During the week after Easter Sunday, I had the opportunity to gather wild ramps with my friend Nancy in the forest around her farm. For those who are unfamiliar, ramps are kind of like little wild onions. It was a clear and mild day during an unusually rainy spring. Before heading out into the woods, we took a trip over to the greenhouse, where some seedlings needed watering. Her greenhouse is a homemade structure with a cathedral ceiling covered in clear plastic.
As Nancy walked up and down the aisles with her water-hose, I thought back to the Easter Vigil service I had attended at an Episcopal church the Saturday night prior. My friend Ed, the priest, had dedicated the church’s new Paschal candle, led us in the renewal of our baptismal vows, and sprinkled us with holy water in the same way that Nancy was now blessing the baby plants, nurturing fragile new life with the most basic elements of water and light.
After Nancy finished her botanical asperges with the seedlings, we made our way through some of the muddiest terrain imaginable toward the hillside where wild ramps were to be found. As we sloshed through the quagmire, Nancy and I talked about how she came to fall in love with organic farming. The details of that story are hers to share, but the process of telling the story as we walked reminds me of the many biblical readings from the Torah and the prophets that take place in the middle of the Episcopal Easter Vigil service. The readings chronicle the long and messy journey of the Jewish people from slavery and exile into freedom.
Finally, we arrived at the wooded hillside that was covered in patches of wild ramps. These precious little vegetables are currently in high demand among upscale restaurants all over the country. Some farmers earn a significant portion of their annual income with a single load in their pickup trucks. And there we were, sitting in the abundance of a remote hillside in rural New York with a small fortune growing around our feet.
Is this not the essence of Easter? The triumph of abundance and life over scarcity and death! It’s no mistake that Christians celebrate this, our highest holiday, during the springtime. The smell of dirt emerging from beneath the melting snow and the sight of flowers bursting forth from their buds are sacramental reminders of the resurrection life that pervades this universe in which we live. This most precious treasure is the free gift of God for all who will open their hearts and embrace it as such.
Nancy the farmer, priest of God’s green earth, made this truth real to me in a new way as she tore off a piece of edible ramp-leaf and handed it to me on that hillside saying, “Here. This is Communion.” As I put it in my mouth, I couldn’t stop myself from saying “Amen” with my whole heart.
To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
-William Blake, Auguries of Innocence