Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Souls Journey in the Garden

Passions and Perspectives of the Four Seasons

Personal Reflection by Sr. Cathy Anne Lepore, OSB

As a child, I followed my dad around the garden. The vegetable garden that is! We had a plot about the size of a tennis court. Keeping things growing was a family affair. My brothers turned the soil by hand, using the spade, doing one row every day. Four brothers meant four rows a day. Dad would start planting as soon as the Jonquils announced spring. The garden map went like this. Jonquils came up on their own at the top of the garden, and then we planted snow peas, radishes, green beans, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, carrots, green beans (again), zucchini, and the “you can’t kill it” rhubarb.

My memories of the garden are rich with tastes and textures. The tastes of those first snap peas, a warm tomato fresh off the vine, tangy radishes in salads, crisp cucumber sandwiches, and the always-favorite rhubarb pie are encoded in my being. I also remember that I hated to pick the green beans. Dad planted two rows of pole beans right next to each other. They were the natural screen that hid the garden from passer-bys. Well, of course it would be mid-summer. The humidity and temperature, which made everything grow so well, made me wilt with childhood fatigue. If you’ve ever picked pole beans you know what I’m talking about, when one is between the rows surrounded by greenery, the leaves would stick to their clothes like Velcro. We would pick two brown shopping bags of beans every third day. Then of course later in the summer was the zucchini battle! You all know what I’m talking about! One day the little zuc is too small to pick, the next day it’s a “caveman’s club.” Talk about God working when you aren’t looking. So many memories, literally seeing the plants grow overnight, measuring the heights of the tomato plants, filling the basket so full that I couldn’t lift it, chasing rabbits, (yes, visions of Mr. McGreger flash before my eyes), sitting on the back porch watering the garden in the evening, and of course the many meals that included the bounty of the garden.

I didn’t know it as a child, but gardening was in my blood. I remember as a novice in community asking my director if I could start a little garden plot at the monastery. She said “what ever would you want to do that for?” I remember saying that it could be part of my personal prayer time. She chuckled and said, “No, no, I don’t think that would work at all.” I bided my time and as soon as I made my first vows, I cleared the sod and started a small vegetable garden. Well, needless to say the garden space has been growing ever since. The simple lessons of getting my hands dirty, kneeling to plant and weed, watering the parched soil, and harvesting the fruits of my labor touch my spirit in profound and holy ways. The grand passion of being a part of the creative force of the universe is almost inexpressible. I hear the whispers of God in my daily activities in the garden. This makes me long even more to be outside in the presence of God.

In future blog posts, Sr. Cathy Anne will share with you her seasonal prayer reflections that corresponds with the gardening tasks.

1 comment:

kathy said...

Only as an adult have I come to appreciate the spiritual dimension of a garden. I, too, was inducted into service in my grandmother's garden as a child. I saw no joy in the service... only sweat and some pretty nasty looking bugs. And to add insult to injury, I was forced to eat some of the disgusting vegetables that were the fruit of our harvest.

Now, however, as an adult, I've grown my very first tomato plant. With absolutely no knowledge whatsoever, I plugged this little fledgling plant into some "Miracle Grow" and hoped for the miracle. I nurtured and watered it every day and watched it grow ever so slowly. I scrutinized the plant every day for signs of growth or decay. I can't express the childlike joy I experienced when I spied the first little bitty green sphere that appeared. What simple joy!

Now I understand the spiritual dimension of gardening. I'm sure that God and all the angels and saints have experienced the same anticipation and joy as they watch us grow and develop throughout our lives.

Of course, I have to rely on my family to water and care for my plant when I'm away. Sometimes that works out better than others! I'm hoping that God's family does a little better job at caring for my soul than my family has done with my poor little tomato plant! Still, it seems that despite that inadvertent neglect and some yellowed leaves, my tomatoes have managed to grow even larger while I was away.

I'm still waiting for my own spiritual "fruit" to ripen and I'm keeping a keen eye out for signs of root rot!