Les Femmes

Dear Readers,
I love Spring! How eagerly I wait for warm days when the earth thaws and I can finally dig in the dirt and welcome new life. I have several gardens around our property, but one is my particular favorite. It grows in the middle of our front driveway, a small circle garden with an interior path for grandchildren to run around and explore. I think of it as my miniature Garden of Eden since it brings me so much pleasure and turns my thoughts to God. I love to pray the rosary there.

A Japanese snowbell tree graces its center. This April it burst out in little white dangling bells with yellow stamens, more prolific than I’ve ever seen it in the fifteen years we’ve lived here. Its “music” was the hum of hundreds of honeybees buzzing softly as they collected nectar and pollen making it a literal “tree of life” in the center of the garden. I look forward to this season’s honey, because the fragrance of the blossoms was so sweet. It reminded me of all the fragrances described in the Bible: the frankincense and myrrh brought to the manger by the kings, the perfume Mary poured out on Jesus’ feet, oils and spices brought by Nicodemus for Christ’s burial. I will think of our honey this year as the harvest of the tree of life.
The guardian of the garden is St. Joseph who holds Baby Jesus in one arm and his lily staff in the other. He stands under the tree of life opposite a concrete bench where I like to sit. Sometimes I imagine Mary sitting there with her sewing or reading the words of Isaiah that describe how the “virgin will be with child.” I can imagine the love she feels as she watches Joseph tenderly caring for Jesus and teaching him how to use the plane and the lathe. I see in my mind’s eye Jesus carving little animals from scraps of wood. Did he also use the curly wood shavings to create little gifts for his mother?

When I get up from the bench and walk around the garden I love to look at the stepping stones: bricks from an old walk that we replaced and resin garden “stones” that were gifts from our children. A few cement circles in the path came from kits where the children used molds and wet cement to imprint their hands and press in glass beads to make pretty decorations. Every step I take is a joyful memory reminding me of family.

Who will be so reckless of his salvation…and endanger his soul with Luther?…
The obviously safer way is to follow [the Fathers of the Church]; nor can anyone , without manifest peril to his soul, desert them
and follow Luther.

St. John Fisher

Broken things find a new home there as well. A chipped blue pot rests on its side with yellow succulent ground cover spilling out. The top of a fountain with two little bunnies found a second life after its base broke. A family of ducks (one with missing legs) shares the path with a family of sea turtles. A small boy with the body and wings of a bee holds a watering can and smiles at all who enter. There’s a large pinwheel with two rotating circles that spin in opposite directions at the slightest breeze. Sometimes I send the children on a hunt to find the animals or let them play and move them about. No one needs electronics when they come to Grandma’s. There are so many fun things to do and the garden is a favorite.

I like to work and water early in the morning before it gets too hot. I wonder how Adam and Eve spent their days before the fall. Work was always part of the plan. Genesis tells us God Himself worked in creating the world and then rested. Work and rest are both holy and uphold the dignity of man made in God’s image and likeness. I think our first parents would have enjoyed digging in the earth as much as I do with the added benefit of no gnats, mosquitoes, or other biting insects. Were they as charmed by finding snails as our little grandson Max?

My most recent addition to the garden was two strings of solar lights wrapped around the trunk of the “tree of life and hanging in its lower branches” They give the garden a sweet nighttime charm. I also gave Baby Jesus a solar night light at St. Joseph’s feet. The lights remind me of the stars in the heavens as if I’ve gathered a few for my garden. The fact that they are lit up by the sun reminds me of the power of the Son’s grace to enlighten my mind and lighten the burdens of this vale of tears.

Do you have a garden that calls to your heart? I think Mary did. Maurice Denis, a French painter, created Madonna in the Blooming Garden. Mary holds Baby Jesus who, with wide-eyed wonder, looks out on the world. A small child (representing the child we are called to be perhaps?) stands by Mary’s side. Two angels kneel in the foreground with other angels in the background.

That’s how I imagine my garden – filled with angels. Do you have a paradise garden, a miniature Eden, to remind you that the Kingdom of God is among us? G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “It is strange that many truly spiritual men…have actually spent some hours speculating upon the precise location of the Garden of Eden. Most probably we are in Eden still. It is only our eyes that have changed.” And so I rejoice to have eyes that recognize my little garden as a mini-Eden.[See https://lesfemmes-thetruth.blogspot.com/2017/06/time-out-for-true-good-and-beautiful.html to see the painting.]

Les Femmes is a founding member of the Catholic Media Coalition a group of print and electronic publishers. See www.catholicmediacoalition.org

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