The night sky with its gentle breeze and the sun moving further down the horizon couldn’t have provided a more perfect night to be outside. And the place outside I love to be in the summer is always the garden. Full days with two children under 4 doesn’t leave much time to garden during the day. Unless I want to be constantly chasing the almost-two-year-old and checking to make sure he doesn’t run in the street, my garden time is better suited for the evenings when they’re fast asleep.
A few nights ago provided the perfect backdrop. My dog keeps me company while I weed or plant. Sometimes I simply admire the produce before my eyes. The birds splash in the bath or poke for seeds in the grass. Life surrounds me in all its beauty and abundance. With a number of years now under my belt as a gardener, I find that each year and each season provides lessons anew. Today I share a few of those lessons from the garden.
“Peas, Mama?” It’s been the same every morning since my mother planted peas in our garden. My children want to enjoy their goodness. Once the first seed was planted we told them to keep watch for the peas. To see them grow. And so many times when we’re outside both kids will walk to the garden and look for the peas. We waited for the first sign of life to burst through the soil. We watered. We gave thanks for the sun’s warmth. Each time we checked we saw a bit more growth. Yet it’s never soon enough for me. I like to see results, but gardening is opening my eyes to slow growth and trust in the process. Through my children’s eyes I see the joy in anticipation and the hope for what is to come. Like them I wait and marvel at God’s creation unfolding before our eyes.
Garden envy is real. We live in a town where people take the land and their gardens seriously. Beginning in February people are planning the seasons crops, and when an especially warm day presents itself they’re working the soil. I’m surrounded by master gardeners and people who have the time to cultivate the land and their plants. I have neither the expertise or the time, but I’m learning. And I’m trying. So when I look at someone else’s garden and see no weeds and abundant produce, I tend to get jealous. That is until I look at my garden and see what’s there too. When I have eyes to see the beauty (even amidst the weeds) of my own garden I’m more likely to celebrate someone else’s garden. More importantly, I’m able to see that we’re all in this together. The work of sowing, planting, and caring for the earth belongs to all of us and is meant to be celebrated together.
Take your time
I tend to move quickly and like to get things done so when I’m planting or preparing the beds, my normal mode is to be as efficient as possible and move on to the next task. This means that my tomato plants curve a bit rather than form a straight line. And sometimes in my haste to pick weeds I only grab the tops rather than the roots. I don’t scatter the straw as evenly as possible to keep the weeds from growing again. But over the years I’ve learned to savor the process of gardening. To actually take the time with each plant and row. To measure more carefully. To stay in one area and rid of weeds instead of bouncing all around. The garden is teaching me to slow down and embrace the task at hand – one weed, one plant, and one seed at a time. In slowing down in the garden I am able to give thanks for each of God’s marvelous creations.
So wherever you are, in whatever season you find yourself, turn to the garden. Open your eyes and see what you can learn from the smallest seed about to sprout.
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, MO. You can read more at her website: http://kimberlyknowlezeller.com or follow her work on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KimberlyKnowleZeller/