New Course: Concepts Made Clear

Stewardship is using the natural world carefully so that it thrives and thus serves human life well. The natural world provides food, cloths, and shelter, each with its proper delight and beauty. It can also form our mind and character, teaching us basic lessons of life and human identity. The greatest gift of stewardship is in how we become ourselves through doing it—if we are humble, disciplined, and persevering.

Every home is where to begin, and so every home needs a plan. Here is a simple three-part plan for all: Conserve, Beautify, Fructify. We can start small, choosing a thing or two from the Action Steps in each area.

Conserve. Common sense tells us to conserve, even amidst plenty. It is shameful to waste, even if one’s personal resources seem unlimited. In reality, resources are always limited, and it is fitting to act accordingly—with an eye to the needs of others, and to the future. This is not to be a skinflint. Conservation does not hinder proper abundance and overflow. On the contrary, real generosity, hospitality, and festivity sprout most in the soil of careful stewardship.

Action Steps for Conserve:
Water: conserve water in washing and cleaning of all kinds; minimize disposable bottles for drinking.
Food: obtain from sustainable sources; produce sustainably in home.
Recycle: practice recycling as appropriate (*deserves closer examination and study)
Electricity/Energy: re-evaluate use in home and take steps to conserve.
Disposables: re-evaluate use of cheap things of all kinds, such as toys, tools, and entertainment gadgets. Consider quality substitutes.
Money/Wealth: re-evaluate use of disposable income in view of greater good of family, friends, and community

Beautify. The human difference shines especially in our appreciation and making of beauty. Other animals are beautiful, do beautiful things, and are surrounded by beautiful things. But only we appreciate beauty, seek beauty, and make beauty.

Beauty begins in the home. We groom ourselves, decorate our homes, and craft all manner of beautiful things. Central to the beauty of the home is the intersection of house architecture, human actions, and the exterior, natural world. Even in a third-floor apartment there is a balcony and windows and plants.

Most homes have an associated plot of earth. How much it says about life when that plot is alive with beauty, ever so simple, cultivated by the loving, artful care of the human hand. Flowers have a beauty all their own; but they need planting, tending, and arranging. Well-spaced trees or shrubs, ground cover or stones, natives or imported ornamentals: these bespeak the presence of human persons who care and love. There is no ‘welcome’ sign like the living welcome of a natural space thoughtfully arranged. Here is hospitality and stewardship incarnate.

Action Steps for Beautify:
–Beauty in home: make classic, tasteful beauty the norm in the home, in architecture and room arrangement; decorate with great art, and natural things, especially home-grown including simple wildflowers, plants and grasses; grow indoor plants
–Landscape: make our corner of the world beautiful first by basic order and cleanliness; then learn the living habits of species of trees, plants, flowers and make it our things to cultivate them. Begin with one or two.

Fructify. The human difference comes through yet again in the shepherding of living things to bear fruit for human sustenance. Something blossoms deep within us, when we discover that we have a hand in making nature more abundant. It must be experienced to be known; we must do it, in order to receive this aspect of our humanity.

A trio of blueberry bushes is a stately presence of sweet abundance. The climbing cucumber vine, the potted tomatoes, the lovely sage plant can all thrive, carefully tucked in corners of patio or lawn. The proverbial ‘kitchen garden,’ so named from its bolstering even minimally the economy of the kitchen, is a monument to a natural order that binds man, plant, and earth in a generous and surprising web of life.

Action Steps for Fructify:
–Patio herbs and vegetables. Start with one: maybe tomatoes, maybe a potted sage plant (makes a delicious and nutritious tea too)
–Edible landscaping: research it; some great examples: blueberry bushes; apple trees; a fig plant; raspberries or blackberries; herbs such as sage, rosemary, basil, and lavender. Start small.
–Kitchen garden: big or small, we can dedicate a patch to receiving a bounty that never ceases to amaze, even while it sometimes mystifies or disappoints. It’s all part of the experience. Again, start small.

Your feedback and suggestions are welcome.

Photo: Common Sage

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