Summertime, and the livin’ is easy …..
So says the song written by George and Ira Gershwin, but I have to admit that I have found summertime to be anything but “easy”!
Around church we have (as I am currently writing) a whole passel of kids running around Avalanche Ranch taking a wild ride with Jesus. The place is inhabited by the likes of Buc the Horse, Ranger the Bison, Boss the Bull, Skye the Eagle, Shadow the Cat, and a nameless Prairie Dog we have christened “Paul”…. There are wagon wheels, cowboy boots, lariats, and bales of straw everywhere. Busy, busy, busy!
At home, gardening …. Neither my spouse nor I have ever laid claim to owning a green thumb, but we continue to try our hand at growing things. Last fall we had added to the “hardscape” of our home by having a 10’x12’ patio slab poured, as well as a similar sized foundation for a storage shed. Because our lot is on a hillside, we had to build up the ground on the downhill side of that foundation. In September, I built a stone wall about three feet tall and about three feet out from the foundation on the west and south sides of the storage building and filled the resulting planter partially with dirt. And that’s how it sat until three weeks ago.
The first week of June, I filled the planter with topsoil and moved some plants into it. A forsythia, an andromeda, and an arbor vitae which weren’t doing well where they were gained new homes in the storage shed planter. And we have added a tree hybiscus, an azalea, some blanket flowers, and a knock-out rose. So far, so good … nothing has died yet and all seem to be putting on new growth and the flowering plants are blossoming.
In the beds along the backside of our house, we’ve added some coral bells and some begonias.
It would be so nice if all of these things took care of themselves … but, of course, they don’t! We planted tulip, daffodil, and muscari bulbs last fall, and they all came up and blossomed … then had to be cut back. We have salvia and weigelia in our front planters, and they have to be trimmed and deadheaded.
And then there’s the lawn. Our lot is just large enough that, on the hillside as it is, I consider buying a riding mower every time I cut the grass. But it is just small enough that, every time I consider buying a riding lawn mower, I think that would be a really silly thing to do. So I keep cutting it with the old barely-self-propelled push mower and convincing myself that I’m getting some much needed exercise doing so.
Therein lies the reason for engaging in all this sod-busting activity … exercise, health, and well-being.
In an article for the Canadian initiative Go for Green, Lydia Butler writes:
If you are one of the many individuals who love gardening, you probably do not think of it as exercise. But let’s face it, if you mow the lawn, lift bags of top soil, shovel dirt, rake the lawn and pull weeds you are getting a healthy does of activity.
Gardening can burn an average of 300 calories per hour and is also an effective form of resistance training. Recent studies suggest that moderate intensity exercises such as daily gardening can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, improve bone density and help prevent glucose intolerance.
Gardening is something you can enjoy throughout your life. No special attire is required and you don’t need a partner.
We have found that gardening is a great way to become more active and get into shape. I’ve also found it a good time for reflection and meditation. Like most gardeners, I prefer to work in silence. I don’t listen to music or the radio while working outside; nor do I engage in much conversation when busy with garden chores. In fact, I tend to use the time in the garden to escape from chatting with other people and for stopping the inner chatter within myself.
A distinguishing feature of many spiritual practices is the frequent use of silence, quiet meditation, or prayerful silence. Spiritual retreats always leave plenty of time for solitary reflection. Some religious orders take very seriously vows of silence. Silence allows one to listen freely to the sounds of life: the buzzing of insects, working machines, birds, the wind, the rumblings of the inner mind, and, as one writer has put it, “the Voidness that embraces these Utterings from the Ground of Being.”
Silence is the epitome of openness, and leaves room for the inflow of fresh experience. Sometimes silence is the best means of expression and communicates far more than words could ever say. So we putter about or sit ever so quietly in the backyard, ready for the surprising insights that inevitably burst forth from unburdened consciousness, ready for our own visions, ready to see the burning bush and hear God’s voice.
For George and Ira Gershwin living in New York City where others took care of tending planter boxes and the gardens of Central Park, perhaps the summer was a time of “easy livin’” … but if you have a plot of landscaped ground in northeastern Ohio, “easy” is not the word I would choose. “Productive” perhaps, “spiritual” perhaps … but not easy!
Oh … and while I’m thinking about gardening … do you know who St. Fiachra is?
St Fiachra was a Seventh Century Irish abbot now considered to be the patron saint of gardeners. An old monk, born in Ireland, Fiachra lived in a hermitage on the banks of the River Nore of which Kilfiachra, or Kilfera, County Kilkenny, still preserves the memory. His unwanted fame as one skilled with herbs, a healer and holy man caused disciples to flock to him, but seeking greater solitude, he left his native land and sought refuge in France, at Meaux.At Meaux he was warmly received by St Faro. Initially Faro granted him a site at Breuil surrounded by forests. Fiachra built an oratory in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a hospice in which he received strangers, and a cell in which he himself lived apart. He lived a life of great mortification, in prayer, fasting, and vigil, and in the manual labor of the garden. The vegetables he grew around his monastery were said to be quite superb.
The Garden in County Kildare was created as a national park and dedicated by Irish President Mary McAleese in 1999 as part of the celebration of the new millenium.
May St. Fiachra be with you in your gardening tasks this summer!