Networking With Nature – by Pat Tracy

This past wood harvest and workday at Agape in June brought many volunteers to work together, stacking large piles of wood that will dry and be used to heat and cook throughout the coming year.  A team of terrific students from St. Joseph’s College requested to go to Agape couple of days ahead of the work day so that we could help set-up, but also to live in this peaceful, sustainable community.

Over the years I have used Agape as a touch stone. When my life was too busy, not so peaceful, I had the attachment of a peaceful community. When I didn’t feel like sorting and tying the newspapers and making a special trip to the curb on a different day, I will usually think of the simple recycling I’ve seen at Agape. I make the responsible choice (most of the time!) Instead of selfishly using as much as I want, I can live more peacefully and sustainably because I have Agape as a model.

I’ve seen irresponsible forest clearing in the Dominican Republic and other areas around the world, places in the mountains, where woods and fruit trees are sustenance and healthy soil retained. Families had goats, chickens, water, a basket of avocados, tomatoes and better physical/spiritual heath. In other areas where the land had been cleared by lumber companies by selfish officials, the children had less in clothing, people were hungry.  Without trees, soil and water was scarce.

Our wood harvest at Agape was so different.  We networked with nature, went to the woods the days before and identified aging trees done growing!  An example of nonviolence, we took the trees that were offering themselves, instead of bulldozing areas.   We cultivated simplicity of sharing by non-poisoning, neighborly behavior. We lived community–planning, setting up, pre-cutting and making the woods welcoming to human traffic with as little disturbance as we could.  Many others joined us to become instant partners in tasks at hand, like seed planting.

We talked, laughed, worked hard, rested well, replenished and spent time just being there.  Lila, the youngest student of our team, took delight each little nature discovery, making a nest or leaf house for a caterpillar or bug she had befriended.  She challenges me to make time for appreciating nature in my overly-busy life. Partnering, teamwork, spiritual celebrations and healthy communal meal-taking will may make me think, the next time I just want to eat fast food on the run or “wolf down a slice.”

The walk through the woods to the Quabbin reservoir is always a spiritual journey. The soft pine needles and leaves cushion the ground.  The sounds and movements by chipmunks, frogs, beavers and insects are more natural and relaxing than the $14 sounds of nature CD I often play to silence what can be an annoying everyday world. Here at the Quabbin, eagles fly, trees sway, and a light breeze and a beautiful beach have a peaceful, welcoming effect, greeting those who come in peace. Even being tired from the walk and the work felt peaceful. The joy of friendly sharing at Francis House before and after meals, prayer, meditations, and work creates a loving family-like feeling.  Our experience at Agape allowed us to truly network with nature and remind us that we don’t own the earth but should care for it as our potion of the rent!

Pat is Director of Campus Ministry at St. Joseph’s College, Patchogue, NY, who has been a faithful servant at Agape for nearly 20 years.

Katherine Escobar, Student St. Josephs College reflects on Agape’s Workday

I didn’t know Omar’s, the Iraqi Boy’s, story when I asked him to work with me. He was standing on the outskirts of our work circle while we were cutting wood. I asked if he wanted to help me. He hesitated slightly, but he then jumped right in. Omar worked so hard and didn’t let anything stop him. Because one person asked him to join, he was able to try something new, learn new skills and make new relationships. Just one person making the request can help someone. Because Pat Tracy asked me, I had the opportunity to experience Agape.   (Omar, age 14,  is a Agape “family” member from Mosul, Iraq)