I may have mentioned that I love gardening...really love it. Freakin', stinking, OCD love it.
I am touched by how simply and beautifully plants give, receive and grow.
I remember once during a particularly trying period of time my Mother-in-law called to tell me everything would be fine. She had awoke early that morning worried about life and had gone out to sit on the porch next to her, always planted just so, flower bed. She glanced down to see several of her beautiful flowers pulled off and crushed into neat little piles of petals, obviously the work of a grandchild.
In that moment all the worries that life didn't seem to be presenting itself immaculately landscaped into eye pleasing rows of carefully coordinated and spaced arrangements didn't matter. Those little bundles of petals arrange by chubby fingers were more beautiful and peace giving then the most skilled gardener could achieve.
And those flowers pulled off the stem before their time, in simple acceptance of their destiny are the only blossoms still remembered of all the flowers that bloomed that year.
I blogged a couple years ago about the plant that I gave up on getting rid of and let have it's summer in the sun. Turns out it was a burr plant. It was the exact right size for the spot, ended up covered in beautiful purple flowers was a favorite of bugs, butterfly's and bees, and turned out to be the perfect metaphor for that year. I took it out for good that fall it wasn't a metaphor I wanted to continue, but no plant has filled the spot as beautifully since.
Summer evenings when the air is starting to cool and heat is rising from sun soaked earth and pavement is one of my favorites. Around 8:00 in the evening I am drawn out to wander my yard and neighborhood. I might water scorched soil or chat with a neighbor, watch a game of street football, but nearly every evening I wander through my yard to see what's new in each nook and cranny. A Day Lilly that was a bud in the morning may have chosen this as her day. A Fairy Slipper may be curling up for the night, a droopy Tomato may be longing for a long cool drink. Nearly always a bird will light on the fence cock his head, fix a bird eye stare on me, determine I'm not a threat, then slip into the bird bath to clean up for an evening with his lady bird. Soon he'll be followed by his flighty mate who will hop along the fence impatiently waiting for her turn in the bathroom. I delight in these birdy bathing rituals and once a day dump out each birdbath and fill them with fresh water.
At this point I need to break for a little background info.
When we moved into our current yard my favorite corner garden was filled with a plastic wading pool full of dirt rocks and rotting weeds. My Sister-in-law had starting the summer before to weed and get rid of some debris, had commandeered the old plastic wading pool as a green dump. She figured that my brother, a landscaper could scoop the thing up with the tractor and haul it off once it was filled; and, there it sat moldering. I spent my first summer in the house remodeling and being pregnant with #6, the only thing I did for the yard that year was transplant an uprooted rose bush from my Moms front yard. I didn't make it out to water it and figured it had died there next to the composting kiddie pool of yuck.
The following spring inside projects, mine and the house, were done and the yard was calling. I had a vision for my corner garden, roses climbing the fence, a terrace of rocks, a bench, and a bird bath surrounded by a plethora of perennials. First up was to get rid of the kiddie pool of rotting weeds, which after two years and a wet winter had become a swamp, complete with an 8"slug. It took me three weeks of transferring sludgy scoop after scoop into the garbage can then waiting for the next garbage pick-up day to fill the can again. My motivation was the transplanted rose bush which had somehow clung to life and was sending out green shoots that I hopefully wound and tucked into the fence.I only got one or two roses that June but the miracle rose bush kept my plans alive over the next three years as my garden slowly became what I had dreamed for it.
This year June was stunning, so many roses weighed down each branch that they drooped in rosy curtains to the ground. Lavender scented the air, Clematis clambered up the arbor bench and the base of the bird bath, deep purple complementing the happy yellow of Columbine. I threw myself at the feet of several couples who I knew were talking marriage and begged them to elope to my back yard during those last two weeks of June.
July came rains dried and roses wilted with out a wedding. I was a little sad that so much beauty went largely unnoticed. I felt the roses had given their all for little reward and now they were wilted and browning.
Typically as July heats up and dries out I lose a bit of my gardening zest and wonder if my efforts really matter. Tonight I slipped out for a few minutes before work at 9:00pm to visit my yard. The long, hot, dry, days have sapped more then my gardening zeal, patches of grass are yellowing, plants were drooping from the heat, halfheartedly I turned on the hose and wandered around feeling like I was visiting care-worn friends. As I watered my corner garden I made vague plans to prune back the roses and pull a few weeds, my thoughts as wilted as my plants.
Turning to the bird bath I began my usual routine of dumping and refilling, but was stopped short by the sight of a whole rose, delicately browned on the edges, petals translucent like antique parchment, floating in the warm water of the bird bath. My weary thoughts dissipated, my breath caught at the singular beauty of the moment. My roses preserved by the sun, yielding graciously, transcending the end of a season with a grace and elegance which eluded them in the wild, cacophony of June.
And there in that dry, sweltering, July evening I looked with new perspective and realized that in the heat of the sun my plants were producing fruit, fruit in which are the seeds of life in a new season. I judge their drooping at the end of a long hot summer day, assigning them human resistance, depression, cares. Perhaps, instead it is acceptance of the season, peace in the heat that transforms blossoms to fruit bearing the seeds of life, the quiet journey of immortality taking place before my eyes. Yes it's hard work and some drooping leaves are to be expected and accepted. No fruitless resistance here in my garden only roots reaching a bit deeper for moisture, leaves creating all the energy possible, fruit and seed drawing all that moisture, all that energy, so the plant can live beautifully over and over and over.
And, so our lives. No matter how hot the summer gets or how much snow piles upon us in the winter the Son is preserving our efforts and we will experience wildly beautiful springs, eternal springs welling up within the garden of our soul. The more extreme the season, the years when arrangements and growth are unexpected those are the giving seasons, the years most remembered. God is the gardener we are the fruit each season provides for the next, springs are joyful, tumultuous, blossoms give way to fruit which grows and matures in the heat of summer, autumns cold nights mature and sweeten the fruit until it's drops to the earth where blanketed by winter snow it rests and waits for the cycle to begin again.
That's what I adore about this gardening thing, it's all about the giving, receiving, and growing of life, it's work and sweat, sludge and dreaming, tenacity, clinging, fragrance, color, vibrant moments of clarity, heat and drooping, moisture and sunlight, soul fruit, seeds, metaphors for life, and I freaking, stinkin' love it.
And LIFE? Yeah, I freakin' stinking, OCD, love that too.