egoism, if its guiding move is unparalleled generosity, if it is absolutely certain that there is no thought of recompense and that, in addition, it has left its visible mark upon the earth, then there can be no mistake.

About forty years ago I was taking a long trip on foot over mountain heights quite unknown to tourists in that ancient region where the Alps thrust down into Provence. All this, at the time I embarked upon my long walk through these deserted regions, was barren and colorless land. Nothing grew there but wild lavender.

I was crossing the area at its wildest point, and after three days walking found myself in the midst of unparalleled desolation. I camped near the vestiges of an abandoned village. I had run out of water the day before, and had to find some. These clustered houses, although in ruins, like an old wasp’s nest, suggested that there must once have been a spring, but it was dry. The five or six houses, roofless, gnawed by wind and rain, the tiny chapel with its crumbling steeple, stood about like the houses and chapels in living villages, but all life had vanished.

It was a fine June day, brilliant with sunlight, but over this unsheltered land, high in the sky, the wind blew with unendurable ferocity. It growled over the carcasses of the houses like a lion disturbed at its meal. I had to move my camp.

After five hours walking I had still not found water, and there was nothing to give me any hope of finding any. All about me was the same dryness, the same coarse grasses. I thought I glimpsed in the distance a small black silhouette, upright, and took it for the trunk of a solitary tree. In any case I started towards it. It was a shepherd. Thirty sheep were lying about him on the baking earth. He gave me a drink from his watergourd and, a little later, took me to his cottage in a fold of the plain. He drew his water excellently from a very deep natural well above which he had constructed a primitive winch.

The man spoke little. This is the way of those who live alone, but one felt that he was sure of himself, and confident in his assurance. That was unexpected in this barren country. He lived, not in a cabin, but in a real house built of stone that bore plain evidence of how his own efforts had reclaimed the ruin he had found there on his arrival. His roof was strong and sound. The wind on its tiles made the sound of the sea upon its shores.

The place was in order, the dishes washed, the floor swept, his rifle oiled; his soup was boiling over the fret I noticed then that he was cleanly shaved, that all his buttons were firmly sewed on, that his clothing had been mended with the meticulous care that makes the mending invisible. He shared his soup with me and afterwards, when I offered my tobacco pouch, he told me that he did not smoke. His dog, as silent as himself, was friendly without being servile.

It was understood from the first that I should spend the night there; the nearest village was still more than a day and a half away. And besides I was perfectly familiar with the nature of the rare villages in that region. There were four or five of them scattered well apart from each other on these mountain slopes, along white oak thickets, at the extreme end of the wagon roads. They were inhabited by charcoal-burners, and the living was bad. Families, crowded together in a climate that is excessively harsh both in winter and in summer found no escape from the unceasing conflict of personalities. Irrational ambition reached inordinate proportions in the continual desire for escape, The men took their wagon loads of charcoal to the town, then returned. The soundest characters broke under the perpetual grind. The women nursed their grievances. There was rivalry in everything, over the price of charcoal as over a pew in the church. And over all there was the wind, also ceaseless to rasp upon the nerves. There were epidemics of suicide and frequent cases of insanity, usually homicidal.

The shepherd went to fetch a small sack and poured out a heap of acorns on the table. He began to inspect them, one by one, with great concentration, separating the good from the bad. I smoked my pipe. I did offer to help him. He told me that it was his job. And in fact, seeing the care he devoted to the task, I did not insist. That was the whole of our conversation. When he had set aside a large enough pile of good acorns he counted them out by tens, meanwhile eliminating the small ones or those which were slightly cracked, for now he examined them more closely. When he had thus selected one hundred perfect acorns he stopped and he went to bed.

There was peace in being with this man. The next day I asked if I might rest here for a day. He found it quite natural or, to be more exact, he gave me the impression that nothing could startle him. The rest was not absolutely necessary, but I was interested and wished to know more about him. He opened the pen and led his flocks to pasture. Before leaving, he plunged his sack of carefully selected and counted acorns into a pail of water. I noticed that he carried for a stick an iron rod as thick as my thumb and about a yard and a half long. Resting myself by walking, I followed a path parallel to his. His pasture was in a valley. He left the little flock in charge of the dog and climbed towards where I stood. I was afraid that he was about to rebuke me for my indiscretion, but it was not that at all; this was the way he was going, and he invited me to go along if I had nothing better to do. He climbed to the top of the ridge about a hundred yards away.

