Being Tended by the Garden

``Speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee.''

Job 12:8

I had long since abandoned my expectation in things possible, gotten used to wearing blinders, and fell into a blurry routine of ``musts'' and ``shoulds.'' It was a routine that included driving by this large garden every morning in my haste to get who-knows-where.

But one morning I stopped.

The caretaker caught my attention. She was short, plump, and it suited her well. Moreover, she appeared utterly content. It was precisely this contentment - or so I thought - that struck me, guided my foot to the brake, and pulled the car to the side of the road. At that point I didn't know who amazed me more, her or me. I couldn't believe I had stopped, but she stood out so - like a photo where everything is fuzzy except the subject, drawn out in clean, sharp focus.

For the first time, I actually saw the garden. It beamed in the morning sunlight, like someone who never wakes up grumpy or disoriented. The garden integrated a subtle, sophisticated mastery of pinks, purples, lavenders, and whites. Backgrounds of deep glossy hollys and blue-green hostas only accentuated the colors. Passionate, but not lustful. Enthusiastic, but not arrogant or bold. It had the majesty of Handel's Music For the Royal Fireworks, with the depth of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A major.

Watching the caretaker work the soil, I noticed her ease and joy in being part of the earth. She seemed as much a part of the garden as the cleome and delphinium. Digging, weeding, she stopped suddenly - startled by a tap on the shoulder - then looked up as if she saw an old friend. She'd inadvertently bumped into a pristine alabaster Madonna lily. She tilted her head and gazed at it with a smile that grew like a blush over her face and glistened with all the nurturing, love, and joy that went into tending these flowers. She stopped, appreciating its simple beauty as if, for that one moment, nothing else mattered.

I found myself stunned by her understanding that living is important, not existing. An understanding I lost by equating life with rushing through routines, ticking off items on my ``to do'' list, numb, deaf, and blind to the periphery.

It was like an epiphany; through watching the caretaker, I realized that I didn't feel whole because I wasn't participating.

I'd let go of the wrong thing. I let go of life and all its joy. Even simple, humble, or quiet efforts - such as tending a garden - are participating, because all the fragile sacred moments count.

Just as the caretaker deadheaded spent flowers so new blossoms could grow, I too had to let go of old habits and bloom again.

I realized that in nature and in people, expectation of life can shine in all its glory. This woman will never know how her joy was an example that implored me to seek out life, like a flower bending to the sun, and to feel whole again.

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