Yesterday I picked the last few ripe tomatoes of the season. Tomorrow I will bring in the last of the peppers. While doing this I have been thinking about paradise. Not what we picture as heaven, but what was created in the beginning... the Garden of Eden. I have always imagined it in all its beauty. According to Merriam-Webster, paradise literally means an enclosed park. Reading Wendell Berry this week left me with a new sense of Eden. My thoughts on this paradise are slowly changing. Maybe it was beautiful because it was separated from the rest of creation - separated from something outside. Consider this poem:
Enclosing the field within bounds
sets it apart from the boundless
of which it was, and is, a part,
and places it within care.
The bounds of the field bind
the mind to it. A bride
adorned, the field now wears
the green veil of a season's
abounding. Open the gate!
Open it wide, that time
and hunger may come in.
(from A Timbered Choir)
Maybe Eden was perfectly beautiful not because the whole world was new and unspoiled, but because it was separated from the whole world and cared for by Adam and Eve. It was fenced off from the rest (at least I have always assumed this because they were put out of the garden and there was a gate.) A farmer looks at his field and loves it for what it is, but also for what he has made it to be. God separated Eden from the unbounded world and created a caretaker to cultivate it. Did God help Adam to dream of what it would become as two farmers surveying their land? Did God show Adam how to sow the seeds that would grow into produce that would adorn his fields? My father walks his land and plans and cares and tends it. It is beautiful. And it is surrounded by wildness. The wildness is beautiful, but not tended, not cared for. My father's land is full of wonderful bounty. His gate does open and begs my family to come and eat. Was Eden a place for Adam and Eve to come and satisfy themselves? So often I think of Adam as a herdsmen or zoo-keeper, not a farmer. But his garden was paradise. He was enclosed in something set apart for him. Now we have a small, weed filled glimpse of what he had. I look forward to the day when God will open wide the gate and say "Come. Eat. Be set apart forever with the Lamb that was slain. There will be no more hunger or thirst." Or weeds!