One Thing Leads to Another

The only things keeping our back fence from falling over were overgrown trumpet vines and termites holding hands. But the day finally dawned in early August when the roll-off dumpster arrived and work began in earnest. Two of the three trumpet vines were removed all together along with the aged, rotting fence and the third one was cut off at the veritable knees with nary a green leaf to suggest it lived. While we were at it – the five most expensive words in any remodelng project – we also removed several other shrubs. Weeks later, we have a beautiful new fence, but parts of the garden look rather barren. So, as often happens, one thing leads to another.

After twenty years of a regular watering schedule, the heavy clay soil in the flower beds was dense and depleted. Bags of soil amendment were slowly dug in with shovel and trowel.  And, eventhough, I’d seriously strained my back a few days before lugging a forty pound bag of Mexican river rocks back to the car after an art workshop, it felt better to be digging, weeding, and planting in the garden than sitting and resting. Little by little, various planters were renewed; the soil was amended, bedding plants added for color, sprinklers adjusted, and snail patrol begun. Each morning I’d wake up excited about what else was left to do. This weekend we finished our front garden remodel with a St Patrick rose bush, a Tuscan Sun tree rose, a Lady Bird tree rose (in bud, but not yet in bloom) all surrounded with blue salvia, lobelia and marigolds.

On Sunday I had the opportunity to share with some friends the great delight I’d enjoyed all week preparing the garden for new flowers despite a very tender back. As our conversation unfolded around a new study on spiritual disciplines, it came to me that my delight was a spiritual stirring relevant to my current life. After a long period of regular watering and growing good stuff, I’m feeling a bit dense and depleted. I’m feeling the need to have my spiritual soil lightened and lifted up by being dug up, amended and planted with things new and beautiful. And like my garden, I’m eagerly patroling my life for the new buds and blooms, shoots and leaves I anticipate. Also keeping an eye out for snails.

Since one thing often leads to another, how has your life been lightened and lifted up by being dug up, amended and replanted of late? Or in the past? Is there a delight stirring in you that you might like to attend to? What are the snails you’re keeping an eye on?

As Henry David Thoreau once said:

Good for the body is the work of the body,
good for the soul is the work of the soul, and
good for either is the work of the other.

I’m looking forward to your comments! They add so much to my garden.

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7 comments to One Thing Leads to Another

  • Deanna J Bowling

    My last “circus act” was several years ago. At least that’s how my Doctor described my “flying out of” our raised flower bed that extends the width of our back yard. There’s a long story about how and why I fell, but leave it to say that if I hadn’t turned in mid air like I did during the “flight”, I might now be a quadriplegic. S-o-o-o-o, I haven’t done any major work in our yard since then.

    When Dede was planning her recent trip to Ethiopia, she talked to a few of the people who help us here at the house, and calendared who would be here and when. One of the people who was supposed to come over and help by watering a couple of times, backed out of the deal after Dede left, and I was left with the responsibility to not allow the plants in our yard to die. Now if you know Dede, she doesn’t exactly have time to be a big time gardner, and we have a yard of wild bermuda grass, that likes to send runners everywhere, especially through the base of plants.

    I decided that not having much else to do, I would do some weeding while watering a few times. The last time I counted them up I had done 23 hours of weeding, cutting, bagging of weeds, etc. I think in total that I spent about 30 hours working in the yard. As you may have also noticed, I haven’t taken any huge falls (done any circus acts) during that time.

    I have been looking for some changes in my life. I didn’t pay attention to what people were telling me about easing my way into retirement – no, me, – and found myself in a mess. Using weeding and watering as metaphors, I was able to during those 23-30 hours, not only clean out our “starting to look like a jungle” in our yard, but also while doing the physical work did some mental work on where I might be going next, especially in the way of what I should discard (weed out).

    As I am discovering, bermuda grass is great where it is designed to be, but not in the middle of other plants. And some of the carry over habits I had developed on my secular job were great there but not as a part of being retired.

    Thank you, Lynne, for the inspiration to write this out.

    Deanna Jean

  • sharron luft

    “Yuk!” was my response to my naked 65 year-old body; I was pooching out in too many places, my veins were a veritable map on my legs, and my neck was in folds sliding down to my chest. It was not good, and cosmetic surgery was not going to happen. But the pooches were fair targets for change. Today, a year and a half later, after changing the way I eat, I’m trim and I have more energy than I’ve had in many years. I’m building muscle and I’m training to do some serious mountain climbing in Colorado next summer. The real change, unplanned and unexpected, happened just this week, following my semi-annual teeth cleaning. Next Monday I’ll have my first working appointment with the orthodontist! I have always hated my crooked teeth and my overbite and I’ve seen an othodontist before, but I submitted to my husband’s preference not to spend money on such a “silly thing”. This time I didn’t ask; I simply said “I am getting my teeth fixed.” I feel great about treating myself well and I’ll continue I’m sure. Why, who knows? Maybe my new mouth will lead to vocal lessons? La-la-la-laaaa!

