30. The hum of bees is the voice of the garden. ~Elizabeth Lawrence

There’s music in the sighing of a reed;
There’s music in the gushing of a rill;
There’s music in all things, if men had ears:
Their earth is but an echo of the spheres.
~Lord Byron

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What is it in the sounds of nature that captivates so many of us?  Why do they, the wind and water and all the other sounds, inspire us to sit and listen and watch and wait?  Is it something that appeals to us on an intellectual level?  Or is it something that touches a secret nerve deep down inside?  And after listening to elemental sounds, what is it that encourages some to create music or art or literature in order to replicate or mimic the sounds?  Can we simply not just be satisfied to enjoy what nature offers our senses?  No, because there is an unquenchable “fire in the human belly” to create.  Why, because we are all made in the image of a creative God; something in our DNA, in every cell of our body, every fiber of our being, every drop of our life blood sparks an urge to create whether we recognize it or act upon it or not.

Some I’ve talked to say they create to keep cherished things close at hand or to be reminded of them frequently.  Others say inner voices encourage them to give life to their creative urges.  Then there are those who tell me they aren’t sure why they feel compelled to paint or write or play music; they just do.  I have heard some say that their lives are so richly blessed that they want to give something beautiful back, not unlike the child who draws “pretty” pictures or plays a happy tune for his/her mother.  For lots of folks it may be an attempt at immortality.  I personally think it’s because of that “still, small voice” who says,  “by rummaging around in your souls the Holy Presence you sense will be found.”  But regardless of what leads anyone down the creative path, we, the admirer’s of their talent, should be “grateful to people who make us happy” or enlighten us in some way for as Marcel Proust put it, “they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”  And in the anointed blossoming of souls, whether it be that of the creator or that of the charmed beneficiary, much is revealed about life, its Maker, and its sacred intent.

30. Outside the open window the morning air is all awash with angels. ~Richard Purdy Wilbur

Ever felt an angel’s breath in the gentle breeze?
A teardrop in the falling rain?
Hear a whisper amongst the rustle of leaves?
Or been kissed by a lone snowflake?
Nature is an angel’s favorite hiding place.
~Terri Guillemets

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Who among us doesn’t remember times when we felt the hand of benevolent angels at work in our lives or the lives of others?  Millennium after millennium and in various ways mortals have been fascinated by and tried to depict such angelic beings.  More than half a millennium ago one of the most celebrated angels was created by Michelangelo.  Of his famous sculpture, he said, “I saw the angel in the marble and I just chiseled until I set him free.”  Now many centuries later a pair of extraordinary angels have been set free here in in Fort Worth.  In the 1990’s the two of them were designed and installed as harbingers of the performing arts on the façade of the newly constructed Bass Performance Hall.  There the two majestic angels have reigned for nearly 2 decades offering a comforting presence amid the cacophonous noise and busy comings and goings of inner-city life. They have become “cultural icons” in a city whose history has been and still is steeped to some extent in cowboys, horses, cattle, and dusty trails.

The two imposing and dramatic angels created by Martón Varó are approximately 48 feet tall.  Their wings rise some 30 feet in height, and in one of their hands they hold a 13 foot brass trumpet.  The amazing high-relief figures were sculpted out of a 104 blocks of Texas Cordova Creme limestone quarried near Austin.  Each of the angels weighs 15 tons, and the blocks from which they are sculpted are attached to steel plates embedded in the concrete walls of the building. Because the angels are of the same limestone as the building, they look as if they mystifyingly drift out of the walls as they play their trumpets.  In their flowing gowns the limestone angels hover serenely above the street, and in so doing they keep our eyes lifted heavenward enabling us to see what Emerson called “the miraculous in the common.”  When the “air is all awash with angels” and it is in some way every day, it’s because the Lord wants His miracles and His miraculous works to be witnessed so that we will know something of Him and will want then to seek Him.

