I sit on the back porch in my comfortable old wicker chair, my mug of freshly brewed coffee at hand, and listen to the early morning concert of birdsong. The past few weeks have gone by in a blur -- too much work and too little time for these quiet moments of introspection which are so essential to my emotional well-being. April has passed quickly, and my lovely garden has gone from tiny sprouts dotting the brown soil to a landscape of tender green plants, with colorful patches of spring flowers. The trees are a froth of tiny leaves, which will soon provide a soothing canopy of shade.
I feel closest to God in my garden. This miracle of rebirth each April is a tremendous reassurance of our own immortality. There are numerous lessons to be learned in the garden. Patience was never one of my virtues. However, years of tending tiny new perennials and waiting for them to reach maturity -- holding my breath each spring to see if the purple lilac bush will finally flower, or if the roses will cover the new fence with profuse blooms -- have demanded a patience that now serves me well. There are also lessons of loss. Gardens evolve over time -- a sunny plot becomes shaded by growing trees. Much-loved plants die off, and are often replaced with new surprises carried into the garden on gentle breezes, or by our feathered friends. Yesterday I discovered three rosebushes along the fence that didn't make it through our long winter. I had planted several roses there three years ago, fed them, watered them, pruned them, loved them -- and now these three are gone. Today I will transplant some from another area which has become too shady. But, it will be sad to pull the withered brown stems from the earth -- their lushness now only a memory.
Our gardens are continually at the mercy of the forces of nature. A lovely summer day can suddenly erupt into a hailstorm which destroys acres of crops. A gust of wind can topple the tallest tree, and the landscape is forever altered. A gentle summer rain can nourish a drought-parched garden and save its precious bounty for the season.
The lessons of a garden are often hard-earned, but they are a metaphor of life. We gardeners quickly become aware of how little control we have over our own destiny. Our lives are in God's hands as surely as the flowers in the garden. We are free to dream our dreams and make our choices, and yet God's plan for us is often very different, and our lives can sometimes abruptly take an unwelcome path. We must have faith that we will survive the losses, disappointments and darkness in our lives and know that ultimately the sun will shine on us again and our hearts will lighten. After the cold dark winter, God blesses us with sunshine, flowers, gentle spring breezes and the sweet songs of the birds. There is always hope in the garden.