There he began thrusting his iron rod into the earth, making a hole in which he planted an acorn; then he refilled the hole. He was planting oak trees. I asked him if the land belonged to him. He answered no. Did he know whose it was? He did not. He supposed it was community property, or perhaps belonged to people who cared nothing about it. He was not interested in finding out whose it was. He planted his hundred acorns with the greatest care. After the midday meal he resumed his planting. I suppose I must have been fairly insistent in my questioning, for he answered me. For three years he had been planting trees in this wilderness. He had planted 100,000. Of these, 20,000 had sprouted. Of the 20,000 he still expected to lose about half to rodents or to the unpredictable designs of Providence. There remained 10,000 oak trees to grow where nothing had grown before.

That was when I began to wonder about the age of this man. He was obviously over fifty. Fifty-five, he told me. His name was Elzeard Bouffier. He had once had a farm in the lowlands. There he had his life. He had lost his only son, then his wife. He had withdrawn into this solitude, where his pleasure was to live leisurely with his lambs and his dog. It was his opinion that this land was dying for want of trees. He added that, having no very pressing business of his own, he had resolved to remedy this state of affairs.

Since I was at that time, in spite of my youth, leading a solitary life, I understood how to deal gently with solitary spirits. But my very youth forced me to consider the future in relation to myself and to a certain quest for happiness. I told him that in thirty years his 10,000 oaks would be magnificent. He answered quite simply that if God granted him life, in thirty years he would have planted so many more that these 10,000 would be like a drop of water in the ocean.

Besides, he was now studying the reproduction of beech trees and had a nursery of seedlings grown from beechnuts near his cottage. The seedlings, which he protected from his sheep with a wire fence, were very beautiful. He was also considering birches for the valleys where, he told me, there was a certain amount of moisture a few yards below the surface of the soil.

The next day we parted.

The following year came the War of 1914, in which I was involved for the next five years. An infantryman hardly had time for reflecting upon trees. To tell the truth, the thing itself had made no impression upon me; I had considered it as a hobby, a stamp collection, and forgotten it.

The war over, I found myself possessed of a tiny demobilization bonus and a huge desire to breathe fresh air for a while. It was with no other objective that I again took the road to the barren lands.

The countryside had not changed. However, beyond the deserted village I glimpsed in the distance a sort of grayish mist that covered the mountaintops like a carpet. Since the day before, I had begun to think again of the shepherd treeplanter. “Ten thousand oaks”, I reflected, “really take up quite a bit of space.” I had seen too many men die during those five years not to imagine easily that Elzeard Bouffier was dead, especially since, at twenty, one regards men of fifty as old men with nothing left to do but die. He was not dead. As a matter of fact he was extremely spry. He had changed jobs. Now he had only four sheep but, a hundred beehives. He had got rid of the sheep because they threatened his young trees. For, he told me (and I saw for myself), the war had disturbed him not at all. He had imperturbably continued to plant.

The oaks of 1910 were then 10 years old and taller than either of us. It was an impressive spectacle. I was literally speechless and, as he did not talk, we spent the whole day walking in silence through his forest. In three sections, it measured eleven kilometers in length and three kilometers at its greatest width. When you remembered that all this had sprung from the hands and the soul of this one man, without technical resources, you understand that men could be as effectual as God in realms other than that of destruction.

He had pursued his plan, and beech trees as high as my shoulder, spreading out as far as the eye could reach, confirmed it. He showed me handsome clumps of birch planted five years before that is, in 1915, when I had been fighting at Verdun. He had set them out in all the valleys where he had guessed and rightly that there was moisture almost at the surface of the ground. They were as delicate as young girls, and very well established.