  • I have been hard at work over the last few years attending at last to what ails me! Old thought patterns and habits are being challenged and removed and new ones encouraged to take hold. It is slow, hard work and there are times when the pain of the very necessary pruning and dead heading seems more than I can bear!

    This summer in particular God has used the work I have been undertaking in my own garden to reassure and encourage me. These words describe one such moment a few weeks ago.

    And the air so still tonight
    And the dusky dark
    As warm as noonday
    And not a breath of wind
    To stir the leaves
    Or cool my cheeks

    And the rose petals falling
    And the house stifling in the heat
    I took myself into the garden
    To remove the dead wood and once ripe blossom heads
    From the fragrant climbing rose

    And as I trimmed and chopped
    And snipped
    I mused on the pleasure to come
    For as surely as the summer dawn
    This bush would offer up another display of blushing rose
    Before the autumn winds
    Blew wild again
    And stole the last few petals left upon the rose heads sweet

    And musing on the blunt stems left by my busy fingers
    I marvelled that from their blindness
    Buds would form and grow
    And every bud would know
    Just how to form and grow
    To make again the sweet display
    I had but lately known

    And I thought me of you my Jesus
    And your transforming grace
    And I was touched by sweet hope
    That when your work is done and all the tangled deadwood of the years
    Is cut away and refined by your holy fire
    Then the green wood exposed
    Will know exactly how to bud
    And grow into blossoms new
    And like my sweet rose
    Will climb up to the heavens
    And fill the still and dusky night
    With fragrance sweet from life
    Borne anew

    And my heart grew quiet
    As I trimmed and chopped
    And snipped
    In the air so still tonight

    Sure enough the rose bush, a Zepherine Drouhin, begins to flower once more. I am still waiting for my new buds to blossom but reading your story reminded me of that hot July evening and the promised healing that will one day be completed in me.

    Thank you for a very timely reminder

  • Lynn Dempsey

    You put this longing for new growth so sacramentally, Lynne, your words were very well received. I have just returned to some classes at the seminary (Synoptics, Art and Theology, Issues at Beginning of Life [medical ethics]), and, believe me, I was dragging my feet over hardened ground. To my surprise I feel myself being led and challenged into digging up my clay — or is that mud?? — and am beginning to feel some kind of bud pushing up that might shine with some new understanding of the Transfiguration with a resonance of Eliot’s “garden” and “rose” in “Four Quartets.” All very unformed and probably would be best to sit on my butt in the soil outside and converse with some of our many weeds.

  • Barbara

    I love your blog…love your garden story, but I do not know how to contribute. My brain needs fertilizer. Badly.

  • Robin Rice

    The family joke has been my “black” thumb. Every plant I touch or even think about dies. For years family members gave me silk or other artificial plants (which I hated, I would rather have no plants at all). This is the year of great changes for me. I quit my job, changed careers, AND started to garden. It is amazing what the change in attitude did for my black thumb. I don’t think I ever really cared about the plants before. Now, I share a peaceful and loving aura with my yard. People who have known me for years visit and say “Robin, your yard looks so wonderful.” Only now that I have some time to myself do I realize how much of me was drained with working and career. I am slightly saddened that perhaps my children and my husband missed out on something, just as the plants did. So I am also focusing on re-working the soil of those interpersonal relationships. Putting more caring and love into them, fertilizing them, checking on them every day, so that they can grow and re-bloom.

  • Deanna J Bowling

    As a follow-up, I was hurt that night from the fall, though again not any where near to the extent that I could have been. What’s the saying – it’s not the fall that hurts you, but rather the landing. I remember quite a thud when I hit the ground, my air being knocked out of me, and the muscles in my back going into an immediate major spasm. X-rays later disclosed stress fractures to skin of two of the vertebrate at my waste.

    It was getting dark when I fell, so I layed there until Dede found me (not too long). When I told her I couldn’t move, she at my request called the fire department. I live in a culdesac (sp?), and the fire truck, ambulance, police vehicle, etc. who showed up caused quite a stir.

    It just so happened that I already knew one of the firemen who showed up. I had with nine others taken a Crown Ministries class maybe a couple of years before that evening. Jeff (the fireman’s name who I knew), his wife and I were three of the students. At the time of the class Jeff and his wife were trying to have children. They had already suffered one misscarriage, and suffered a second one during the time we were taking the class. I remember all of us gathering around them, and loving and caring for them.

    I see Jeff every once in awhile – he serves out of the fire station on Telephone down the street from EPC, and he and his family live north of where I do a few blocks. I often see him at Albertson’s, but today say him at Subway, after church. Jeff is about 6’4″ or 6’5″ tall. He told me that his oldest child, they eventually were able to have two children by natural birth, is now up to his shoulder, and the youngest above his waist.

    It’s great when life circles around, first we cared for he and his wife, and he cared for me. When I told him I had written about that night when i fell, he got a big smile on his face.

    You just never know …

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