f Morning Rose Prayer Gardens: 06/01/2012 - 07/01/2012

Friday, June 29, 2012

Summer 2012 Greehousing

Greenhouse Growing 
Greenhouses were great places to play hide-and-seek. My favorite place to hide as a child was under the wooden benches. I would walk between rows of benches and when nobody was looking, drop to my hands and knees scooching underneath into the tunnel-like structure. I could crawl along the length of the bench, about the width of a city block, but usually I stopped mid way. Lying on my side against the cool, hard-packed ground, I would look around under the wavy black ceiling of the benches. The surreal scene of distant legs and feet slowly moving to and fro as workers tended the crop made me giggle.
My family’s business was greenhousing, having been located a mile and a half outside Detroit in Ferndale. The store front was on Hilton Road. On Orchard St. there was about an acre under glass, three city lots of creosote-covered cold frames and two more lots of open field for planting-out. At the back of all this, on Lewiston Ave., was a garage as big as a pole barn and a cement pad for the numerous semi trucks that arrived from late autumn through early summer.
I was a child then and loved the benches of colorful flowers. There was the winter crop of gold toned cutting mums for floral shops, next came vibrant reds, pinks, and white geraniums. The rainbow myriad of annual flats ended the growing season.
Years later while living with my grandmother I learned that my father had sold the business, more precisely the land. Neither of his sons had wanted to follow in his footsteps, and asking a daughter would never have occurred to him. The greenhouses, family homes and all the structures were leveled. My heart broke as I watched the tons of brick and glass rubble bulldozed to the center of the property.
 Several decades passed and when the economy plummeted, I lost my job and retuned to my first love, greenhousing. Nothing compares to the clean, humid, oxygenated air found in a plant-filled greenhouse. There is a sense of accomplishment at the end of a growing season when the thousands of flats seeded up in February are sold. The customers, grateful for flats of flowers and vegetables, shared their stories about future gardens as they shopped and waited in line to pay.
One customer was having problems with plants and asked for my expertise, inviting me to her home. The single glass-framed hothouse was attached off the dining room. Her beautiful collection of common and exotic plants showed minor fungal infections and mites. I made suggestions for resolving these issues, marveled at her collection and complimented her on her skills. And that was that.
Driving home I realized that the plants she grew were not intended to ever leave the hothouse. They were there for her pleasure and those whom she chose to invite in. I thought about the difference between her and me on the view of the purpose of plants. Each of our collections was no less beautiful than the other’s. The difference is that hers were held close and what I grew went out.
Sharing our faith can be expressed in much the same way; a greenhouse versus a hothouse. In both there is growth and sharing, but one, the greenhouse, releases that beauty into the community. We can share our faith with only those whom we invite in or we can release it and let it go and grow in our world.
I no longer work greenhouses but fondly remember those years working at Beck’s Flowers in Jackson and growing plants that were shared with a clan of gardeners. I like the idea of sharing what I love with others, beginners or otherwise.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer 2012 Effort