Creation seemed to come about in a sort of chain reaction. He did not worry about it; he was determinedly pursuing his task in all its simplicity; but as we went back towards the village I saw water flowing in brooks that had been dry since the memory of man. This was the most impressive result of chain reaction that I had seen. These dry streams had once, long ago, run with water. Some of the dreary villages I mentioned before had been built on the sites of ancient Roman settlements, traces of which still remained; and archaeologists, exploring there, had found fishhooks where, in the twentieth century, cisterns were needed to assure a small supply of water.

The wind, too, scattered seeds. As the water reappeared, so there reappeared willows! rushes, meadows, gardens, flowers, and a certain purpose in being alive. But the transformation took place so gradually that it became part of the pattern without causing any astonishment. Hunters, climbing into the wilderness in pursuit of hares or wild boar, had of course noticed the sudden growth of little trees, but had attributed it to some caprice of the earth. That is why no one meddled with Elzeard Bouffier’s work. If he had been detected he would have had opposition. He was undetectable. Who in the villages or in the administration could have dreamed of such perseverance in a magnificent generosity?

To have anything like a precise idea of this exceptional character one must not forget that he worked in total solitude; so total that, towards the end of his life, he lost the habit of speech. Or perhaps it was that he saw no need for it.

In 1933 he received a visit from a forest ranger who notified him of an order against lighting fires out of doors for fear of endangering the growth of this natural forest. It was the first time, the man told him naively, that he had ever heard of forest growing of its own accord. At that time Bouffier was about to plant beeches at a spot some twelve kilometers from his cottage. In order to avoid travelling back and forth for he was then seventy-five he planned to build a stone cabin right at the plantation. The next year he did so.

In 1935 a whole delegation came from the Government to examine the “natural forest.” There was a high official from the forest Service, a Deputy, technicians. There was a great deal of ineffectual talk. It was decided that something must be done and, fortunately, nothing was done except the only helpful thing: the whole forest was place under the protection of the State, and charcoal burning prohibited. for it was impossible not to be captivated by the beauty of those young trees in the fullness of health, and they cast their spell over the Deputy himself.

A friend of mine was among the forestry officers of the delegation. To him I explained the mystery. One day the following week we went together to see Elzeard Bouffier We found him hard at work, some ten kilometers from the spot where the inspection had taken place.

This forester was not my friend for nothing. He knew how to keep silent. I delivered the eggs I had brought as a present. We shared our lunch among the three of us and spent several hours in wordless contemplation of the countryside.

In the direction from which we had come the slopes were covered with trees twenty to twenty-five feet tall. I remembered how the land had looked in 1913: a desert…Peaceful, regular toil, the vigorous mountain air, frugality and, above all, serenity in the spirit had endowed this old man with awe-inspiring health. He was one of God’s athletes. I wondered how many more acres he was going to cover with trees.

Before leaving, my friend simply made a brief suggestion about certain species of trees that the soil here seemed particularly suited for. He did not force the point. “For the very good reason,”he told me later,” that Bouffier knows more about it than I do.” At the end of an hour’s walking having turned it over in his mind he added,”He knows a lot more about it than anybody. He’s discovered a wonderful way to be happy.”

It was thanks to this officer that not only the forest but also the happiness of the man was protected. He delegated three rangers to the task, and so terrorized them that they remained proof against all the bottles of wine the charcoal burners could offer.

The only serious danger to the work occurred during the War of 1939. As cars were being run on gazogenes (woodburning generators), there was never enough wood. Cutting was started among the oaks of 1910, but the area was so far from any railway that the enterprise turned out to be financially unsound. It was abandoned. The shepherd had seen nothing of it. He was thirty kilometers away, peacefully continuing his work, ignoring the war of 1939 as he had ignored that of 1914.

I saw Elzeard Bouffier for the last time in June of 1945. He was then eighty-seven. I had started back along the rough through the wastelands; but now, in spite of the disorder in which the war had left the country, there was a bus running between the Furance Valley and the mountain. I attributed the fact that I no longer recognized the scenes of my earlier journeys to this relatively speedy transportation. It took the name of a village to convince me that I was actually in that region that had been all ruins and desolation.

