With plants budding and flowers blooming and Earth Day pricking my conscience to heightened awareness, I am grateful for the connection of my spirituality and my garden rake. I recently began a project to transform a portion of my front yard, making room for a garden path, bird bath, and more plants.
My father was the one who steeped me in a love of creation. He was a dreamer. Though he worked the night shift as a fork lift operator at a baby food company, his avocation was gardening. He had dreams of opening his own landscaping company, and even had the business cards printed up at one time.
But alas, that plan never came to fruition, but it did not keep him from turning his own yard into a paradise of plants. At one time he had taken inventory of all the different specimens he had planted on that half- acre plot. He thought it might be handy for the realtor to have the list in case someone was interested. There were one hundred and thirty-seven different varieties of trees, shrubs, bushes, and perennials, if memory serves.
Dad understood in many respects, what it meant to live in harmony with creation. He had his own small “Garden of Eden” in the mountains of Western North Carolina. He seemed to know that God created humans to live in balance with the rest of creation. Even in the last week of his life at the hospice home he took delight in watching the squirrels and birds who took turns at the bird feeder outside his window.
Unfortunately, what we see in the world is often the opposite: exploitation. If nobody is watching, the Styrofoam 32 oz. cup gets tossed out the window of the vehicle. If nobody is calling for accountability, manufacturers get lax about the purity of the water getting put back into the local streams.
It says in Genesis 1:26: “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’”
Ah, but that dominion has been so terribly misunderstood as domination! This wonderful order from chaos that God has created is meant to be tended, stewarded, coaxed forth, and partnered with so that it all works together the way God intends. But in our human desire to put ourselves ahead of all things, creation gets crushed, abused, and discarded.
I recently read an article about how already endangered elephants were being killed for the sport of it—as practice, with shooters taking only their tip of their tails as bragging rights. What might it take for people everywhere to realize that when the elephants thrive, we all thrive. Anywhere creation groans from our domination, we are no better off. Wherever we can relieve those groans, creating little pockets of Eden in our own back yards and strip mall stores, hospice homes and church lots, the whole creation to which we are inexorably linked gently sighs with relief.
Thanks Dad for nurturing in me that urge to plant and tend; to get earth under my fingernails, and to muse at the critters who find it a pleasurable place to dine, and dwell, and maybe even raise a family on my own half- acre lot.