Not So Effortless

                The annoyances this morning challenged me, and by all indication my attitude needed adjusting. It took a while yanking at weeds to calm my agitation.
                Before heading for the retreat center, nearly an hour drive away, I needed to fill the car with gas. The pre-pay pumps were rarely an issue, but this time my debit card would not authorize. The scratchy voice from the metal speaker, just above the ticker screen advertising super-sized drinks for 99¢, said I needed to come inside to the register.
                I had pulled up to Pump-8 at the far end for quick reentry onto the main road. It was, of course, the furthest from the cashier. I trudged the distance and stood in line behind six other customers. The name badge of the woman behind the counter clarified why the wait was so long, Elise was in training.
My exasperation grew when I learned that she didn’t know how to override the pump and I would have to pay cash. Money on the counter, I trudged back to the car, filled it, and trudged again to the cashier to wait in line for the change. Heading back across the pad for the fourth time I wondered if I had done my mile walk for the day.
Finally back on the highway and running just a few minutes late, I began making mental notes of how to work the grounds efficiently with the volunteers. Most of the workers were retirees so we only labored for about two hours, cleaned up for thirty minutes, enjoyed lunch and they all went home.
Driving along I saw a silver van in my mirrors coming up quickly. When the vehicle, a Dodge Caravan twice the size of my little Ford wagon, was nearly past it suddenly veered into my lane and slowed. I hit the brakes hard, glanced into the rear-view mirror and saw the cars behind me also start to brake, then my car began to swerve but I quickly regained control. We all nearly collided.
Pulling around the now slowed Caravan I looked to the driver. She was cluelessly laughing into a cell phone held to her head. Twice in less than a month, while I was on the road, a young woman with a cell had aged me by ten years.
Already behind schedule and knowing I had to pick up items to repair the hoses at the center, I exited the highway and headed for Wal-Mart. Shooting into a parking spot, I dashed into the store as fast as a five-foot full-bodied woman could. Nabbing a plastic carrier I moved quickly to Lawn & Garden, grabbed male and female couplings, washers, plastic hose menders and shut-offs. Coming around the other end of the isle I headed to one of the only two registers open in the store.
This quick stop wasn’t going to be so quick either. I waited with my less-than-10-items behind two other customers as the cashier slowly scanned the groceries of an apparent friend of hers from who-knows-where. The next thing I knew a wailing infant pulled up behind me, his screams were deafening. The poor mother, in pajama bottoms, Crocs and daddy’s t-shirt looked desperate with a screaming baby in the seat, a whining three-year-old throwing a fit at her side and a mountainous cart of groceries.
Pity is not a good thing, but I did her, and stepped aside so she would be the next in line.
Things were not much better when I finally pulled into the retreat center. I was nearly twenty minutes late and it was duly noted by those searching for me on-site. The wheelbarrow had a flat, the tool I needed was at home, and someone had blocked our shelving in the pole barn with bins of oil and tractor parts. Eventually things were sorted out, duties assigned and we all headed out to the gardens. I was grateful to be able to work alone a fair distance from the others.
Not long ago I had read a piece by St. Claude de la Colombriere, a Jesuit priest in the seventeenth century, which spoke of turning our hearts to God during the hundred small annoyances we face every day. These aggravations can be created by others or by ourselves and help train us to face those more challenging issues to our morals. This morning that reading hit home. The past few hours were not about mounting an effort for a single heroic virtue. Rather, it was about practicing small charitable acts in the face of exasperation and frustrations. Somehow I had managed to keep the coarse words to myself, my attitude in check and impatience undetected.
Although, I do think I exhibited heroic virtue in not expressing myself symbolically to the driver of the silver Dodge Caravan.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Summer 2012 Breezy Day

A Breezy Day

           The wind is a strong and steady breeze and at times gusts to a moderate gale. It’s June and the trees have an entire canopy of leaves that catch the full force of the wind. Their limbs shudder and bend with each assault. My grandmother would call a day like this “busy”; everything is in motion.
I love the way the trees move and sway. The larger conifers at the back of the yard move in a rocking motion like the elderly at a dance. The movement of the nearby Honey Locust, with its multiple narrow half-inch leaves, creates a smooth and whipping motion. It reminds me of a young girl’s hair as she races by on horseback.
There are a lot of things racing by. The bright red petals of the poppies detach from their stalks and flame across the lawn. The small dried flowers of the lilac pepper the air so that you can’t tell the difference between them and the sudden spray of sand chafing the face. And the paper litter from the neighbor’s yard races with the cars down the road.
Most of the smaller birds are hiding in the shrubs, clutching onto branches for dear life. Even the brave and defiant hummingbirds that venture out are flying low. A few birds, like grackles and robins shoot across the sky like unguided rockets, a tumble of wings and feathers.
Higher up, above the treetops the larger birds brave the forceful currents more skillfully. They face into the wind, swooping and ascending, with wings extended and feathers spread wide. Managing the fullness of each new gust they glide in a dance with an invisible partner. I imagine that if beaks could smile, theirs would in utter joy.
The wind like the Will of God can carry us aloft. We learn how to float in a dance with our partner. And sometimes hold fast to the Lord when the currents of the Spirit are beyond our human understanding. But when we gain the confidence to embrace God’s Will, our lives will seem as a grace filled waltz. And oh, how we can rejoice in that powerful holy dance. Swooping and ascending like the angels, we are caught up in the movement and presence of our God.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Summer 2012 Leaves

