Monday, October 8, 2012

Chestnut & Sage: A Recap

The American Chestnut tree was the queen of the southeastern forests at the beginning of the twentieth century. Its nuts provided food for wildlife, hardwood for the railroad, fencing for farmers, and graceful shade. In 1904, a devastating fungus was introduced and by 1950, 3 billion trees American Chestnut trees had died. Today the number of surviving trees over 2 feet in diameter is fewer than 100. Communities are nurturing this tree and once again it is beginning to thrive. Thistle Farms is growing one in our own urban garden. It is our  small tribute to resilience and hard work, a living metaphor about healing and growth.

On Thursday, October 4th, more than 850 supporters of Magdalene and Thistle Farms celebrated our 15th year of welcoming women home from the street supporting in recovery with treatment and work. Gretchen Peters and John Prine sang songs about freedom and release.  Magdalene residents shared  essays and poems about the revival of the chestnut tree and the healing power of sage. Becca Stevens, our founder, reflected on work in the ‘beautiful, troubled fields’ of Magdalene and Thistle Farms, where women are revived and healed through love. The Nashville community responded with gifts and pledges within $10,000 of our reaching our goal of $300,000 to support our programs for the next three years. We are grateful and inspired by both the women of Magdalene and Thistle Farms and our donors.

Founder Becca Stevens gave a reflection last Thursday night about chestnut trees, sage, revival and healing:

There is nothing sweeter than seeing a dream come alive before your waking eyes. Nothing revives your spirit like the promise of a community gathered in a spirit of love. Nothing moves you to action like seeing the regeneration of a majestic chestnut or a new resident of Magdalene embrace the healing power of love. 

This summer as temperatures climbed into the 100's, a small group drove to the sage field on Rick’s property in Maury County. It had been our hope to grow a sage field to harvest in order to make our own healing essential oils in the Joanne Cato still. When we arrived at the field, the size and quality of the sage was a bit shocking. The plants’ leaves were turning black as if they were being scorched in the sun. I turned to one of the women farming and said, “Oh, Lord, what are we supposed to do?” 

“Weed and water,” she said.

There is something beautiful about a vision of a vast and perfect field; there is something deeper and more tender in the truth of a troubled field that will not survive without a community tending it. A vision without work fades in the morning light. A vision that can sustain a dying crop is love made manifest. There is no revival of sage or chestnut trees, no miracle for the women of Magdalene, without days and years of watering with sweat and tears.   

Magdalene and Thistle Farms are beautiful troubled fields with deep roots like the sage that doubles its yield in a single season. Magdalene and Thistle Farms have seen new shoots sprout up this year that will produce exponentially greater harvests.

We have never been just residential communities or a social enterprise, but a movement that calls us to go to troubled fields to use our God-given gifts to reap a harvest that can feed us all. This gathering holds the hope for all who want to believe LOVE HEALS.

There is so much work to do in our fields. Sometimes a hundred women are waiting to come in. Sometimes there is not enough work at Thistle Farms to keep us manufacturing. Sometimes it is as daunting as a wilting crop of sage, but we never waiver in vision or hope. We are developing a national model of sister communities and believe someday we will grow into a movement big enough that we will help change the world so that child sex abuse is not a secret.  Where young women raped feel like they will see justice. Where there is no tolerance for the buying and selling of human beings. Where women feel like they can seek help with addictions without fear. Where there are enough recovery homes offering long-term community-based healing with meaningful work.

I was recently with Doris, Thistle Farms Packing Manager and a graduate of Magdalene, on her first flight. Doris has known trauma and the horrors of the streets for years. She and I were traveling to an event called “Take Back the Night” in Pennsylvania. As the plane was ascending Doris couldn’t believe the beauty of the clouds from the top-side. She was laughing and smiling and asked me if I thought this was as close to God as she would ever be in this world. I told her, “I don’t know, but honestly, your face is the closest image to the face of God I have glimpsed.” 

It's time to weed and water our fields again.

Peace and Love,
Becca Stevens
Thistle Farmer 

For a reflection on the chestnut tree by Magdalene graduate & Thistle Farmer, Jennifer, go HERE.

For more photos of the event, go to our Facebook Page Photo Album.

1 comment:

  1. This is my first time i visit here. I found so many entertaining stuff in your blog, especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here! Keep up the good work