Students convert Lutheran Campus Ministry lawn into eco-friendly Native Plants Garden
Rainstorm ends for Blessing of the Garden ceremony
(Marquette, Michigan) - A "Blessing of the Garden" ceremony was held recently at Lothlorien - the Northern Michigan University Lutheran Campus Ministry house near Lake Superior.
Performing the ceremony was Rev. Jon Magnuson, director of Lutheran Campus Ministry (LCM) at Northern Michigan University (NMU) in Marquette, MI; and Rev. Tesshin Paul Lehmberg, head priest of Lake Superior Zendo, a Marquette Zen Buddhist temple.
The Lothlorien lawn has been turned into a native plants garden that includes rocks from three of the Great lakes and a solar fountain.
A heavy rain poured the entire day almost causing the ceremony to be moved inside, but the sun came out for 20 minutes and the rain resumed just as the blessing and a tour were completed.
The LCM house name, Lothlorien, comes from Lords of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien.
The garden includes numerous different plants from Michigan and others from the Boreal border regions of the northern United States including Black Eye Susan and aster, dogbane, bluestem, and Sensitive fern.
Prayers, incense, bells, and chants were part of the ceremony that included a tour of the garden by NMU Student Michael Joko Rotter, who is a member of Lake Superior Zendo.
"Lothlorien is a magical kingdom part of what Tolkien called Middle-earth - where time passes differently," said Rev. Jon Magnuson, a Lutheran pastor, who founded the NMU EarthKeeper Student Team. Many of the campus ministry students belong to the interfaith NMU EK Student Team.
"One of the first images of the Old Testament around the beauty of God's creation is a garden," Rev. Magnuson said.
"Our natural native plants landscaping - our Lothlorien garden - is a sign of a new way of living with the world," Magnuson said. "It honors the indigenous and native plants of our region."
The garden and the name of the LCM house reflect the way the students feel about nature.
"Lothlorien came into being first as a song," Rev. Magnuson said. "The garden will need little - if no artificial watering - no fertilizers and will be a haven for birds and other small creatures."
"There is going to be a solar fountain - the fountain represents the water of Lake Superior and the waters of our baptism," Magnuson said.
A fountain in the garden is going to be converted to solar power in the spring of 2008 and the sun will charge a battery allowing the water to flow in cloudy weather.
"In the back of the house there are rocks from the Lake Superior watershed," Rev. Magnuson said. "The pebbles represent the different worlds of the individuals who make up the region - and the people in the Great Lakes basin," Magnuson said.
Rotter, who manages the garden, said the students hope neighbors will enjoy the beauty of the native plants and use it as an example for their lawns.
"We hope this will allow people to learn about the amazing diversity of out native plant communities and inspire people to learn the benefits that native plants have, such as requiring a third less water, and no pesticides or fertilizers," said Rotter, a Zen Buddhist member of the NMU EK Student Team.
"The Zen garden represents our interconnected lives in nature,: Rotter said. "The stones from each of the great lake watersheds represent the flow of water, the substance that gives us life, and shows us how all of us are 'downstream' and depend on our connection to the earth for life."
Rotter said the "garden represents the hope of the future."
"It's a powerful symbol of the future of people living in the environment," Rotter said. "Hopefully as the garden grows the area near the house will help us return to our original nature and realize the dynamics of nature and the role we play."
"Native plants are important parts of the ecosystem but because we have introduced new horticulture and many different types of plants, and sprayed our lawns with chemicals and destroyed areas with lawn mowers - we have lost our sense of being part of nature," Rotter explained.
The October 5, 2007 blessing happened a couple hours after Rotter received the bad news about the nearby five-acre Native Plants Project that he manages on campus with other students.
NMU planners are proposing that the four-year-old Outdoor Classroom and Native Plants Research Area be uprooted to build dorms, however the university president says final decisions have not been made.