I love gardening. But who can blame me? Time began in a garden, at least biblically speaking. God did not plop Adam and Eve down in the desert. Nor did he choose a mountain side or a quaint cove along United States’ eastern seaboard. Nope. He created the Garden of Eden. Granted, this wasn’t a working garden. Adam and Eve did not need to toil from dawn to dusk tilling the soil or performing tasks as seemingly mundane as weeding, but, he knew when he fashioned the first humans, a garden would prove to be good for their soul.
Years ago I was given a garden sign that said, “I’m closest to God in my garden. ” Truer words have never been uttered. I like church just as much as the next guy, and I’ve humbled myself before God in the wee hours of the night, safely tucked in my bed, BUT, I have my best conversations with God while I’m in my gardens. Sometimes our conversations are purely philosophical. “Okay, God. What’s up with mosquitoes? I don’t get them. Was that a faux pas on your part, or did you intentionally put them on this earth just to remind us that we aren’t in Heaven yet?” Sometimes my gardens become an outdoor counseling session with me just jabbering away about my latest woes, and God just sitting back jotting down notes. But my favorite time in the garden with God is when we work side by side, without speaking, simply aware of each other’s presence.
My first experiences with gardening weren’t as cathartic. As memory serves me, when growing up our gardens were quite lovely. Couple an engineering father who NEVER did anything unless he had a blueprint, and a mother who could have been the editor of Better Homes and Gardens, our gardens, like our house, belonged in magazines. I remember pristine beds filled with roses and alyssums. A porch flower box always held geraniums exploding with vibrant reds. And, seemingly an afterthought, although nothing ever was, the side of the house was a dense planting of my mother’s favorite flower, the zinnia.
The problem with the gardens was they were not interactive; at least not for us children. My parents planned and planted our gardens. We were not included in the creative side of gardening. Our only true interaction with them did not instill love of the gardens. Perhaps coincidentally, although I wonder, my parents would always wait until the hottest days of summer… certainly only days over 90 degrees, (there is the slightest possibility that I'm exaggerating) when the soil was parched and hard as a rock, then they would say the 2 words that instilled undiluted horror, “Go weed.” We were given spoons and instructed to dig up the weeds. If this seems like a scene out of “Mommy, Dearest” I can assure you, that’s exactly how it felt at the time! I think I probably started talking to God in the gardens back then. It’s probably a very good thing he never answered any of those prayers!
But, there must have been some recessive gene that lay dormant, until I had a house of my own. I was shocked and nearly giddy, when I discovered the creative side of gardening. The pure, unadulterated joy of pouring over seed catalogs in the dead of winter. Hey, it might be -20 degrees outside, but I knew… nay, I felt it in my heart, that under the heaps and mounds of snow, my friends the plants were sound asleep, dreaming flora dreams, just waiting for the first kiss of spring to awaken them. I began to see my yard as a canvas and plants as my artist’s pallet. Colors and textures comingled in any way I fancied. Pulling weeds and removing sod were a small price to pay for this ecstasy.
Sometimes I spend hushed time in my garden. Sometimes I play in it. But mostly, according to Tim, I full body garden! It’s become a housekeeping imperative that if I wish to maintain any standards of cleanliness in our home during gardening season, that I strip down to my birthday suit at the back door, leaving behind mud and assorted insects, as I run naked through the house free as a child, praying no one catches me in the act! There are few sensations that can compare to showering after a day in the garden, when the hot water beats against your aching back, and the smell of lavender soap reminds you of your garden’s promise.
So, I often spend the last moments of daylight in my garden… my cathedral. As Tim and I listen for the birds to depart, and the bats and lightning bugs to make their entrance, my garden, no our garden, fades into the shadows. But I know, when I awake tomorrow, and find myself being drawn to my garden, that God is waiting, in the place it all began.
What type of relationship do you have with your garden? Is it mystical, a means to an end, or something you avoid like the plague? (BTW... some of my best friends fall into the last category... it is not a personality flaw :)