Years ago, I came across a newspaper comic strip named Mutts, by the artist Patrick McDonnell. (That entire sentence makes me feel ancient.) One Sunday (10-15-2011), the comic resonated so much with my heart that I cut it out and framed it. A man walks his scruffy little dog, Earl, and gestures at the beautiful scene around them, saying, “Now is my favorite time of year.” In the second panel, Earl looks out at the reader and replies. “‘Now’ is always my favorite.”
I’m with Earl.
And if any chosen time-and-energy immersion underscores my feeling that “now” is always my favorite, it’s gardening. Co-creating with the Earth and her endless surprises within the (somewhat) reliable cycle of seasons has always been my favorite state of being.
In addition to the 3-dimensional and 4-season design invitations and challenges, decades of gardening also creates a sweet living scrapbook of memories. I have a peony my students gave me over 20 years ago, when I left teaching for writing. That time turned instead into caregiving for my mother, and there are memories everywhere of her last years and leave-taking. And when I returned to school for further studies and the work of spiritual care, I came home one summer day to discover the beautiful arbors Phillip had made and erected. There are the rocks we lugged home from many of the local farmers’ fields and used to ring our first gardens, and the lilac my brother and sister-in-law shared with us, along with treasured plants and cuttings from friends, and from charming nurseries no longer in business (and mourned).
For me, a day in the garden is a journey through the tapestry of my 25 years here at Full Moon Cottage. All the seasons and visitors and births and deaths a gardener can travel with in her small life on a small plot of land are reflected and concentrated in her garden. But there is more and it is magical: there is rebirth and renewal, that same healing and transformation I’ve seen in myself and in people I’ve been blessed to know.
And there is continual learning about the interrelationships among my plants, the soil content and microbes, the insects, and birds…so much about relationships accounts for the quality of one’s life, doesn’t it?
There are endless teachers and lessons for my heart here in the garden. Everything extrapolates; everything deepens; all is hallowed. It is the finest university anywhere. And, when the gardener learns to listen and see, there is poetry, music, dance, drama, and glorious visual art in the garden. There is mystery and eventually the acceptance, even anticipation and then love, of mystery. Better still, there is a quality of peace so pervasive that the heart returns to her deep true knowing: all shall be well.
Over the years, the garden and I have been through fierce heat spells, ice storms, flood, drought, heartbreaking loss, and joyful renewal. I have grown old loving these lives and tending their needs so they may tend the birds and bees and all other visitors to this land and beneath it. And still I rise with the sun and weave my day within and around these gardens for hours before the day ends. Time in the garden, like time with any enduring love, leaves me full of gratitude. And then I stand back and look at our co-creation and think, “Now is always my favorite.”
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