Monday, May 12, 2014

The Garden Path

          Today I took a look at my little vegetable garden.  One of my tomato plants smiled at me!  Well it didn’t actually “smile,” but it did show me a sign that all the preparation and work that has been put into my garden is starting to pay off!  A little green tomato the size of a ping pong ball had shown its face on one of my plants.  I already had an “early bloomer” in another of my plants, proudly displaying two tomatoes now the size of small lemons - but seeing new growth never fails to thrill, excite and motivate me!   Actually, each plant in my garden has more than tripled in size – some even more in only three short weeks.   There really is so much love and tender care in this garden already.  Gardens are hard work, but there really are no words to describe how rewarding they can be.

          It was Easter weekend – a perfectly beautiful spring weekend.  Down South this is the target date for preparing and planting our gardens.  Before the actual work however, we had taken some time to assess things before the actual planting.  My previous garden had not done all that well, so we sent off soil samples, we researched potting soil, fertilizers and even the best types of plants.  Tree limbs that had been blocking the sun were cut down, debris was cleared, new boards were placed around the perimeter of my garden box and then the day came to start the laborious process.  My men purchased a truckload of fertile soil, brought it home and then the ground was tilled and turned, roots were chopped out of the ground and sweat poured from weary faces to the ground as an “anointing” of sorts for what was being prepared.  Next, the new fertile soil was mixed with the old, tired sandy southern soil, producing a perfect mixture ready to serve as an incubator for tiny roots to grow.  The next day, we headed to the garden center and picked out some seeds and all the little baby vegetable seedlings that we had discussed - almost tasting the succulent fruits of our labor in our minds as we thought of the ripe tomatoes, spicy peppers, crisp cucumbers, hearty squash and egg plant, peppery radishes and aromatic spices.

          That afternoon once our Easter feast was consumed, the remaining wells were dug for each plant, our “veges” were carefully positioned in their new “home” and surrounded by the nurturing soil.  Finally, the wells were filled with water that was soon absorbed into the deep ground underneath, slowly flowing it deeper - creating a reservoir for the plants to draw from down below.  Each day since then, I have drug that water hose across the back patio to the garden and filled the wells – again and again.  The sun has risen each day and shone down its life giving rays on my “babies.”  We had some torrential storms in the midst of all of this early on that threatened my garden’s existence – but to my amazement, each plant hung on through the down pours!  They survived – each and every one of them survived and thrived!       

          This whole gardening process is such a vivid life metaphor of various phases of my own growth.  I have been reminded of much of it over the course of the last few years while completing the writing of my book about my life and even more the last several weeks as I interacted with people from my past and present and took a few more walks down “memory lane.”  Memory lane is much like that path we took in preparing the garden and the same one I take to tend to my little garden each day.  The first steps broke up some hard, infertile soil.  They chopped away obstructions and dug out “sapsuckers” that would threaten new life and growth.  The next steps brought in some fresh soil to enrich the existing dry soil in order to produce a healthy environment for growth.  That soil mixed with fertilizer, was packed firmly around new plants and watered as the daily process continued along that garden path.  So each day I’ve returned down that path, watering, anticipating, plucking out weeds, and finding a peace and joy as I watch “life” taking place as my little plants thrive! 

          They say “you can never go back.”  I suppose you can’t fully nor should you.  However, we can never understand the present nor even fully embrace the future until we make sense of the past.  A dear friend reminded me of this recently.  He said… Memory lane is strewn with potholes sometimes. We have to drive that road many times to know where the potholes are located. Things happen as part of a plan that we have to search for, locate, and then accept. We never have to settle but we need to follow a plan.”   Personally, my own walks or rides down memory lane, now and over the course of the last few years, have been the most beneficial and necessary walks I could or should ever take.  The hard soil of my life has been broken up; shadows have been dissolved in the light of truth.  The things that have tried to suck the very life out of me have been dug out and cut away.  Fresh soil of love and care, patience and understanding has been brought in and surrounded me.  All of it combined, has enriched my life and produced growth.  The soothing streams of acceptance and encouragement have watered my parched soul.  The gentle hands of both God and man who love me, have taken the time to pluck out weeds that have tried to choke out my growth and life.  God has carefully tended to my life’s garden as well as the labor of friends and family with love and care.  I have been able to develop my own gardening skills and now I am seeing the fruits of all this labor of love! 

          Life is all about growth.  It is a process.  There are no shortcuts to a healthy productive garden, and certainly none to a healthy productive life.  In a few minutes I will walk out my back door, drag that green garden hose across the patio and tend to my little garden one more day.  This morning I did the same thing in the garden of my heart, during a time of prayer and meditation.  If you haven’t walked the “garden path” of your life lately, I suggest you take that first step – memory lane just may be calling for you to re-visit a few times.  Listen to its whisper and pay attention to the pot holes along the way.  Happy gardening!!!

Editor's Note:  A special THANK YOU to Jason and Josh for your labor of love in helping me prepare our amazing garden!!!!  And thank you Dad for letting us borrow the tools I didn't have at hand.  You are the best :)