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It all takes place in a garden

By Cami Mann

We never outgrow playing in the dirt. Spring is evidence of this: We plant gardens, populate flower pots and reseed patches in the yard that have been worn thin by the winter snows.

There is something exciting and liberating in the newness of our garden each spring. I experience a visceral, deep-seated, joyful expectancy as I place each seed in the damp, dark soil. With diligent, tender care, these seeds provide the foundation of our summer gatherings. They will inspire meals that will be shared around a table frequently occupied by family and friends; blessings will be offered, ideas exchanged, stories shared, love given and received. Their green, yellow and red foliage will border the backyard space where candles softly flicker as guests lounge with a glass of wine in hand while the evening sky bursts forth the brilliant light of its final surrender as the sun dips below the horizon, leaving only the cool of the evening and low din of summer insects in its wake. Our garden is the heartbeat that pulses through the cycle of my life every spring, summer, fall and winter. Pope Francis, in his second papal encyclical, Laudato Si’, (Care for Our Common Home), states: “The creation accounts in the Book of Genesis contain, in their own symbolic and narrative language, profound teachings about human existence and its historical reality. They suggest that human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbor and with the earth itself.” (LS 12) So, I am not surprised that our garden evokes such deep emotion and fosters communal intimacy. God first revealed his love and mercy through creation. “St. Francis, faithful to Scripture, invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness. ‘Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker’ (Wis 13:5); indeed, ‘his eternal power and divinity have been made known through his works since the creation of the world’ (Rm 1:20).” (LS 12) Our garden is, thereby, an extension of God’s love and mercy, expressed through compassionate care for it and sharing its abundance with others.
 
Laudato Si’, dated May 24, 2015, the solemnity of Pentecost, and released on June 18, 2015, marks its one-year anniversary this month. It seems befitting to read it, reflect on it and pray with it as we immerse ourselves in the tasks of caring and tending to yards, flowerbeds and gardens.
 
Pope Francis reminds us, “We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us ... The biblical texts are to be read in their context, with an appropriate hermeneutic, recognizing that they tell us to ‘till and keep’ the garden of the world. (cf. Gen 2:15) ‘Tilling’ refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while ‘keeping’ means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature…‘The earth is the Lord’s’ (Ps 24:1); to him belongs ‘the earth with all that is within it’ (Dt 10:14).” (LS 67) It seems for many of us we can go an entire day – or longer – without noticing God’s grandeur revealed in the natural world. Our lives, which, by inherent design, are structured by the cycles of the days and seasons, seem to be mastered by alarm clocks and schedules. Take a vacation from the “to-do list,” step outside, feel the warmth of the sun, breathe deep the fragrance of springtime and bask in the revelation of God’s love and mercy.
 
It all began in a garden. It all continues to take place in a garden.

 

Cami Mann, a member of the Secular Order of Franciscans, is a spiritual director and freelance writer. She and her husband Mark reside in Grand Rapids. She can be reached at cmann1897@ gmail.com.