Leaves in the Rain

                A low rumble of thunder woke me. The weather station had correctly predicted rain by 6:00 a.m. Sitting-up on the edge of the bed I listened to the morning rainfall starting to plink on the metal awnings. I threaded my arms through the sleeves of my robe and headed for the kitchen, noting how the dampness had made my joints markedly stiffer.
                With a cup of coffee in hand, I ambled to the upholstered chair, set the coffee aside and slid open both windows. The fresh, cool air caused the sheer curtains to billow as it entered the house. I was greeted by a heavy whispering sound as raindrops landed on the leaves of the old apple tree. The aged Northern Spy’s distorted limbs passed so near to my second story window that I could easily reach out and shake them.
The foliage seemed to dance as big drops of rain splattered heavily against its parched and upturned leaves. The rainwater gained momentum as it moved in small rivulets down the outer tips of the limbs to the leaves below.
There were a lot of leaves on that old tree. The leaves toward the center were less soiled and reflected a richer green. Those innermost leaves received the rain too, but shimmied less from the now increasing downpour.
The tree was not far from the road so all of the leaves were sullied. The leaves that were dirtiest, in more need of the cleansing rain, were at the outer edge of the limbs. They were more exposed, less sheltered—or cloistered—by the protective canopy. They were also the ones that danced the most as the process of being made clean was taking place.
Something inside me stirred as I watched the purification of the dry and dusty leaves. There was a familiar parable to the event occurring outside the window. All of our souls need cleansing—those that are exposed and those that are cloistered—all need to be refreshed. And that freshening is brought about by washing away transgressions. The soul dances with the cleansing of Confession, its reconciliation to God.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Summer 2012

Garden Apron

               The dark tan canvas apron hung in the shed for years.
       When the apron was first purchased the ties that crisscrossed the back from the shoulders to around the waist could encompass my middle twice and tie in front. Many years later I surrendered to being a bit thicker with maturity and tied it in the back.
                I was in my twenties when I bought the apron. Thirty-some years ago, the pockets in women’s jeans were not deep enough for small tools, and they didn’t hold much more than a hankie. Cargo pants were not yet available outside of military issue. The only sturdy aprons available were for roofers, and those pockets too were not suited for carrying garden tools. Searching through commercial clothing catalogs, since there was no Internet then, I eventually found what was needed.
                It was an apron not for the faint of heart. The cotton canvas material was rather thick, stiff and warm. Perfect for cool spring days, but in the heat of summer, rather than wearing the apron I often dragged it across the ground or stretch it between the handles of a wheelbarrow.
                I never thought much about that apron until now. It was a tool that was well loved and well used. It held not only pruners, hand saws, knives and trowels but also assorted sprays for repelling bugs or packages of fertilizers…which often tore open due to the aforementioned tools. The pockets would carry seeds and bulbs for planting in the spring, and handfuls of flower heads collected in the fall.
Each winter when it was too cold to do much in the gardens, the apron would get its yearly laundering. Turning it upside down and holding the straps, I would smack it vigorously against a tree trunk to knock off embedded dirt and free whatever had accumulated deep in the pockets. Once cleaned, it would then do double duty indoors as I attended to household painting, repairs or working with stained glass.
The apron carried more than physical elements for the garden. It also held a gardener’s expectation for renewed life, something not easily attained. It takes work and dedication that is fed by love to keep a garden growing and well. Gardeners work and sweat against the elements and with the flow of nature. Over the years we may lose a few battles as when there is a hard freeze late in the season, a drought ensues, or when hail storms level what was once beautiful. Picking up our tools, we start again fully accepting the occurrence and trusting in the future.
That garden apron was a visible sign. It was a symbol of a frayed and worn hope—a hope for renewal, of trust, and a confidence that we can work through whatever befalls us.
Eventually after years of service that cotton canvas apron was beyond repair. The pockets were more holes than material and the UV from the sun had weakened what remained of the fiber. One day late in June I cut it into pieces for composting and returned it to the earth…a very fitting end for a well worn life.