Saturday, June 30, 2007


How woefully easy it is to misplace our priorities and temporarily lose our sense of gratitude. Perhaps I should write that opening sentence in the first person singular but I have a feeling that the affliction is more or less common to most of us from time to time. It has been a problem for me this last month for one reason and another and might explain why June has surprised me with its fleeting swiftness. I am left wondering how this year's June has come and gone so quickly. Perhaps I was not paying enough attention. Perhaps I was too immersed in wishing for a way of life that was not my own to revel in the wonders of the here and now.

For a couple of reasons, I knew that when I started my new job with a local land conservancy I would likely keep company with a struggle that has been a companion for most of my adult life. It has been simmering under the surface for the last few weeks and, as is often the case, I did not recognize it for what it was until a couple days ago. Covetousness, or wishing for what is not ours, is unsettling and even deadening if not rooted out. I let myself slip back into it without recognising its symptoms. One of these days I would like to report that this companion and I have parted ways, but I don't hold out much hope for that. Instead, I hope to be infused with a pervasive spirit of thankfulness that does not succumb to the longing for more.

The liberating moment of truth came through an encounter with a tiny creature while I was gardening for one of my clients two days ago. These people have a beautiful 60 acre farm with old restored house, barn and lands and I garden for them every week. As I was on my knees weeding under some tall pines, up hill from the waterfall and pond they have installed, I found myself in tears and the mental dam finally burst and let me see what had been affecting most of my waking hours of late. The reality is that I am never going to have the financial resources that these landowners have. Nor will I have the resources and land of many of my friends, no matter how much I may wish to. My husband and I made different vocational choices early in our lives and there is no point in decrying the fact that we are not going to ever be wealthy.

After having my moment of anger much, I am sorry to say, like a small child stamping their foot I happened to catch a glimpse of movement, just under my hand. Through my tears I saw a tiny brown frog, not much larger than my thumbnail, making his way past me and on up the hill, completely oblivious to my anguish. I stopped to watch and realized once again that sights like this are all around me if I will just pay attention. I was filled with gratitude for having been in just the right place at just the right time to see that little frog making his way in the world.

I had to shake my head and chuckle at God and His ways. As is so often the case, He brought me to an awareness of my struggle as I was outside and interacting with the natural world. And then, after giving me just enough time to repent, He brought the means of healing and restoration through one of His creatures. This tiny one reminded me that wealth, at least for me, is to be found in entering into the wonders of Creation. I can do that no matter where I am and what I am doing. This wealth is free.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

My Calling

My daughter and I had an interesting discussion yesterday regarding the occupations to which we are called and the methods by which we discern that calling. Often times, maybe most times, figuring out our direction is a lesson in trial and error, in patience and trust. Patience as we sift through the many "good things" from which we may choose and trust that the answers will materialize as we pay attention to the leadings that speak to us from within.

This matter has been echoing in my mind as I think about my gardening business. "Annie's Gardens" is a very small enterprise serving a handful of clients who need or want help with their properties. Some of my clients are older people who have loved gardens but are no longer able to care for their flowers and yards. Some have properties that are just too big to care for alone and appreciate a helping hand. Each family is different and it is a privilege to be involved in their lives and working among their plants. Truth be told, however, being a gardener is more than a privilege, it is the fulfillment of a long-time quest. For most of my adult life I have been searching for a means by which I could serve people or at least bring some good into their lives. The trouble was that most of what I have tried over the years has turned out to be more draining than fulfilling and I have realized that I was not suited to most of the roles I had assumed, good as my intentions may have been. Such is the usual outcome of working from what we think we 'should' be doing, rather than simply from who we are.

I have found that just by taking care of people's gardens I can bring beauty and joy to hearts who need it. And the reciprocal is also true. As I tend and care for their plants and soil my own spirit is blessed and fed, as well. A new project I'll be starting soon is a good example of how this works out. I have a dear friend who has a dear 90 year old mother who, though intellectually and emotionally alert, is seldom able to leave the confines of her home. But the fact that she can and does enjoy looking out her windows has been the recent inspiration for the new butterfly garden we are poised to install. As impatient as a child waiting to open an intriguingly wrapped present, I can't wait to see the transformation of that myrtle-covered patch of ground in front of the porch into the riotous color of blooms and wings. To know that my friend's mom will be able to watch the display from her indoor vantage point just makes me smile and gives me a sense of accomplishment and gratitude and even of giddiness. I believe it is safe to say that when one feels that way about their work chances are good that they are, indeed, working within their calling.

As a last favorite line from the whole Lord of the Rings series comes as Prince Faramir, having imprisoned Sam and Frodo in a cave while on their way to Mordor, questions Frodo. When Sam indignantly challenges Faramir's right to threaten Frodo, Faramir asks, "Who is this, your bodyguard?" And Sam belligerently declares, as though the answer should be obvious, "No, I am his gardener!" And indeed, who could be more noble, more steadfast and more faithful than he or she who tends the earth with deliberate care. "Tending the Garden" was our first charge and responsibility. No wonder I am at home there.