In the east, traditionally, the garden was on the outskirts of town, fully enclosed and often guarded, having a watchtower for the watchman to keep away beasts and robbers. Here in the west, a garden is an area close to the house, used for growing herbs, flowers, vegetables and other green things. It may or may not be enclosed. Unless, of course, as in the east of the west like here in North Carolina, you need to keep out the beasts both big and small that come out of the forest and nibble on all manner of tasty thing. 'Haven't had issues with robbers yet. (And at the rate of production of my garden, I really don't expect to. ;-))
One reader of this blog has said, "It all started in a garden." And indeed it did. That garden is real as well as metaphorical--the place of our dreams where we are no longer separated from our Source, and are fully realized. The place we long for, whether we recognize it as such or not.
Two men observed the young son of one who was dancing joyously to music only he could hear. The father of the boy turned to the other man and said, shrugging, "He is still in the garden." Though no human truly remains in that Garden, the boy had a piece of it in his heart--enough of a piece, enough of a glimpse, that he touched the joy of true reality and danced with it.
I believe that this is available to us, no matter how long we have dwelt on this earth, nor no matter how many beasts and robbers have ravaged our garden. In relationship with the Creator, the garden is restored, and yet it is up to us to collaborate in that, for we are told to guard, or keep, our hearts. Yet we are not the watchman. The Creator is the Watchman, the Perfect Watchman, if we dedicate the garden to Him.
For a fitting exposition of the call to guard our hearts from Proverbs 4:23, click here.
Today was the best. day. ever.
For working in the garden.
Sunny and cool--there was a break in the cold, often freezing, weather--and the soil was pliant and aromatic. Rain had finally pummeled down the asparagus feathers, so the plants could be clipped and put to bed for the winter. The mulch is down, the perennials trimmed, and--oh so importantly--the bird feeders filled. The day's work ranged from macro-cleanup to micro-weeding; at one point I found myself hugging the ground to pick little weeds from around the beets, spinach, and lettuce.
The theme of the day was "breathing room." Sometimes the roots of the weeds were thoroughly entwined with the roots of the plants. Sometimes the plants themselves were too close to one another and one or more had to be moved or removed. The artichokes had to be tied up and mulched so the lower leaves don't rot in the winter wet. The lion's ears, turning to slime where they stood, were removed to give the monarda space and half a stand of fall aster was pulled to reveal the new fig tree struggling for light.
Natural things respond to space--both room and air. Years ago, when I was young and living in a foreign land(Utah), I had a moment of clarity of how God places us in his kingdom. I was praying, and my eyes fell on a houseplant(known its entire life as "Gregory Greensleeves"). When we moved to Utah, Gregory landed on a desk situated nowhere near the window, but over time he made himself at home, and grew along and over the desk until he was quite beautiful and healthy, filling in the spaces he could reach. And the Lord said, "Grow where you can, wherever you are."
This is a big thought I'm trying to put into words, but I think a key phrase is "over time." Ecclesiastes 3:11 says "He makes all things beautiful in its time." Or in His time. In a sense, we have to give Him space to do so, to trust that He keeps His word and that what He plants in us will burst forth from the ground one day, or, like Gregory, fill its niche slowly but inevitably. If we give space to the Holy Spirit in our lives, we may grow into places we never before imagined.
It turned so cold so quickly that my California bones chatter within me. The garden is crispy with ice underfoot, the plants are silent and still, gathering strength to endure. I myself am laid up, hunkered under a down comforter waiting out a virus that has scraped my throat raw and pounds in my head.
But the garden reaches out to me anyway, as the winter light casts a moving pattern on the opposite wall and I am fascinated. Captivated. I want to capture its dynamic and mimic it in paint, yarn, or paper.
I untangle myself from the sheet, blanket and earbuds and scramble from my nest to catch the shifting shadows on my camera phone. I cast no shadow of my own, even when the camera is held up to capture the moving patterns.
I return to the warm cocoon of bed and realize the movement has stopped. The static pattern on the wall is just as delightful as the moving one. I jump back up, but try as I might I cannot get a shot of this pattern without my own shadow interfering. The best light lasted only a moment. Less than a moment.
The perfect light, the perfect access passed so swiftly. I'm grateful I was paying attention, and grateful to enjoy the garden's reach from within my warm bedroom. But the shifting light reminds me to seize the minute. Carpe minutam--minutam being the smallest fraction of time in Latin.
God writes His love letter to us and reminds us that now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.
Now is the minutam.
* Not the pattern itself, but the part of the garden making the pattern. This site does not have the capacity to upload a video. Yet.
A man's mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind. -- James Allen, As a Man Thinketh
In the past few weeks I determined that I was focusing too much on the weeds in the garden, and decided to "turn a corner," as they say, and try to alter my focus. Granted, one can run "weed of the year" contests, or choose one's favorite weed to pull out--ah, so satisfying--but the purpose of the garden is to produce good fruit, be it literal fruit, or veggies, flowers, or just desirable greenery. Focusing on that could change my outlook--and the outcome in the garden. And as in the garden, in life.
I admit I've been loathe to fertilize because, shoot, if I fertilize the garden plants, the weeds will take advantage and overrun the place. So I've starved the good seed. Or at least been withholding. It is not unlike the line from a Tom Waits'* song, "If I exorcise my demons, my angels may leave, too." Only upside down. More like, if I starve my angels, my demons should wither. And a voice says, "How is that workin' for ya?"
What do I see in the picture? At first, of course, I saw the weeds. Now, my heart, I purpose to see the blooms. And not just to see the bloomin' part of the garden, but to continue cultivating good fruit--a life-long process.
*possibly referencing a quote by Rainer Maria Rilke: "If my devils are to leave me, I am afraid my angels will take flight as well."