Resting the spirit in the garden

Peace roseWe must cultivate our own garden. When man was put in the garden of Eden he was put there so that he should work, which proves that man was not born to rest.— Voltaire

Nothing against rest, you understand, right?  Coming off of a three-day weekend, I can vouch for the benefits of rest.  But, there are different kinds of rest, and I hardly lack the physical kind.  Mine is the need for mental rest.

I have noticed that while working at my job, at my computer, studying technical information and engineered drawings and schematics, my mind is usually alert to every detail.  It requires concentrating all my mental resources on one focal point for several minutes, or sometimes hours, without lifting my eyes from the page.  Over the years, concentrating on such details has become less and less stressful, because I’ve become accustomed to it.  I can steal two or three minutes between drawings and projects, take a quick walk around the office, and I’m ready to go on to the next one with all my resources.

But, when weekends get here, the thing I long for most is to relax my head, and take in sunshine, good food, and the warmth of my wife and dogs, who are always willing, it seems, to accommodate.

Gardening is a special place set aside in my psyche that tires me physically and relaxes me mentally, the perfect prescription for the spiritual experience of powers beyond my understanding.  It is meditational, yet it is as physically basic as anything a person can do.

From out of nowhere, it seems, rest comes, the mind recovers, and the body comes along for the ride.

Source for Voltaire quote: 32 inspirational gardening quotes | MNN – Mother Nature Network

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The spiritual connection: the garden

“Odd as I am sure it will appear to some, I can think of no better form of personal involvement in the cure of the environment than that of gardening. A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world. He is producing something to eat, which makes him somewhat independent of the grocery business, but he is also enlarging, for himself, the meaning of food and the pleasure of eating.” — Wendell Berry

It never fails.  Gardening is both physically taxing and spiritually rewarding.

My first day back into the garden after a couple of years of neglect, then abandonment, led to profound soreness this morning as well as a pleasing, and calm, satisfaction.  Unlike the struggles I sometimes have with mental tiredness and the stress of the day’s agenda, the focus on physical labor, applied to the earth, in the cooperative effort between myself and Nature to provide food for my own consumption and to feed the soil, otherwise devoid of nutrients in this suburban wasteland of chemical dependence, is invigorating and inspirational.

Rather than bemoaning the fact that urban gardening, at least in the beginning, is more about undoing the damage done to Nature through “hurry-up” landscaping and propping up a “magazine-ready” curb appearance, teaming up with natural processes and using the earth’s own medicine produces an optimistic calm in the face of devastating opposition, the essence of joy.

The link to gardening is not lost on me.  The decision to eat a plant-based, cruelty-free diet, permanently, has brought my focus upon “the meaning of food and the pleasure of eating.”

It is a spiritual exercise, though it’s the muscles that ache this morning!

Source for Wendell Berry quote at header: 32 inspirational gardening quotes | MNN – Mother Nature Network

Learning the hard way

I’m very near 60 years old, less than a year away, and I can vouch for the truth in this simple poem.  The things I’ve enjoyed most are not the things that have taught me the most.  The harder-learned lessons, however, are a joy unto themselves.  Thanks, universe!

I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow,
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When sorrow walked with me.

-Robert Browning Hamilton

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Beauty

While at a dinner party at La Calle Doce in Dallas, we saw this beautiful girl celebrating her First Communion.  Her parents were very gracious in allowing me to intrude long enough to have them pose for this picture.  Just look at the contented faces and smiles of her parents.  This is beauty.

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Redemption

I’ve been thinking a lot today about redemption, especially about the many, many times in my life I have personally been forgiven for things I have carelessly, or sometimes purposely, done that have brought unnecessary pain or troubles to others. In the whole course of life, there have been far too many. The experience of grace is a cleansing of soul and spirit.

Redemption comes in many places. In my life I have experienced it from my wife and daughter, my mother and siblings, and from friends who continue to bless me with simple kindnesses and warm relationships. I become aware of these redemptive moments in the quiet spaces I have created for myself while reading, gardening, cooking, driving, writing, or simply chilling with my hands petting a dog on each side where I am sitting. Grace is truly amazing!

Serenity

Over against the world with all its turbulence, distraction and worry,
one should cultivate a style of mind that can reach through to an inner
stillness and calm.  The world cannot ruffle the dignity of a soul that dwells
in its own tranquility.  Gradually, this serenity will begin to pervade our
seeing and change the way we look at things.

John O’Donohue, Beauty: The Invisible Embrace

Beauty in the garden and in the spirit

“Our deepest self-knowledge unfolds as we are embraced by Beauty.”

John O’Donohue, from Beauty: The Invisible Embrace

Looking at some old garden pictures, these massive sunflowers are from my summer of 2011 seedings.  Caught up in the warm and wonderful memories of my childhood, when these grew wild in back of our suburban home in Dallas, in 2011 I tried to recreate the warmth and beauty of the fondest of my childhood memories of home.  These grew to about 80 inches tall and were loaded with seeds for the birds to eat.

Spirituality and gardening have a superior connection in my life.  Reading from John O’Donohue’s books assures me that I’m not alone in this experience.

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