This is my second summer at the homestead and I’ve decided to double my planting space from last year. Obviously it’s a lot of work cultivating the land, not helped by the fact that I have heavy clay soil. While researching organic gardening methods, I came across the term The Law of Return.
I’m not the first person to find the spiritual connection between the rhythms of nature and the human condition. Indeed it is the basis of Shamanism, which is considered to be the oldest spiritual tradition. Working in the garden, I can’t help but feel in awe of how everything works together and has a purpose. We too fit into this web and have a purpose.
At my previous property I was able over the course of five years to create a productive garden where weed and pest issues were virtually non-existent. I did this by creating a balanced system over time. I didn’t realize it at the time time, but I was following the Law of Return.
The Law of Return is simple: what is depleted from nature must be returned. Trees take nutrients out of the soil in order to grow leaves. In the Fall those leaves fall back down to the ground and restore those nutrients back to the soil. If there are too little nutrients, weeds will grow. Weeds have long tap roots that can dig deep into depleted soil down to the hidden nutrients. The weed then dies over winter, causing it to be broken down on top of the soil, thus bringing nutrients back to the top layer of soil where other plants can access them.
Now, on the flip side of this, if there are too many nutrients in the soil, you will get an explosion of pests that eat up the plants and eventually carry those nutrients away to other areas when the bug dies and returns to the soil once more. Isn’t is amazing how all this works?
Immediately you may recognize how on commercial farms we don’t follow these principles at all. The food is grown and then carted away. It’s never returned to the soil via composting or manure. So what happens? We try to bring back the balance by adding chemical fertilizers, which then causes an explosion of weeds and pests, so we then compensate by adding herbicides and pesticides. Explaining “back to Eden” gardening methods or how the use of chemical fertilizers eventually leads to desertification is beyond the scope of this blog post. But now that you understand the basic gist of Law of Return, lets talk about how this affects your life specifically.
I think an easy comparison can be drawn between chemical fertilizers and how people rely on food, drugs, alcohol, affairs, etc to try to replenish themselves. They feel that “debt” from being overdrawn and seek to return the lost nourishment. The problem is that it doesn’t work long term. The person just finds themselves even more burnt-out than they ever were before. Eventually they find themselves suffering from autoimmune diseases and chronic illnesses. Just like with desertification, nature eventually puts a stop to it.
We’re expected to live these hyper-productive lives. There is a promise that each and every one of us could live like royalty if we’d just be willing to put the time in and make the sacrifice. A lot of us are collectively waking up to the fact that it’s simply not sustainable or even possible. A lot of the examples of success we’ve looked up to are mostly illusions.
I can give you an example. A former coworker of mine had her kitchen photographed and showcased in one of those kitchen magazines you see at the check-out aisle of the grocery store. Pretty cool, right? How many times have you looked at those pictures and thought “I wish I had a kitchen that looked like that?” The problem is that even my coworker’s kitchen didn’t look like that. They enhanced it using photoshop!
If your life feels out of balance right now, and I’m willing to bet it does, lets examine how we can use the Law of Return to get things back on track for you. If your life is plagued by “weeds” and “pests”, the first thing you need to really examine is how those weeds and pests are actually serving you. What is the purpose they are serving right now? What is missing from your life that these weeds are working to restore? What is the excess that the pests are feeding off of?
Also ask yourself, what are the “chemical fertilizers” in your life right now? Maybe for you it’s online shopping. If you were to replace that urge with it’s natural equivalent (let’s say going for a walk in the woods), it’s true that you wouldn’t feel the same boost, but what do you think would happen over time?
Obviously these are hard questions to answer. You might need to sit and meditate about it for a while or talk with a therapist. But understanding that YES they do indeed serve a FUNCTION is the first step in understanding what needs to be eliminated or added in order to restore balance.
In nature, there is only understanding what is needed right now. If you have a garden and think “Okay I need to do X, Y, and Z now because I want things to be so and so five years from now…” It’s simply not going to work. The garden is mostly unpredictable, and every gardener knows that the best bet for having an amazing future garden is to simply tend to what’s needed right now. More and more and it’s becoming clear to me that life is the same way. My best bet for having a happy future is having a healthy and balanced present.
Another thing to keep in mind is that all of this takes time. If you’ve ever bought a derelict property (This has been every property I’ve ever bought…) you know that it takes time to amend the soil and cultivate the land. Those first couple of years are going to be sluggish and unproductive. But once it takes off, it takes off like a rocket. My experience with human beings have been the same way. It’s actually so much simpler than you can ever imagine. All you have to do is give people the basic things they need and they will grow.