The bus put me down at Vergons. In 1913 this hamlet of ten or twelve houses had three inhabitants. They had been savage creatures, hating one another, living by trapping game, little removed, physically and morally, from the conditions of prehistoric man. All about them nettles were feeding upon the remains of abandoned houses. Their condition had been beyond help. For them, nothing but to await death a situation which rarely predisposes to virtue.

Everything was changed. Even the air. Instead of the harsh dry winds that used to attack me, a gentle breeze was blowing, laden with scents. A sound like water came from the mountains; it was the wind in the forest; most amazing of all, I heard the actual sound of water falling into a pool. I saw that a fountain had been built, that it flowed freely and what touched me most that someone had planted a linden beside it, a linden that must have been four years old, already in full leaf, the incontestable symbol of resurrection.

Besides, Vergons bore evidence of labor at the sort of undertaking for which hope is required. Hope, then, had returned. Ruins had been cleared away, dilapidated walls torn down and five houses restored. Now there were twenty-eight inhabitants, four of them young married couples. The new houses, freshly plastered, were surrounded by gardens where vegetables and flowers grew in orderly confusion, cabbages and roses, leeks and snapdragons, celery and anemones. It was now a village where one would like to live.

From that point I went on foot. The war just finished had not allowed the full blooming of life, but Lazarus was out of the tomb. On the lower slopes of the mountain I saw little fields of barley and rye; deep in that narrow valley the meadows were turning green.

It has taken only the eight years since then for the whole countryside to glow with health and prosperity. On the site of the ruins I had seen in 1913 now stand neat farms, cleanly plastered, testifying to a happy and comfortable life. The old streams, fed by the rains and snows that the forest conserves, are flowing again. Their waters have been channeled. On each farm, in groves of maples, fountain pools overflow on to carpets of fresh mint. Little by little the villages have been rebuilt. People from the plains, where land is costly, have settled here, bringing youth, motion, the spirit of adventure. Along the roads you meet hearty men and women, boys and girls who understand laughter and have recovered a taste for picnics. Counting the former population, unrecognizable now that they live in comfort, more than 10,000 people owe their happiness to Elzeard Bouffier.

When I reflect that one man, armed only with his own physical and moral resources, was able to cause this land of Canaan to spring from the wasteland, I am convinced that, in spite of everything, humanity is admirable. But when I compute the unfailing greatness of spirit and the tenacity of benevolence that it must have taken to achieve this result, I am taken with an immense respect for that old and unlearned peasant who was able to complete a work worthy of God.

– Elzeard Bouffier died peacefully in 1947 at the hospice in Banon.

https://newint.org/features/1988/06/05/happiness

Image result for vergons provence

Map from Vergons, 04170, France to Banon, 04150, France

09 Mar

Redemption in Life…The Real You.

STRESS. ANXIETY. HYPERTENSION. Stress
These things take hold by grappling with our hearts and minds. They attack our thresholds and tear down our ability to let go. We build expectations in everything. Expectations lead to distress in body, mind, and soul. Expectations lead to “unforgivingness” with others, self, situations, and things. (note: unforgivingness is NOT just with humans) Unforgiveness (or unforgivingness) leads to stress and anxiety of all levels. Unforgiveness is poison. The way to release stress and anxiety is to get rid of the toxins creating it, one at at time, pulling them out like weeding a garden. Forgiveness, releasing, and serving heals the heart (quite literally) and gives your health back.

English: Effects of stress on the body.

Effects of stress on the body. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(Col. 3:13). As the old hymn says, “Nothing between my soul and the Savior, so that His blessed face may be seen. Nothing preventing the least of His favor; keep the way clear! Let nothing between.”

I am writing a book on this subject: Weeds. Commit to pulling one weed a day. I made a commitment to be in my physical garden every day. I see more fruit than weeds with this approach. When this is applied to the body, mind, and soul, stress and anxiety decrease greatly. When stress and anxiety decrease, the body heals from the inside out, heals the organs, heals the brain, heals the nerves, heals the bones..you see where I am going with this.

