What a marvelous week we just had. Being able to enjoy the outdoors in these waning days of September has been an absolute blessing. Personally, I am grateful because they have afforded me some terrific late summer gardening time. And every extra day of gardening before the winter forces us indoors is a bonus.
I simply love to work in the garden. I find it inspiring and rejuvenating; energizing and restorative. That I love to garden should not be a surprise as I come from a family of gardeners. My father was a landscape architect as are two of my brothers and my sister is a master gardener. Growing up we always had the most amazing gardens and we did all the work ourselves.
Having practically been raised in the garden-apart from the occasional foray to the Royal Opera House or Royal Museum of Fine Arts-my daily routine still involves the garden, weather permitting. On busy days this means a simple walk-through. Most days, however I spend at least 30 minutes in the garden often watering plants. Recently, after seeing me go through this ritual day after day, my neighbor suggested I install an automatic watering system. I told her that apart from the cost I would really miss watering the plants. She seemed surprised by my response, but truly, I like to water the plants. In a strange way it allows me to connect with the garden and feel part of creation.
At the risk of being thought a liturgical nerd I confess to having ritualized my watering routine. Not only do I follow a certain pattern, I also have a liturgical way of measuring the water each plant or planter receives. I gauge the amount of water by the time it takes to pray a Hail Mary. Each plant or planter gets one, two or three Hail Mary’s. Saying the Lord’s Prayer in between flowerbeds it takes at least a whole rosary to water the entire garden. Thus, my watering routine not only connects me with creation it also provides me with some quiet prayer time. Sometimes I wish for a bigger garden so I as to extend my prayer life.
On my day off I spend the better part of the day in the garden, clipping, dead-heading, relocating plants or just digging around. Though now I have taken to wearing gloves, I used to dig in the soil with my bare hands. Feeling the soil between my fingers always reminded me of creation when God at the beginning of time molded Adam out of dirt. Digging in that same dirt, watering the plants, adding another tree, etc. gives me a profound sense of sharing in God’s creation. In a profound sense, gardening has become a metaphor for my sharing in God’s creative work, even outside the garden in my day-to-day life. And more than that the restorative power of time spent gardening affirms, albeit in an earthy way my participation in salvation gained for us by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ.
Who knew that when my father taught me the Latin names for the different plants, showed me how to trim trees and prune bushes and instilled in me a love of gardening he also created a permanent reminder of the share we all have in God’s creation as well as in Christ’s salvation. Tending the heavenly gardens he probably smiles at a job well done.