My husband has jokingly referred to me as “The Deist Gardner.” To appreciate his jest it is necessary to understand that a deist believes God created the Earth and all life on it, spun it into motion, and then sat back to watch with no more concern or involvement. That is how I have treated the flower beds and raised-bed vegetable garden he and my daddy made for me for my thirtieth birthday present. In the decorative beds I planted a variety of flowers that are known to need little or no attention, such as day lilies, irises, daisies, lamb’s ear, and vinca. While I planted my vegetable garden anew each warming spring, I was not much for weeding or maintenance during the hot summer, and so each year we got less and less produce, until this past year when we harvested nothing because the deer enjoyed it all.
With the shelter-in-place orders recently I have had more time at home, and with media threats of potential food shortages, more motivation than usual to tend my vegetable garden. Plenty of shredded paper forms a mulch to help keep weeds at bay, and scraps of landscaping timbers stacked lincoln-log style to elevate the walls even further will (hopefully) keep deer from getting into what I plan on being a canned and frozen food supply to supplement what I find at the local grocery store.
The flower beds turned into a project to help me avoid the task I most dread – cleaning out the attic. Just this week I began digging in to the tangled mess I set in motion so many years ago, and as I dug I reflected. Here are some of the lessons my flower beds have taught me about life this week:
- Sometimes the anticipation of the task is more overwhelming than the task itself.
- Just because a plant has a dainty flower or an unassuming personality doesn’t mean it won’t take over.
- Timing makes a difference. Even though it will be messier, the ground is easier to dig after a storm or soaking rain.
- Sometimes digging out the over-and-undergrowth reveals forgotten treasures.
- Just because plants and flowers return year after year doesn’t mean they are thriving or healthy.
- It is important to remove the unseen roots of weeds which will continue to soak up vital nutrients and water from the soil and rob desired plants of their nutrition and growth.
- To enjoy the most beauty from the flowers there will have to be some ugliness, discomfort, and maybe even some pain – scratches, thorns, cuts, dirty nails, stained hands, piles of weeds and sticks, uprooted plants, sore muscles, broken stems, and exposed bulbs.
- When the back catches, fingers throb, and knees ache, it is okay to take a break. As Scarlet O’Hara said, “Tomorrow is another day.”
- Gardening reconnects and re-energizes the soul and the body in ways no other activity can, allowing us to be part of the creative process that set it all in motion so many eons ago.
- From the Earth humans came, and to the Earth we will go. During the living years it is important to stay connected to the Earth so that we are in awe of our humble and miraculous beginning and not too shocked or disappointed by our ending.
As the Ecclesiastical Preacher says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven… .” The twenty-five years I neglected my flower beds, I was teaching full-time, wifing full-time, and full-time rearing my children. With the oldest married, the middle working and living on her own and the youngest in college, now is my time, my season, to reconnect with the Earth. I have looked away from these flower beds for almost two years since I retired, always finding something else to do. It just seemed like too big a job, but now that I’ve taken first steps, I am again amazed by the joy of progress and growth, by hope for more days to dig in the dirt, by peace in productive creativity, and by light that each rising sun gives us, “to make everything beautiful in its time.”
Joy, hope, peace and light to you, friends, in this season.
Scriptures quoted are from Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, verses 1 and 11a, NIV.