Joy is not happiness. Happiness is circumstantial. Joy is lasting, constant, settled, and not affected by the “outside” distractions. We have to roll up our sleeves, join the adventure, and take care of our garden.
Joy
We tend to avoid and resist all suffering at all costs. We demand to bring our expectations to reality through various means. However, there IS redemption and value in pain, illness, or any experience that isn’t what we have envisioned for ourselves. Escaping from discomfort, or helping others do so, will never be successful. All of us are frail, going about life’s journey, in breakable outfits. We are human. We are not fighting. We have to be honest, and present. When we are present, the world becomes clear, and our lives become clear, and we can be “with” instead of against the world, body, people, and things.

Irene Smith, pioneer in compassionate care, says, “This work is not about healing others. We can’t heal another human being. We can only heal ourselves until our presence is healing.” Just being. Be. Still. Breathe. Unvarnished. Agenda-free. Vulnerable. Non-striving. Broken. Beautiful. Wretched. (Hear the song: Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,…).

Lauren Cates, founder of Healwell, has some of my favorite quotes, “This version of you is the best mirror any other human could wish to gaze into. The world needs the you who is more interested in what might be next than in what you can make happen next. When we think we know what happens next, when we’re expert, there’s nothing intimate or connected about that. There’s only anticipation, a serious limitation on the number or shape of satisfying outcomes, and the likelihood of disappointment. Work kinder, not harder. Be authentic and present. Humble and curious. Kindness is what’s left when you’ve plumbed so many of your own depths that you know them well and intimately. Kindness is what grows up in the place of the stories you used to tell about how “I’ll be better…If only I could…” when wisdom invites you to stop telling them. Kindness sees through appearances, and it lets you work and live from a place of truth that’s not up for grabs. Being human is a good gig if you can get it.”

Take care, Be well. Be you. Smile.

11 Aug

Weeds…the Process…Part 2

Pulling Weeds Lessons I have learned from weeding in my garden:

