September is the time we start putting our gardens to bed where I live. In the fields, early corn gave way to beans that give way to cover crops. Small kitchen gardens produce fall squash plants, including squash. Perhaps some diligent people plant their greens in late fall and early winter. But it’s almost done. The days are getting shorter but still very warm. It’s almost time for an outdoor shooting.
Being a priest is a busy time. Planning for fall festivals, conventions, Thanksgiving, and Christmas takes our time. But then there is a sudden pause in January until Lent and spring. Life and Worship cycles provide guidance for life and work. But parks, for me at least, give breaks from the cycles. Oddly enough, the cyclical thing is a break from the cycles. However, there are moments in all cycles where we touch eternity now. We stop and breathe.
Gardens of love
This year I convinced Catherine to buy raised beds with me. A friend who earns at a good price has sold me beds, soil, and a magical elixir for compost. Offer their setup time to stop. We visited. He asked about my garden plan. gave advice. I gave water and wrote a check. pickaxe break I lent him a potato fork. I had some simplicity.
The next day I planted. Surprisingly, most of them survived. We have a lot of rabbits, raccoons, birds and opossums in the neighborhood. I live in a department where farming is beauty, not food. I thought about the possibility of just making a smorgasbord. But I have a dog. Allowing him to go outside several times a day was a necessary deterrent.
The family provides enough. We don’t need much. My friend claims, if you leave them where they are, the family will last six or nine years abroad. I won’t get him on it. It is one of my favorite paradises. It exists for no other purpose than to give me something outside the house to care for. The family does not require much. The garden provides healthy snacks and things to share with others.
The garden is a reminder of grace. Kitchen gardens are all about food. It’s often about family contact, too. My son was asked in an interview for a part-time job, “Has your father ever had a garden?” “I can’t remember a time he didn’t have one,” he replied. When I kept the kitchen gardens, the kids helped with planting, weeding, and harvesting. He has dispensed with the necessary television and video games. But they survived. But they were excited when a shovel flipped over from the soil and found potatoes. The fifty-pound bag of seed potatoes we planted yielded three times as much. Corn and beans were always plentiful. We did grocery trips to the backyard.
Grace means that we receive what we cannot do. A grain of corn produces an ear. The pill provides more. Plants convert sunlight into sugar. There is no human food without photosynthesis. Whether we eat from the gardens or the woods, we depend on the one thing that makes chlorophyll possible. The first prayers we teach our children are about food for the table.
Someone might object, “But gardens take a lot of work.” Gardening requires mental and physical labor. Unhelpful weather requires emotional effort sometimes. And no, I don’t confuse gardening with farming. Work learns. My brother-in-law was surprised when I came out of my father’s garden with a turnip from the seeds that had been swept away from the original bed. “I didn’t know what this was,” he said, surprised. How did you get to know him? Learning from working in several parks before that.
How can gardens be a blessing and a business? Protesters in the suburbs are asking such questions. We live in the mind more than our hands. We see and hear more than we recognize or hear. We ask theological questions without realizing our earthly and human orientations. We experience grace by doing more than we know. If grace also means gift, we have talents that allow us to perform tasks. Spiritual talent is a blessing. It is meant to be used. Gifts that seem more physical or mental are also meant to be used. We must realize that some have less than others. People who receive vegetables from someone else’s garden are given to them because they are neighbors. Did they work for this blessing? At first we say no. But this is wrong.
Living in grace
We can say that a person who receives from someone else’s production did not work in the garden from which it grew. They receive handouts. However, they exist as a gardener’s neighbor. To be a neighbor means one to give Something to their neighbors. Perhaps, a person simply provides the security of being nearby if necessary? Perhaps they introduce friends to your children? If we think about it long enough, there is work that they perform in society that is intangible and valuable. It gives you some grace that you may not see right away.
bed under the garden
Placing the garden on the bed is labor-intensive and somewhat disheartening when finished. But a new blessing is formed, a new cycle begins, and a new appreciation is provided. Promises are made. I will think of this when I plant lily bulbs this month and enjoy the color in the trees.
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