Originally printed in the September - October 2004 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: Bland, Betty. "Feed Them and They Will Come." Quest 92.5 (SEPTEMBER - OCTOBER 2004):162.
When we first moved from the South to northeastern Pennsylvania, our kitchen window overlooked a backyard that was sparsely planted with a few large rocks and some struggling patches of grass. That first summer, we wondered if songbirds lived this far north, or much else for that matter. Except for the ever-present chipmunks, wildlife seemed scarce for a yard that backed up to a strip of woods.
Being nature lovers, we couldn't resist trying to transform our rough little patch of potential into something closer to paradise. Soon we had a variety of shrubs and flowers, a circulating fountain, and a number of bird feeders.
The yard bloomed and so did the wildlife. A pair of mourning doves moved in, followed by downy woodpeckers, finches, deer, and wild turkeys. We did discover the deer to be a questionable blessing (as anyone who has tried to grow any outdoor plants can attest), but overall we were pleased to see the parade of interesting "critters" through our little patch of paradise.
Children bloom in the same way when their inner natures are fed. The critical nutrients of love and feelings of value and self-worth need to be available in plentiful supply. Continual administrations of caring patience and interested attention create an environment that draws out the best qualities in the growing personhood of each little individual. Qualities of self-assurance, assertiveness, openness, and daring begin to gather within the developing ego.
Just as we saw the arrival of deer in our lush garden of delicacies, parents begin to see hints of a less pleasing picture as they enjoy the fruits of cultivating these qualities in their children. "No, I want to do it myself!" is the clarion call when parents are trying to rush the little darlings into readiness for a timely departure. And that's just the beginning. Then there are arguments over what to eat, what to touch, and when to go to bed, which in turn grow into discussions about homework, what to wear, and how late to stay out. This independence, such a desirable trait in an adult, is a most trying characteristic for parents to endure as it unfolds slowly over the years. (Yet when those years are behind us, it seems they were all too brief and we would bring them back if we could.)
However, sometimes our efforts bring unanticipated consequences. To return to the story of our backyard paradise, I can tell you that those woods harbored more than the aforementioned harmless creatures. They also harbored large bears. One morning we went out to find the one-inch steel rods that had held up our bird feeders twisted into grotesque shapes and the feeders strewn on the ground. And there at the back of the yard with a large rotund belly lay a black bear finishing off the last of the bird seed.
Being aware of the dangers of such a visitor, I called the local wildlife authorities and was told, "Lady, if you feed them, they will come." The only remedy offered was to stop putting out bird feeders. I was amazed that bears would be attracted to bird seed, but I have since learned that this is quite a common problem. Bears can smell fresh bird seed from miles away!
The growth of our own inner nature works in a similar way. First the newly developing ego needs to cultivate a sense of identity and strength, similar to humanity's development over eons. During those times the garden of self has to be nourished and encouraged to draw all things to it. But in maturity the focus must be changed. What were once necessary parts of our development can later become hindrances. Sometimes it takes an event like a visit from a bear to make us realize that it is time to change. Once we have gained strength of ego through careful care and feeding, a time comes when we must begin taking responsibility for the kinds of creatures that are coming to inhabit our minds.
As Madame Blavatsky so eloquently states in the Fragment III of The Voice of the Silence:
Now, for the fourth prepare, the Portal of temptations which do ensnare the inner man. If thou would'st not be slain by them, then must thou harmless make thy own creations, the children of thy thoughts, unseen, impalpable, that swarm round humankind, the progeny and heirs to man and his terrestrial spoils.
Our thoughts are the children of our own making and they swarm around us, influencing all that we do for good or ill. Thoughts of harm to others, anger, selfishness, violence, degradation, pettiness, jealousy, and irritation (to name just a few) cling to us, creating a dense atmosphere and tripping us up at every turn. They were not the intended fruits when we first began our garden, but they were a part of our nature all along and finally materialized when they gained sufficient strength.
Within our inner sanctuary, we can scatter selected seeds. We can cultivate thoughts that are outwardly turned in an attitude of helpfulness and concern for others, or we can continue putting out the bird seed of selfishness and wonder why the bears keep coming to our doorstep. Every day, every moment, with every activity, we are deciding what aspects of ourselves we want to encourage. We can choose which kinds of thoughts we want to inhabit our world.
What are you attracting to your inner garden? Feed them and they will come.