So Easy? Look, See, Pray

Astrantia & Lavender

When looking at the end result, gardening is obviously so easy. This bed of astrantia and lavender just grew! You wish.

Behind every floral display, bag of apples, or immaculate lawn there is a story involving hours of effort and a measure of skill. Today I spent three hours weeding. It’s done, and so am I. My back aches, my knees creak, and the invading brambles have left little thorny souvenirs in my fingers.

The only evidence is the bare soil between the tidier plants. All the sweat and tear-drops have been swallowed by the thirsty soil.

I love gardening- hands in the soil, choosing plants, sowing seed, enjoying the colours and the birdsong. I feel part of Creation in a deeper way. And, often, I feel connected to God. There have been times over the years when knotty issues have been thought & prayed through over a trowel. Looking at the favourite roses, or photographing a choice specimen of rich colour and form, is in a way an act of praise and thanksgiving.

Gardening has parallels to the devotional life: it requires obedience, wisdom, stamina, faith, and discipline. In the same way, building a strong spirituality requires effort, willingness, and humility. Now, the New Testament uses the example of athletes racing as an illustration of discipleship. Runners don’t win accidentally, as a general rule! Personally, running races is a distant memory- but gardening is a current passion.

So then, a gardener’s instruction to Richard of Aldwick: “Dig the soil well, and weed it thoroughly, not letting the brambles take over. Choose plants wisely, and nourish them well- water the soil as necessary, and prune poor growth and dead wood. Wait patiently as God gives growth; enjoy sunshine and gentle rain, enjoy birdsong and give thanks at all times. Watch out for slugs and weevils, and remember to share the joy of your garden with all who pass by.”

God likes gardens- He first gave us one in Eden, and calls us now to be good stewards of this wonderful world. There’s a task for a lifetime!

I’ve done it again! – Look, See, Pray

I’ve done it again! Despite multiple failures, I’ve done it again. Will I ever learn?

A pleasant if wearying session in the garden, weeding out the really successful plants (weeds) and making room for the hopefuls for next Spring. I have planted crocus (crocii, crocuses, take your pick) once again. Not a good track record, never yet does the reality match my dream. So this year I’ve cheated. I have NOT planted any yellow ones- in my experience yellow crocus is just a salad bar for early slugs and naughty birds.

So then, purple, plus purple/white stripes, and pale lilac-colour. Cracked it! It was lovely to have my hands in the soil, pulling wicked weed roots, ripping out the dying marigolds, and making room for the greatest show on earth! 2021, Aldwick, West Sussex- the best display of crocus EVER.

This is being a gardener. It is a life of undying passionate optimistic HOPE. That which I have planted SHALL be floriferous, gaudy, and perfectly gorgeous. There, see, I’ve said it- again.

If only the RHS gave gold medals for dandelion or couch grass. Did you know couch grass has other names? “Twitch” or “scutch” or “Aarrgghhh.”

“Scutch” sounds like a loathsome skin disease… should I pray and command it to be healed, and never return?

Time for some better and more responsible theology, I think! The thing common to true gardeners is the kind of hope that carries on from year to year, always confident that this time the sweat will earn rewards of beauty, or stunning veg, or sumptious fruit. It is a lifestyle of hope despite hard labour and many discouragements.

Now I ache. All of me aches. Kneeling… not sure if getting down there is hardest, or getting back up… I gave the grass its final(?) cut for 2020, planted crocus and alliums, moved a couple of plants, put down mulch, pulled up this years’ crop of annuals, swept the path… and somewhere during all that I had a sudden sense of physical and emotional relief. Two reasons- first, I heard the very welcome news that “Scutch” Trump lost the election and may be composted in January: and second, the sheer joy of working with living, growing things of beauty and great potential. A surge of hope and confidence! Simply lovely. But I still ache.

We can live in hope, or shrivel in despair. Sheer hard graft may be essential (especially in the garden!) and doing the hard yards can be discouraging. Here are a few words from the Apostle Paul, addressed to the early Church. Hopeful words… when we sow/plant, we have hope of a harvest.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9 (ANIV)

“So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit.” – The Message.

Live in hope.