Chaos & Order

What gardening has taught me…

A gardener’s job is never done. Although the winter months are seen as the dormant time of the gardening year, there is always something that needs attending to, and for me these cold winter months are when I get next season’s compost heap going.

The process starts in the autumn when the deciduous trees start to shed their leaves. Then the Cape storms that wash over the Peninsula deliver all sorts of debris in the form of branches, sticks and evergreen leaves. Winter is also a time to prune and so all that material ends up in the compost heap, along with any weeds that may have to be removed from the garden beds. Finally there may be some grass clippings that will also end up in the mix.

So the compost heap starts out as a chaotic mix of different and unrelated materials.

The wetness of our winter months helps settle the compost heap and then as the weather starts to warm during Spring and the early Summer months, the pile will start to steam as the materials within the heap decompose. It really gets going during the second half of summer and after Christmas I often need to turn over the heap. Then all going well, come autumn, you end up with a beautiful homogenous pile of dark brown compost that you can spread as a blanket over your garden beds.

The making of compost is a journey between chaos and order. You take a whole mix of mess and then with work, time and a bit of magic, that chaotic mess turns into a usable and nutritious product that will define the next season’s abundance of food and flowers.

I find that my own life follows that same routine. My journey through life is a constant swing between chaos and order and if you are anything like me, more chaos than order.

I am always planning to have an ordered life and hope that it could be like that end pile of neat compost rather than feeling it is mostly like the chaotic mess of leaves, branches and lawn clippings that is the starting point of the compost heap.

I am slowly learning to embrace the idea of chaos, to rather accept it and learn how to ride the swing between chaos and order. Just as I could never produce a beautiful load of compost without the chaotic and messy pile in the beginning, so it is unrealistic of me to expect my own dreams and plans to materialise without a messy and chaotic journey along the way.

Jesus loved stirring the pot and creating chaos wherever he went. Chaos is always needed to challenge the status quo and so if you embrace the Jesus way, the one guarantee is that chaos and mess are going to come your way. But out of that chaos a new sense of order always develops and just when you are getting comfortable and think you have all the answers, you will be challenged to make a new compost heap.

In my own little garden my compost heap is visible from the cottage that I live in. In fact, at the moment it is as big as my cottage and is the focal point of the outdoor space that surrounds me. Not a water feature, not a rose garden, but rather the compost heap. The compost heap should be the visual focal point of every garden and not hidden away in the backyard. Seeing it each morning as I drink my first cup of tea, reminds me that chaos and order are intricately linked and a very necessary part of my life. My challenge is to face the constant swing between chaos and order with love, grace, humility and most importantly, gratitude.

Sincerely, Athol

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