For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.  ~Psalm 91:11-12

29. Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius. ~Pietro Aretino

Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter
lies a miracle. . .a seed waiting to sprout,
a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl.
And the anticipation nurtures our dream.
~Barbara Winkler

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A seedling is a young plant that develops out of a plant’s embryo which is the seed.  During germination the young plant emerges from the seed’s protective coat and grows up through the soil attempting to reach the light while the roots on the other end push deep into the ground.  Then when the seedling begins to photosynthesize, it no longer depends solely on the seed’s own stored energy reserves.  The seed’s continued growth now depends on both external and internal conditions with the most important factors in the process being temperature, water, oxygen, and sometimes darkness or light.  In our area not all seeds should be held until spring to be sown.  Evidence of such can be seen in the photograph above.  This is a larkspur seedling that was sown in early fall and subsequently germinated in late fall or early winter.  As you can see, in spite of the two snowfalls and freezing temperatures we’ve already had, it’s holding its own.  Our winters here are relatively short and mild, and if larkspur and poppies are not sown in the fall they will not have enough cool lead-in time to establish the strong, healthy roots needed to grow big enough to bloom as they should.

The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream.
The oak sleeps in the acorn, the bird waits in the egg,
and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs.
Dreams are the seedlings of realities.
~James Allen, British author

Part of the genius of God’s grand design is that we awaken every day to a fresh flowing of His energy and vitality.  These things have been stored in the seeds of our being, seeds that possess the same strength as that of the rising sun, earth’s swelling seas, and its fertile plains.  An excellent time to look for the shining of His everlasting light in the “sanctuary of the soul” is in the first waking moments of each new day.  These are moments that are fresh and ripe and full of promise.  And regardless of one’s age there’s simply never a moment when in and of ourselves there aren’t unopened gifts(seeds) of promise.  The Almighty’s “sacred hopes” remain within us forever, and “heaven’s creativity on earth” can be born of them at any time.  Even if  “the human soul has grown hard,” the catalyst of prayer, as “the agonies of life in the world” are lifted up, is enough to bring about miraculous new life and hope.  Just take a look at seeds which lie dormant in the earth season after season after season; they too can be brought to life with a single spark of the Divine’s touch.

28. January is here, with eyes that keenly glow. . . ~Edgar Fawcett

January opens the box of the year
And brings out days that are bright and clear
And brings out days that are cold and grey
And shouts, “Come see what I brought today!”
~Leland B. Jacobs

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One of my favorite things to do in January, or for that matter in any month, is to wander the garden to see what’s “popping up” out of its “boxes.”  Winter Jasmine, flowering quince, and lenten rose usually pop out in January, but so far this year they have not answered the call.  Another thing I like to do is keep an eye on what’s happening down at the Botanic Gardens and the local nurseries.  So far not much is happening at the Botanic Gardens either, but I have found that the covered areas of the nurseries are well stocked with cyclamen, pansies, primroses, and lenten roses as well as herbs, fruit trees, and fruit-bearing vines.  Every January I think too about keeping a journal as the year moves along so I’ll remember from one year to the next what’s happening in the garden and when.  But then I already am fairly familiar with the whole year’s timetables because on pleasant days like we’ve had this week, I spend what time my aging body will allow working out in the yard.  Even though things don’t happen on the same exact day every year, unless we have some really strange weather patterns, I’ll bet beginning times don’t vary all that much from year to year anyway.

O God, from your life the fire of the rising sun streams forth.
You are the life-flow of creation’s rivers,
the sap of blood in our veins,
earth’s fecundity, the fruiting of trees, creatures’ birthing,
the conception of new thought, desire’s origin.
All of these are of you, O God, and I am of you.
~J. Philip Newell

Creation has been described as “the grand volume of God’s utterance,” and we are all a part of that utterance.  So when we seek God, we mustn’t look “away from ourselves and away from creation, but deep within all that has life.”  God actually speaks to us through two books: Creation and the Bible because He exists in both contexts.  Simply put His light is inextricably woven through the whole of Creation and its goings on; nothing has life apart from God.  As for myself I often find Him in my garden because my garden like any garden is a microcosm of the grander macrocosm of Creation itself.  In it exists the whole of the mystery of God, and under its tutelage one begins to understand at least some of the mystery that is God.  For me my connection to Him through my garden is as firm and secure as that of an infant to the umbilical cord in its mother’s womb.

