f Morning Rose Prayer Gardens: 04/01/2012 - 05/01/2012

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Spring 2012 Spent

Spent Daffodils

                I sat in silence on the couch beside my dear friend of over twenty years. Across the darkened room from us were sliding glass doors to her deck. The silk flowers from last fall were still standing tall in the two large containers near the back. The spring sunlight brought them to life as they glow their rich orange and yellows, seeming less out of place than they had in late January.
                My friend loves gardens and enjoyed the two small patches on each side of the porch at the front of her house. Last year I did my best to keep them up for her as chemotherapy robbed her of her strength. By the end of summer she only saw them as she shuttled to and from a car.
                On this afternoon of my weekly visits she was unusually quiet, more likely weak. When I called earlier in the morning to make sure she would not be at a medical appointment she said that she hadn’t eaten much in the past two days. We shared doubts about my bringing lunch.
                I called a friend who works at a nursing facility and asked what to bring someone that sick with cancer. She made a few suggestions, one of which was potatoes. My dear friend loves potatoes. She had told me stories of growing potatoes when she was a girl. Over the years I shared with her those from my own garden; Pontiac Reds, Yukon Gold and more recently Kennebec…her favorite.
Early last summer, while she watched, I had planted a few hills of Kennebec in a small raised bed at the corner of her house. Several weeks later when harvested, she ate them almost daily until they were gone.
So on this day for our lunch I brought potatoes and gravy from KFC. I brought enough for several days. She was delighted when I set a small steaming bowl of them on the TV tray before her. I watched her savor each spoonful, and there were only five, and then lunch was over.
We continued to sit together and she dozed in and out. I held her hand and looked at how thin and like porcelain it had become. At one waking moment I asked her “How goes it with your soul?” She smiled fully, chuckled lightly and answered “Just fine.” I smiled back and we recognized the joy in each others eyes. The gift of a life well lived is peace while the body declines. Then a shadow passed over her face and she said that though she wasn’t having any trouble with “it” a lot of others around her were. She turned away and looked out the patio doors.
Artist: Pan Van Londen
(I love her work!)
I followed her eyes to where several gaily wrapped and ribboned pots of spent daffodils sat on the steps to the deck. Easter gifts from well wishers, no doubt. She asked me about planting them for her out in front of the house. I said I would, adding that bulbs forced to flower for spring sales had only a 20% chance of surviving until next year.
 As she leaned back into the couch I smiled to myself: My dear friend, always hopeful, she intended to see them bloom next spring. That was until she whispered “They have better odds than I.”
I patted her hand and we smiled again. I would plant the daffodils next week and in the meantime pray that she would be strong enough to come out and supervise the effort.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Spring 2012, Soil

The Scent of Earth

     It was early March and I was driving along a country road with my windows down. It had been a freakishly warm and dry winter, setting record highs throughout most of the Midwest. I live in southern lower Michigan where we’ve experienced January temperatures in the 50’s when they are usually in the upper 20’s. February and March followed suite with a number of days running above average.
Belinda Del Pesco: Freshly Tilled Soil
     Heading home with groceries I decided to take the scenic route instead of the highway. The surrounding area is rural with pockets of dairy farms, and fields of wheat, silage and corn. One of the nice things about rural routes is the ninety degree intersections. No matter how I zigzag across counties I’m confident of finding my way home by heading South and East. 
     Coming around an S-curve on a two lane gravel road I saw a farmer taking advantage of the unseasonably mild weather by chisel plowing his field (sometimes incorrectly called disking). Being from Detroit, I am always impressed by the sheer mass of farm machinery and have had to learn its vocabulary: tractors vs. combines, harvesters or windrowers, and the finer points of Duals. The familiar green and yellow equipment in the bright spring sun stood out sharply against the dark brown fields.
     I could see the farmer in the cab and waved my arm out the window. As we passed each other I was caught by surprise at the enveloping scent of fresh soil. The earth, dark and rich with life, with its damp heady fragrance drawn fully into my lungs, made my senses peak and heart beat faster with a familiar joy.
     The deep smell of earth, like the charged and fragrant air of an approaching thunder storm, these are the Scent of God.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Spring 2012

