Myth says the mustard was planted by California missionaries as they walked from mission to mission dropping mustard seeds. They knew that, on the next years’ journey when the path was overgrown with grass and vegetation, the yellow of the mustard would mark the way. Each mission is planted about one day’s walk from the other.
Annually I follow similar paths in Napa Valley where I am welcomed by the yellows of the wild mustard planted among the vineyards. In addition to the mustard plant’s beauty it does serve several practical purposes. It provides habitat for birds that will eat specific bugs and worms (nematodes) that attack the vines. Also the mustard’s root system helps open up the soil to allow it to better receive the water and nutrients so necessary for the vines. Finally, when the mustard is plowed under, it too provides food for the vines.
For me, the mustard supplies oceans of yellow as subject or background color. The naked grape vines seem to emerge from the flowing yellow much like palm kelp at low tide. Lots of depth-of-field captures the merging lines of the rows of vines and the yellow pathways between them.
English mystic Julian of Norwich lived in a time of turmoil (1342-1416), but her theology was optimistic and spoke of God’s love in terms of joy and compassion, the direct opposite to the law and duty proclaimed by the institutional church of her day. For Julian, suffering was not a punishment that God inflicted, as was the common understanding. She believed that God/dess loved everyone and would save them all. Her saying, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,” reflects her theology. Julian claimed these words were spoken directly to her by God/dess.
Today is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s assassination. Along the path of racial equality in the past 50 years there have been some beautiful blooming stalks of justice. But as of late it seems entrenched white supremacy and systemic racism have started to take greater hold in our fields of dreams. I hope one or two stalks of mustard are still blooming on May 8, Julian’s feast day so that we hear the yellow flowers sing out: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” May we rise up to make it so!
On the eve of a protest march for striking garbage workers in Memphis, Tenn., April 3, 1968, King gave this darkly prescient speech. The next day he was assassinated.
“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And God has allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any one. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”