I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.  ~Psalm 63:2

27. Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. ~Hebrews 13:5

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On November 9, 2012, my life could have and without Divine intervention would have ended.  There were 3 clots in a critical part of my brain, and yet today I live and have only limited and temporary loss in my speech center.  To say that my survival is a miracle is the absolute truth, but in retrospect I realize now that it was truly the result of a series of miracles all orchestrated by the hand of the Lord.  Too many things came together at the right time and place and in the right way for the credit to be laid at any other doorstep than His.  Yes there were excellent and caring doctors and nurses as well as the prayers of my family and the friends with whom I am blessed, but then that’s His work too.  Saying “Thank you, Jesus” seems hardly enough, but it will be said every day of the rest of my life.

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.  ~Psalm 118:24

26. I love snow, snow, and all the forms of radiant frost.  ~Percy Bysshe Shelley

The moment one gives close attention to any thing,
even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome,
indescribably magnificent world in itself.
~Henry Miller

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This week’s smattering of snow may have been only a small drop in the proverbial bucket, but regardless of its lack of abundance, what fell in my yard created mesmerizing and fetching beauty.  Branches and twigs looked like they’d been dotted with tiny confectionary cotton balls while things with larger patches of snow resembled what I’d describe as the scattering results of happy children hurling snow balls.  Especially intriguing was one of  the “snow-ball victims” which was a dried and split seed pod; it looked as though it had been filled to the brim like a tiny snow cone minus the syrup stained color.  The glamorizing effects of the snow on the few colorful things left in the yard made the trip out into the cold to take pictures fruitful, but then even the most ordinary “magnificent” snowy things would have drawn me out as well.

A garden consists of many worlds, and each one is capable of becoming what Henry Miller described as “a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.”  This is especially true when the element of snow is added to the mix as witnessed this week; upon close scrutiny, the most diminutive or unattractive things added touches of exquisite beauty.  Such phenomena is a testament that no matter how small or insignificant any part of Creation seems, in the “right” light, it is, in fact, a “mysterious, awesome, and indescribably magnificent” thing to behold.  Julian of Norwich said we are not simply made by God but we are made of God.   Given that, we must see ourselves not as the world sees us but as He sees us.  The fact that we come from the “womb of God” means that we’re as beautiful as He and that somewhere in our being His great goodness and beauty are to be found.

25. Smell is a potent wizard that transports us across thousands of miles and all the years we have lived. ~Helen Keller

Smells detonate softly in our memory
like poignant land mines hidden under
the weedy mass of years and experiences.
Hit a tripwire of smells and memories explode all at once.
A complex vision leaps out of the undergrowth.
~Diane Ackerman

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Not much of anything is an unforgettable as a tantalizing smell.  Even the most unforeseen, momentary, or transient scent conjures up all sorts of memories.  It might be the fragrance of a flower in the garden, a loaf of bread baking in the oven, salty air blowing off the ocean, or a favorite aunt’s heady perfume.  The “potent wizard” of smell simply cannot be altered by time, distance, or circumstance.

Because I love the Creation story, I have read the opening chapter of Scripture over and over again, and yet with each journey into its words and images I find more to love about the circumstances and implications of the story in Genesis.  The fact that sensory perceptions came into play on the 5th day with the birth of the creatures, however, had never before jumped out of the text at me.   That seems quite  surprising for a person who puts a high premium on the delights opened up through the five senses and for one who thinks the loss of one or more of the senses would be a devastating mishap.

With the birth of the creatures there is the emergence of
seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching.
The light of the sun and the whiteness of the moon can now be seen.
The wind blowing through the leaves of the trees
and the crashing of ocean waves can be heard.
The early morning fragrance of the earth can be smelled.Its fruits can be tasted and its textures touched.
~From THE BOOK OF CREATION by
J. Philip Newell, Celtic theologian, poet, scholar,  and teacher

Jean Houston said, “Our senses are indeed our doors and windows on this world, in a very real sense the key to the unlocking of meaning and the wellspring of creativity.” Many of the most exquisite parts of our existence and our most pleasurable, creature comforts come to us through  seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching.  Rousseau put it this way, “To live is not merely to breathe; it is to act; it is to make use of our organs, senses, faculties – of all those parts of ourselves which gives us the feeling of existence.”  God incorporated the five senses into the fabric of our being for a reason.  The life-giving, sacred fibers not only serve His purposes but also enrich our lives with goodness beyond measure.