Garter Snakes among the Henbit

Tall Henbit or Purple Dead Nettle, Lamium purpureum
     I pulled at a clump of weedy henbit spreading across the raised wooden soon-to-be vegetable bed. There, just inches away from my hand was unexpected movement. Initially startled and inhaling sharply I pulled back. My miniature pinscher, always ready on the defense, came dashing over to see what had made me react so suddenly.
     Watching the area for additional movement I noticed two garter snakes slowly slide away. Apparently I had disturbed them as they lay sunning on a bright spring day. I shooed the dog away so she would not harm the pair and sat back on my heals to watch the dull black snakes move through the recently mowed lawn.
     I’m not afraid of garter snakes though at times they may startle. I know many people who are so terrified of them, or any snake, that they run off screaming as fast and as far as they can to get away. Garter snakes are harmless and a rather friendly little thing to have in the garden. They love to eat slugs, small rodents, bugs and almost anything that will meet their meaty appetites.
     I was surprised the first time I touched one of these garden companions. The little stinker had somehow gotten into the warm house on a cool late-summer’s night.  My housemate, who is afraid of snakes, was of no use. A grown woman, she was upstairs in a panic, screaming like a schoolgirl! I knew these snakes were harmless, but still, picking one up barehanded was a little disconcerting. As the snake began to quickly slithered away from me across the basement floor, I grabbed it behinds its head. I was surprised at how warm its little body was and how its skin felt smooth and satiny against my arm. What little fear I had of these snakes was dispelled, though I do admit to eagerly depositing it outside the house and thoroughly and repeatedly washing my hands.
     There is a reading in the Bible in Numbers 21:6-9 that tells of the Israelites being besieged by venomous snakes after cursing God and Moses for their trying situation of wandering in the wilderness. Moses is directed by God to make a bronze snake and place it on a pole so that anyone who looked upon it could be healed from the bites of the snakes. They had to look upon that which frightened and harmed them.
     Not an easy thing to do, to look at what we fear. A quote by Eleanor Roosevelt is taped to the side of my monitor and reads "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face…You must do the thing which you think you cannot do." At times we must also face the things we think we cannot bear.
     Watching the two garter snakes circling back across the sunny stone walkway I noticed their markings. The female’s coloring was a soft mossy green and the male’s bright lime; they were a mating pair. Steadily they made their way closer to where I sat and hesitating for a moment reentered their den under the wood-framed garden.
     I returned to my weeding and know that seeing fear for what it really is helps me to also see the blessings in being afraid: being blessed with a growing confidence in reacting appropriately, taking lessons of courage into other areas, gaining mastery over an emotion God has instilled, discovering how quickly and concisely I can pray in the heat of the moment (a skill most mothers develop in short order).
I also realized that the pair of garter snakes would soon be multiplying their blessings to me in the garden with their babies. I doubt my housemate will ever mow the back lawn again.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Lent 2012, Good Friday

Fast from sin; turn to virtue

                If you are reading this about fasting from sin then it is doubtful that you feast upon sinning. More than likely you are like most people that trip and slip into sin with your virtue falling face first into the mud of life. Yeah…me too.
                The thing about sinning that has always left me feeling a bit confused is that I (we) cannot not sin. It is after I’ve messed up that I draw closer to God, and by seeking him delight him…but my sinning doesn’t delight him…but I can’t not sin…and I try to be virtuous…and…well…on it goes. So I go to confession regularly and try repeatedly to “avoid the near occasion of sin” knowing full well that I will be back in a couple of weeks to reconcile all over again. And God is pleased.
                It is when I am focused on God’s third-day-creations that sifting through my failures or successes at virtuousness becomes apparent.  There is something about looking at a rampant vine that helps me realize that there are multiple influences twisting my actions or inactivity. It is in the quiet of the moment while in prayer that I am able to work backwards from the branching and vining to the root and see the origins of virtue gone astray.
                I find too that grubbing in the soil with dirty hands and muddy knees helps to literally unearth what is buried deep within me, things like resentments, unforgiving of past hurts, and pride. There is a patience needed to working soil, which is especially true with a patch of hardened clay or shifting sand. A hardened part of my heart may take months to soften. A slippery sandy slope of stubborn self-righteousness usually takes longer. As most gardeners know, amending soil isn’t a singular effort, nor is amending a soul.
                I have always found a comfort in parables that reference nature. Like most people, and especially those who garden or farm, these stories are the easiest to contemplate and apply to our own personal lives. They make it easy to understand how to grow our virtues. And ultimately to create “a garden in which our Lord can take his delight.”  

                Thank you for sharing in my Lenten Journey. May God be always praised.