Monday, June 15, 2015
Formal Gardens, Versailles, France
Botanical Gardens, St. Louis, MO
Woodland Garden Path, Jamestown, NC
I’m just one generation off the farm, so I consider that I still have the dusty remnants of wind-blown plowed fields flowing in my veins. I actually enjoy yard work and planting living organisms in the ground. Every spring I get a primeval urge to go outside and dig in the dirt. Once I’ve started the process, things just go with the flow as I view my minute piece of the planet and envision how I can add beauty and symmetry to my immediate surroundings. It turns out to be an ongoing process as nature is constantly evolving and the circle of life goes on as we complete another trip around the sun. Trees mature providing more shade that favors different types of greenery or river rock woodland paths. Shady woodland paths morph into quiet meditative environs that lend themselves to centering our mind in preparation for being still and knowing our Creator. His spirit gently moves in the wind that rustles the leaves and soothes our brow.
The concept of creating gardens goes way, way back to our beginnings in the Garden of Eden—a paradise which God created for his new human beings that were sculpted from the star dust of the Big Bang and given stewardship over it all. Scholars now believe this garden was located in the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the Mesopotamian Cradle of Civilization in present day Iraq. These humans were created in the image of God whose character was beginning to be revealed immediately in the first words of Genesis, “In the beginning God created the heavens and earth”. Our God loves to create and so do we. Gardens are an endless expression of that creativity and beautifully reflect His creation. My favorite image from the Genesis story is seeing God walking through the garden with Adam and Eve in the cool of the morning.
One of the seven wonders of the ancient world was the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in present day Iraq. Unfortunately, everything we know about these overhanging gardens comes from accounts of people who never saw them. Rulers in the ancient Near East were known to construct elaborate gardens as a political statement. The gardens contained examples of the places that had been conquered and annexed as a microcosm of the empire. So was the Garden of Eden. So is my little piece of the earth. Although its reach is rather limited, it is enough.
In Voltaire’s classic satire, Candide is told by his mentor Professor Pangloss that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds in spite of a succession of serious hardships in his life. The disillusioned Candide later receives some practical advice from a small farmer to simply focus on working in order to keep free of three great evils: boredom, vice and necessity. Pangloss then observes that “when man was put in the Garden of Eden he was put there to work; which proves that man was not born for rest”. Candide takes in all this philosophizing and then replies, “That is well said, but we must cultivate our garden” which concludes the story.
Of all the paths we take in life, we need to make sure some of them are dirt so that we can walk bare footed and feel the warmth of the good earth between our toes. And we need to spend quality time working a garden so that we can sense the coolness of our beginnings between our fingers.