I love gardening. Whether it be the back-breaking digging and weeding, or the planting of flowers and shrubs, I love it all. Understandable really; I come from good British gardening stock. My father was an “uncertified” master gardener. He won many local city awards for his garden in London and was featured several times in our local newspaper.
The clearest memories that I have of my father are connected to the garden. When we moved into what would become our permanent family home, I was eleven years old. The house was a two-storey brick townhouse with a very large garden to one side that was a huge quarter circle in shape. The house had just been built by the local council and consequently this garden area was an ex-construction site. It was a mess!
I cannot remember how long it took my father to completely dig over the whole area. I do remember that he would come home from work and dig and then spend the whole weekend digging. It seemed to go on forever; he had such patience. What I remember most about that evolution was his insistence on digging down at least three or four feet “to get rid of the builder’s debris”, and that he dug up a flattened exploded bomb from World War II. And I remember his sweat covered torso (he always wore long pants because he had one artificial leg), glistening in the sun as it slowly turned dark brown.
The end result was an exquisite garden. A large circular lawn which was always in perfect condition, surrounded by flower beds full of roses, dahlias, asters, larkspur, delphiniums and London Pride, all bordered by white Alyssum and deep blue Lobelia. Along the back fence, which separated our garden from my Dad’s rented allotment, several trees were also planted: lilac, apple, pear, and a couple of others whose names I do not remember.
So as I dig and weed and seed and plant I feel a small connection with my Dad. I am grateful for this because, even though he was a very good father, always at home doing something for the house or the family, we did not have a rich or close relationship. He was just there in a very quiet and noncommittal way.
I’m a bit of a “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants” kinda woman and my gardening follows suit. It’s a sort of chaotic yet orderly mish-mash of things and I’m sure my Dad turns in his grave sometimes:-). But it gives me great pleasure and enormous satisfaction. And the butterflies seem to like it, which in turn reminds me of my Mum. But that’s another story.
I try to wear gloves to spare my hands, but sometimes I just have to get my them into God’s earth and feel it, and feel the plant going into it. On hot, swampy, Florida days the sweat streams down my body and I think of Dad digging his “three to four feet down”. And as I watch the seeds sprout and the plants burst forth in bloom, I feel a connection to my Creator that I cannot find anywhere else. And I have a tiny human idea of what He must have felt as He put the Universe together.
And so I find myself praying when I garden. As I stretch and use my muscles I talk to God. I let Him know my joys and sorrows, my aches and pains. I thank Him for all the gifts that fill my life. I argue with Him, and then place myself humbly in His care. And just recently I have begun to praise Him , to magnify Him in the midst of His creation. (There’s another story behind that which will have to wait for another day!) What better therapy could there be – and it doesn’t cost me a dime!