My Advent Garden is a ‘sign of contradiction’. A few brave pansies and violas promise to brave the winter, as long as the temperature doesn’t fall too low at night. My Shamrocks are still a delight, but who knows how long they will last? I had to cut back the Desert Bird of Paradise shrubs (pictured upper right). They look dead now, but beneath the surface, they are preparing to offer a profusion of orange and yellow blossoms next year.
In the desert, the cold is a welcome change from the sizzling heat of summer. I miss my flowers, but I am grateful for this quiet time of waiting. I am grateful for this time of preparing for the Life to come.
There are a few golden leaves, but for the most part my garden is still having its last hurrah. The lobelia still bloom, as well as the geraniums and my undefeatable petunia plant. Fresh herbs from my pots still grace my culinary experiments.
The doves that abandoned my garden for a few years have now returned with their extended families. Who knows why?
Every living thing in the garden is all the more precious in light of the change to come.
There is something about being in a garden that changes us. Whether or not we name it, we sense the presence of the Creator. It is as if there is a wonderful secret all around us that eludes our minds but speaks to our senses.
On this Solemnity of Pentecost, the poetic beauty of Psalm 104 glorifies the Creator and all of creation. Here are a few lines from the beginning of the Psalm:
"....O LORD my God, you are very great. You are clothed with honor and majesty, wrapped in light as with a garment. You stretch out the heavens like a tent, you set the beams of your chambers on the waters, you make the clouds your chariot, you ride on the wings of the wind, you make the winds your messengers, fire and flame your ministers...." (Ps. 104: 1b-4, NRSV Catholic Ed.)
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and we shall be recreated, and you will renew the face of the earth! (Traditional Catholic Prayer)
Several years ago when we repainted the stucco, we added a
tiled picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe to one of the courtyard walls. Later, when I became serious about turning
the courtyard into a garden, I began
to think of it as “Mary’s Garden” – perhaps because I have long held an image
in my mind of a lovely garden filled with flowers that I walk through on my way
to see the Lord. I have always thought
of this image in my mind as “Mary Garden.”
My courtyard garden is a pale reflection of my image, but I am happy to
dedicate it to “Our Lady,” who said “yes” to the Incarnation of the Savior on
behalf of us all.
Today is the Feast of the Visitation. The newly pregnant Virgin sets out and travels to the hill country to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who is also pregnant and in her sixth month. When Elizabeth sees Mary, the infant John leaps for joy in her womb. Then, in response to Elizabeth’s greeting, Mary utters her Magnificat: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed….” (Luke 1:46-48)
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)
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.