The Gardener Within


Remember the old saying: “April showers bring May flowers?” It takes more than just showers to have beautiful flowers in May – or June or July or any month. It also takes digging and planting, nurturing and patience, faith and prayer.

My maternal grandfather was a strong typical “type A” personality, but when he worked in his garden, he was calm, happy and peaceful. His special joy was in finding many varieties of iris. He would drive all over Southern Illinois in search of new iris plants. Studies have shown that in a similar way, Alzheimer’s patients who are placed in a garden all day are no longer violent.

I don’t plan on collecting iris, but I’ve thought about the many varieties of daylily or hibiscus available. I’m trying a little of each to see which ones grow best here. It’s hard to decide – so maybe I’ll collect both!

Even when I lived on my sailboat for five years, I had hanging baskets of cherry tomatoes and pots of aloe plants for sunburn and wounds. I needed that bit of plant material to make me feel like I had a garden. Various cultures around the world have special tales about the healing power of plants on all levels.

Some of my favorite times as a small girl were spent in a special cherry tree in the back yard of a parsonage. We only lived there a couple years, but as long as we did, I would climb up onto a high limb and read. As a lonely child, it was my way to escape. Many of us have had spiritual experiences with trees, but we don’t discuss them for fear of sounding silly. We rarely talk about the spiritual aspects of gardening, until someone of like mind brings up the subject.

Maybe I’m a little strange, but I talk to my plants. I haven’t really heard them talk back, although they do respond by growing and producing. I used to think people who talked to their animal pets were weird, too!

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Today, I live on an acre of a’a in Hawai`i. A`a is lumpy, rocky lava that blew out of the depths of our volcano. The only way to plant something is to move aside the rocks and dump in a bag of soil, which filters down after a rain or watering and I need to add more soil. Still, there are nutrients in the greedy porous lava. Plants do grow, with a lot of prayer and patience.

Peter and Eileen Caddy were founders of the Findhorn Community in Scotland. They moved to a barren plot on the northernmost tip of Scotland, a place where nothing should have grown. Yet they made it work, through meditation and conversations with the nature spirits and “devas” – the angels of each plant. They claimed to receive gardening advice from those beings.

No matter what we may believe about all that, their results were incredible. I hope for the same results in my lava. Here in this little corner of the Big Island, I suppose it takes calling on Madam Pele, our volcano goddess – or maybe calling on the menehune.

I believe that if you are open to it, the process of gardening will tell you everything you need to know about life. There is a definite spirit of cooperation and communication between plants and humans. It is easy to see how we cultivate ourselves when we cultivate a garden. The idea is to relate to all living things as if they can understand, because they can! It is a living prayer.

Saint Fiacre is the patron saint of gardens and gardeners. He carries a shovel in one hand and a book in the other. He gave up his life as a prince of Ireland to live as a monk on the edge of a forest in France. Many people came to him for his healing through herbs and flowers. His reputation grew and ultimately, he built his own monastery that featured his healing plants.

Being There with Peter Sellars is a wonderful old movie. It is the story of a man who started out as sort of an idiot child who learned to garden, and could speak of nothing but gardening. Through a minor accident, he was brought into a home where he gradually worked his way up to international significance with only his gardening remarks. Everyone thought that his words were profound, and they became metaphors for everything from politics to world finance to love.

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Please leave a comment and tell me what spiritual experiences have you had with plants.

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