In Guatemala, the hillsides are sewn together in patchwork beauty. Even precariously perched gardens yield their bounty year after year. The fruit of the vines travels to souls who will never know its origin, to become life and health and restoration to them. Even the plants within the quilt are a patchwork milpa garden—corn rises tall to protect tender shoots from harsh sun and wind, avocado hedges against predators, tender melons and squash enrich the earth below. Fruit that’s needed for the present moment and grain that’s ready for the difficult days to come. Each will surrender to the harvest at its own pace—not a single bountiful moment but a series of bloom upon bloom. None can be forced, or all will be damaged.
In the Guatemalan gardens, there is always blooming.
And there is also always rest. And always burn. They are always together.
In Guatemala, the pieces shift like puzzle tiles on the hillsides. The land blooms its harvest plenty, then rests to replenish, and is then set ablaze to nourish future harvests. The land blooms again. Every piece contributes to life and to each other.
Each happens within the squares of the patchwork. Look on the hillsides, and you’ll see brilliant green next to deep brown next to fire. It is the green we long for, the blooming days of fruitful labor and contribution. I crave the blooming seasons, celebrate them, encourage them to last and last. But there is no bloom without the burn. There is no restoration without the rest. And there is no life without each happening together at the same time within the patchwork of our lives—the bloom, the rest, the burn.
I learned about our life’s milpas as I wrote One Woman Can Change the World. Each of us, a garden ever-rotating, always preparing for the next blooming, always preparing for the next rest and rotation, always ready to be set on fire. We are beautiful moments next to sabbath breaths next to anguish. We are laboring well, we are struggling mightily, we are learning to be still.
What if our greatest offering to others is more than the fruit we give—what if it is also the grit of the raw dirt, or the fragrance of all that’s being burned away in our lives and carried like smoke to those longing to breathe in hope of better lives? How might our days change if we celebrated with the same vigor and stretched out the same arms to the transformation of our dross into gold, of our tares into fertilizer for the blooms of future days? What fruit might we surrender to the patchwork hillsides in our hearts – the blooms coming in their season, the quiet of the soil, of the match being struck to set us ablaze. What if the bloom is the promise, the rest is the gift, and the burning itself is the blessing in the battle?