In Southern New Mexico, most farmers still use the ancient method of flood irrigation to water their fields and pecan groves. The Rio Grande River runs from north to south down the center of the state before turning east and forming part of the border between Texas and Mexico. Water is pumped from the river or wells into the mother canals and from there into smaller canals. The farmers open their gates along the way, and water rushes into the fields and floods the land.
This reminds me of St. Teresa of Avila’s analogy of the four ways that she obtained the waters of grace in prayer. In the first, she had to exert a lot of effort to draw water from the well to water the garden of her soul. In the second, devices such as the crank of a water wheel or an aqueduct allowed her to obtain more grace with less effort. (God’s help became more apparent.) In the third, her garden was irrigated with flowing water from a river or spring. (She became even more aware of God’s grace in prayer.) And finally, the Lord poured an abundance of grace on the garden of her soul with no effort on her part at all. (See The Book of Her Life, Chapter 11 et al.)
Since our gardens always need water, may God grant us the
grace to continue in prayer when it requires a lot of effort. And may He grant us the wisdom to open our
gates when He abundantly offers His gifts.
In my garden, there is a shady corner. It’s a place of refuge from the scorching sun and dusty winds.
In my daily life, the time I spend in prayer is my shady corner. There, I can let go of my cares and distractions, or at least, I can try to. I can ask pardon for my failings and experience the peace that comes from acknowledging them. I can pray for the people I love, and I can pray for the world. Best of all, I can simply enjoy the presence of the Lord who never leaves those who love Him and seek Him with a sincere heart.
In my garden, desert toads burrow into the ground and hibernate during the dry spells, only to emerge when the monsoon rains soak the soil in July and August. The garden of my soul has some hidden toads as well. I consider myself to be a happy person. I am at peace with the major mistakes of my life and grateful for my many blessings. Once in a while, though, a hidden toad emerges from the depths of my soul — the hurt from an old wound or an old irritation that should have been forgotten. I am always surprised when these hidden toads come to light. Like the desert toad, my hidden toads can exude toxins. They always bring a period of suffering, but the Lord eventually heals me, and then I find myself freer than I was before. That’s a good thing. Yet, I can’t help but wonder. Are there still more toads hidden in my garden?
After we retired, my husband and I discovered that we loved art. Each piece that we added to our walls added a new dimension of beauty to our lives.
I am attracted to beauty – the beauty of Carmelite spirituality, the inner beauty of the people I love, the beauty of nature and the garden, and last but not least, the beauty of art. Everything beautiful reminds me of God. Pictured above are a few of my favorites: “Blue Tutus” by Eric Wallis, “After the Mass” by Chuck Mardosz, “Embudo Bounty” by James Trigg, and “Texas Tapestry” by Eric Michaels.
Although I love to look at pictures of exotic gardens with unusual plants, my own garden is a humble garden. I am content with geraniums, nasturtiums, lobelia, and of course, the humble petunia. The one pictured above is a survivor. I planted it last year, and it survived the winter down to 18° F. It didn’t grow during the cold season, but it remained green, and as soon as spring came, it grew so tall and blossomed so abundantly that it became top heavy and I had to cut it back almost to the ground. Undeterred, it is growing again, promising to be as prolific as ever. It reminds me of a quote by St. Therese of Lisieux: “The brilliance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not lessen the perfume of the violet or the sweet simplicity of the daisy….If all the lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would lose its springtide beauty, and the fields would no longer be enameled with lovely hues….” (From The Story of a Soul)
A few years ago, my husband and I bought a lot that included 33 mature pecan trees. When the pecans ripened in December, I experienced the wonder of gathering food that fell from above. This was a new experience for me, since I had never lived on a farm or even planted a vegetable garden. I didn’t mind bending and stooping to search through the dry leaves for the pecans, though I was sore for several days afterwards. One tree in particular produced so many pecans that I thought I could live on them for a year. I probably couldn’t have, but so it seemed at the time. We eventually sold the lot, so I only experienced that one abundant harvest. I treasure the memory.
Now it is May, and the pecan trees at the Carmelite Monastery have just come into leaf. It will be seven months before this year’s crop is ready for harvest, but the promise is already here. The earth is full of the goodness of God.
When I was younger I didn’t have much use for shade gardens. Too much green. Not enough flowers. Now that I am older, I have come to appreciate the plants that grow in the shade. Though less flashy than their sun-loving cousins, there is variety in the shapes and sizes of the leaves and in the shades of green. Because the flowers are less frequent, they are all the more precious. A shade garden doesn’t shout. It whispers.
I often think about the mystery of time. God is outside of time, yet God dwells with us within time. How can anyone understand this?
More than anything else, time seems to be a grace. Day follows day. Season follows season. We unfurl our petals so gradually that we can only glimpse the meaning of the process in retrospect. We can only see the lessons learned from joy and suffering, success and failure, after we have had enough time to process and understand the fruits of our experiences.
Time also brings decline and dissolution. Another mystery. Yet, every year spring brings new hope.
It’s always a pleasure to wander through someone else’s garden. I love the wilderness flavor of this one, which was created by some neighbors who have become good friends. Their garden has a whimsical quality to it, a sort of ordered chaos. Walking through their garden gives me a whole new understanding of my friends. There is deep, abiding creativity here.