Heaven in a Wildflower


To see the world in a grain of sand
and heaven in a wildflower,
hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
and eternity in an hour.
–William Blake
Mr. William Blake, English poet of the 18th and 19th centuries, was a mystic, no doubt. He was one of those who could look into the mundane and see the magnificent, the transcendent hiding in plain view disguised as the ordinary.
I think of Blake today after making a short presentation on composting at our most recent Sunday service. We Unitarian Universalists aren’t much for miracles—we tend to take the rationalist’s view in our search for meaning and purpose. And if believing in miracles means believing in the supernatural, well, we’re not much interested.
The vision of Blake, though, does not insist upon the supernatural. Speculate upon the origin of a wildflower—its design, structure, composition, use, and beauty—and you won’t go far before stumbling into wonder. Speculate on the origin of that grain of sand—its beginning, middle, and end, its purpose and significance—and worlds within worlds reveal themselves. There is wonder, indeed, in the very structure of the natural world.
That’s all a bit poetic for an essay on the beauty and function of compost, isn’t it? But, there is a deep satisfaction in holding in your hands the rich loam that is the mixture of sand and clay and silt and organic matter, feeling its texture as your rub it between fingers and thumb.
And, just what is that “organic matter”? Nothing but those things we routinely throw “away.” Eggshells, the rough ends of celery stalks, the grounds left over from the morning’s coffee still in the unbleached filter you spooned them in, apple peels, cucumber rind, tea leaves past all steeping. They are things of such little worth that we call them “garbage”; things of such precious worth that the earth we depend on would not profit us much without them.
After many a month of saving my organic “waste” in freezer bags to drop off at a compost pile at our local university, I find myself impatient to invest in my own home composting, not to mention in a compost heap at our church.
Soil is living. It needs many of the things that we need to thrive: sun and air and water and food. It eats leaves and twigs and dead insects. In a teaspoon of garden soil, there are more than 3 billion microorganisms. You might want to chew on that remarkable fact for a while; they are certainly going to be chewing away, themselves.
They are the beings that make the minerals and nutrients in the soil and air available to plants. And the plants provide them the energy they need to live. Symbiosis. Interdependence. Worms and sow bugs change “leftover organic material” into humus. The humus feeds the plants. And then, there’s mulch. Our ELM field workers can tell you about that from our recent work day in our garden grove. But, that’s a story for another day.
Consider starting a home compost bin if you don’t have one already. And consider what we can do on campus to get a compost bin started at church. Envision the miraculous in the most ordinary. See the world in a grain of sand. Water those dreams.
See you at church,
Thanks to Your Farm in the City by Lisa Taylor for information for this article.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.