Peas are a cool weather plant. They can not only tolerate cooler temperatures than many other legumes, but they also thrive in an environment other tender plants wilt and die in. Stepped in history and folklore, peas are a quiet but mighty energy. When we plant rows of peas in our garden in March, my seven year old loves for me to tell him the story of how, in Norse mythology, peas are described as having been a gift from the God Thor and as such, should only be eaten on his name-day, Thursday. Of course, we eat peas all summer long, plucked off the vine and warmed by the sun, almost none of the peas in our garden actually make it into the house.
Last week, I sat cross legged in my garden as rain fell softly around me and planted the peas. I love to plant in the rain. The earth is soft and warm in my hands as I nestle the peas into their dark cocoons where they will transform before pressing up into the light. For a time, my seven year old comes out and plants alongside me before deciding that the worms are more interesting. I love the sound of him talking to them as I keep him in my peripheral vision. My older kids pop their heads out occasionally and one brings me hot coffee which warms more than my insides. We both laugh as raindrops bounce out of the mug.
For the next two months, we will water, fertilize, talk to and harvest peas. We hope sparrows do not dive in and dig the seeds up or nibble the fresh shoots but, if they do, we will replant them with love. (one year we had to do this so many times that we eventually just built a roof over the garden to keep them out) We care for the plants, the plants feed us, reciprocity, it is simple right?
Yes, and No.
Everything on earth is an act of reciprocity. Some humans, plants and animals are better at this than others, ensuring their success more readily. Long ago, we used to be innately good at this relationship. We walked the earth with a reverence for all living things and knew how to maintain the balance required for harmonious existence. It’s glaringly obvious now that we not only don’t value or understand the living world, we outright disrespect it. We do it because of ignorance.
There are so few elders left to teach us.
We do it because there are no grandmothers to shell peas with or communities to garden with or hours spent in the woods, along riverbanks, foraging summer berries. No one to stargaze with, to chart the seasons alongside. We are ignorant simply because we have forgotten. Not truly of course. The human heart is eternally in love with the earth. It is the mind that forgets without the knowledge it needs to build the foundation.
When I plant the peas with my family, we grow intention. We have a purpose. It is basic, grow the peas, eat the peas. The value in this though, is complex. There is joy in routine, in the steady watering and weeding. There is gratification in the result as the first seedlings burst through the soil. There are the moments, oh, the moments, of interactions, laughter, love, frustration, problem solving and connection. The natural world is perfectly designed for all of it.
How then, can we find our places again? How do we relearn the right tempo to walk in sync with nature? This one is simple. Go outside.
Have your coffee on your deck instead of inside. Walk to the grocery store in the late afternoon sun. Pick up rocks on your next hike and feel their warmth and weight in your hand. Sit quietly outside and listen for the sounds a distracted mind cannot hear. Start a phenology wheel or a basic charting journal. Train your eye to see the smallest wildflowers in a field. Don’t buy a special book, don’t scour the internet for tips on going outside, don’t invest in fancy outdoor clothing. Just go.
Afterall, when they found evidence of peas in lake mud beneath the site of houses created by Bronze Age Swiss lake dwellers over 5000 years ago, there was no instruction manual.
You are nature, go find yourself.