  • The weed in relation to allergies such as alpha gal: What I feel alpha gal and other food allergies, intolerance and sensitivities are in the garden, and my mission to wipe them out so that they cannot reproduce again. This is my coined nickname now for alpha gal: a weed.
  • The weed in relation to life situations, people and things: Must stop in the moments and pull the weed, even when we do not want to stop, take care of it and go on.  When I stopped in the moment to take care of a situation, or approach a person with an issue, the ending was always good. When I catch myself not saying or doing anything, turning my back or face to a problem person or situation, (going silent or leaving after a disagreement with a friend or my spouse, walking on when there is trash in the trail)  it never ends well, creating a lasting bruise or sever in friendship, or scar, and creating a tougher thing to fix.
  • Weed before you water, before it rains: If we water before we weed, the weeds will flourish with the fruit, causing the fruit to produce less because the weed takes away from the fruit. Weeds and grass will consume the majority of the water and deprive the fruit of its needed moisture and nutrients. Watering a weed creates more weeds, bigger weeds, weeds with deeper roots.  If we weed and then water, or are aware of the skies to weed before the rain, then the fruit gets the water.
  • Weeding must be complete, with root and all parts with it: The soil must be knocked off the weed roots or the weed will find a way to re-root. (ie: pull weed from close to ground to get root, or use a tool to dig it up completely, and then make sure it is turned upside down, root up, and soil knocked off) Weeding takes time, but it is worth it in the end. Weed the small stuff and the big stuff; the small stuff is what hides and becomes bigger when left alone or thought to be too small to worry about. Take the time to weed all strands of grass, tiny two leaf weeds, etc. Get the weeds when small because it is easier to weed them with your hands and takes less time.
  • Weeding must be continuous: We have to be out in the garden daily to pick the fruit, yes, but also to take the time to weed. If we are weeding every day, then there is not chance there will ever be a take-over, and our fruit will last longer and be more abundant. Our fruit will rule the garden when the weeds are continuously taken out.
  • Weeds grow around the plants, but sometimes they come in from the sides and walkways: We can overlook many weeds when they are outside our “circle” of produce/fruit/vegetables, such as fences, areas where plants are finished producing for the season, areas where we have picked out the produce plants (beets, carrots, root veggies, greens,etc.), areas outside the fence. Weeds can vine in from far outside the garden growing under the plant then choking it from the inside out…this is where we have to follow the vine and dig the root from its outside source, and not just cut the vine inside the fence.  Weeds and grass will grow in the walkways and trenches, spreading toward the good plants slowly and gradually.  We can leave them be because they are not “near the plant” but they take from the plant from that short distance and they eventually grow out of control surrounding the good plants, creating a long hard weeding process later, or a “too overwhelming” situation (and then the plants die slowly and fruit less).
  • Weeds choke off the water ways: I have trenches in my garden for the water to go out, so that I do not have my plants flooded in big rains. Weeds grow in those trenches first because they are wet longer, but also because trenches are protection from the elements.  Waterway drains must be weeded regularly to avoid choking off the protection from a flood in the garden.  Weeds choke off water, and food, from all fruiting plants.  Weeds, even small, literally suck the water from the soil and the plants around them.
  • A GOOD THOUGHT FOR WEEDS: Weeds can be turned into something good for the “community”, or garden. When I pull weeds, I turn them upside down onto the old mulch, and they then become good mulch, good nutrition and cool ground for the roots. Weeds can be converted into something good for the garden.
  • Hidden evils under weeds: Weeds can look fine where they are, and not be a problem. They can however, be hiding some bad stuff under them. I pulled a bunch of weeds out and it revealed a den of fire ants! I had to extinguish the fire ants, leave the weeds for a while because if I touched the weeds in that spot, there would be bad consequences for me. We have to be aware of what is under the weeds. Snakes, wasps, other insects, crawlers, and spiky weeds can be under or around a weed; when there are groups of weeds, roots are deep and they are tough to pull, but groups also create dangerous situations. Take care and be aware.
  • ONE MORE: Weeds and grasses are beautiful inside and out, just as all plants. Good loving management keeps them from hindering, challenging, or altering the face and growth of the fruit and vegetation.

Pulling weeds

Read Part 1 of Weeds, the Process.

 

04 Aug

Weeds…the Process

I have made a few videos on my Natural Helping Hands Facebook page on the subject of weeds. (click on the titles to view them)

I am developing a book with this subject as the theme. I am developing this from the perspective of food allergies, namely the one I have “alpha gal.” If you have followed my blogs and my videos you have learned much about alpha gal already. If you do some research in my blog posts and my Facebook pages, you will find the best resources, truths, about alpha gal. I have been learning how to deal with food allergies like never before. I have never been allergic to anything in my entire life, except kerosene. This has rocked my world! I now understand to the bottom of my soul how this all feels, the risks it involves, the minute by minute care it takes, and the constant battle of risk behind every bite of food we take in.

I intend to write everything that has been messaged to me from the Father of all creation on the subject of weeds in hopes to give you a perspective on what I have come to coin as a nickname for “alpha gal” (mammal food allergy): a weed.

Weeds and wildflowers can be found just about anywhere. While some weeds are well worth the trouble of removal, others are actually attractive and useful.

Weeds are simply plants growing in the wrong place. Some wildflowers are nothing more than weeds while others provide crucial sustenance to wildlife.

There are two types of weeds—annuals and perennials. Annual weeds grow faster, typically spreading by seed and die out within a year. Perennial weeds are more difficult to control, as these weeds usually have extensive root systems that can cover large areas. They also come back every year.

Weed Mosiac
Look for new blog posts to learn all the lessons I have learned from weeding in my garden, and how it is related to food allergies like alpha gal. In this process, we will find a way to “weed” the weed of food allergy out of the body for good, creating a way to eat the foods we so long to have again. Come with me on my journey. Find empowerment in your journey. If we have this a while longer or if we find ways to come out of it, please share those with me in your feedback to these posts. Please share this with your friends and family.  Together we will grow stronger no matter what ails us.

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