As I knelt at the edge of one of the flower gardens in our front yard, I noticed a green sprout. This streak of mild weather has a daffodil reaching for blue skies. It’s disconcerting to see a harbinger of spring just as I’m trading T-shirts for turtlenecks in the dresser drawers.
Next year’s bulbs are planted now. Red and pink coloured tulips by the driveway for my mother-in-law to see when she drives by; yellow daffodils and white crocuses in the new bed out front to give my husband something lovely to look at while he smokes on the front deck; and daffodils and crocuses in corners of other gardens just because. I may just have planted them but I already am anticipating the beauty and the hope that will sprout in me when those tiny green shoots appear next spring just as we’re getting tired of cold winds and winter boots. One eager daffodil aside, those will arrive regardless of the warm weather now.
I’ve only been a gardener for four years and what amazes me the most is not how physical the work is but how this physicality focuses my mind so intently that I cease to think. My world narrows to the trowel in my hand, the smell of overturned dirt, the placement of the bulb in the deep hole, the pressing down of my hands upon the soil. No matter what bothers me inside the house, it does not follow me into the garden. Who knew worry and anxiety are allergic to dirt?
In her book, The Spirituality of Gardening (Northstone, 2005), author Donna Sinclair writes about gardening as a spiritual practice: “It is kin to what some do in church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or around a sacred fire: singing, kneeling, chanting. It is holy ritual, the repeated effort to draw closer to the Creator whose joy and beauty suffuses the earth.”
While the neighbours aren’t going to hear me singing and chanting, I do sense the sacred in the dirt, the divine in the endless flowering of the plants, the glory of birds and buds, even worms and spiders. Then there is the not-knowing if this hard work will pay off but having faith it will. When I kneel in the garden holding the large, white daffodil bulb on the palm of my hand, I am engaged in a prayer that asks simply to be granted the honour of its presence. When it is ready.
And I pray I’m doing it right. My gardening efforts require faith in the plant to overcome the limitations of the planter. While I wait for the magic to appear in May, I’ll spend the winter poring over a gardener’s holy book: the Veseys catalogue.