161. The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. ~Alfred Austin

So deeply is the gardener’s instinct implanted in my soul
that I really love the tools with which I work –
the iron fork, the spade, the hoe, the rake, the trowel,
and the watering pots are pleasant objects in my eyes.
~Celia Thaxter

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The sidewalks were long and narrow that ran between the stucco houses, and high was the exterior wall of the two-story duplex two doors down from us on the seaward end of the block.  At the base of that duplex’s stucco wall was a shallow flower bed filled with pansies and strawberries, and about halfway down the wall was a door that separated the flower bed into two sections.  Behind the door was a storage area, a closet of sorts, and because the closet was under the front stairwell of the two story structure, it was one of those odd-shaped little niches with a downward sloping ceiling on one end.  In the closet’s mysterious, deeper recesses were all kinds of fascinating tools.  When the door to the closet was ajar, it meant Uncle was inside sitting on his stool, working on a yard or household project Auntie had commissioned.  The “doghouse” as he called it, was a rich and irresistible den of curiosities for a child, and in it with Uncle as tutor-in-residence I not only learned a great deal but also fell in love with a myriad of things.  The closet with its earthy smells and assorted contraptions was a magical place, and the gardening tools were as provocative a sight for young eyes as the images of the storybook gardens they conjured up.  Decades later when a friend commented that I live close to nature, I thought of that closet again and realized the lasting impression that it and Uncle had had on my life.  Then and there in a place that smelled of soil and sea I came to love and respect the earth for its charming and sometimes “shy presences”–the visible ones, the audible ones, the tangible ones, even the ones that dwell in dim obscurity.  Uncle’s closet and his tales gave birth to “stirrings” in me that ultimately led me to believe that all Creation is a holy gift to be cherished and that its Maker is to be adored and praised.

The LORD is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.  He is my God, and I will praise Him and I will exalt Him.  ~Exodus 15:2   ✝

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This is the duplex I’ve written about above, and in front of it are Auntie and Uncle as well as me and my two sisters, circa 1952.  We were dressed up for Easter Sunday in clothes made, starched, and ironed by our mother’s loving hands.  Since our grandparents lived in Texas and Illinois,  Aunt Stella and Uncle Walter were for all intents and purposes our “surrogate” grandparents.  (Uncle was actually the brother of my maternal grandfather.)

27 thoughts on “161. The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. ~Alfred Austin

  1. Pingback: 161. The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. ~Alfred Austin | Sacred Touches

    • Why thank you, Amelia. I’m glad you liked it. I have to tell you that I cried off and on while I was writing it because it was such a cherished time in my life. How I’d love to walk down that sidewalk and find uncle in his “doghouse” again and then to climb the stairs to be offered one of the three yummy “extra” pieces of buttery toast Auntie always seemed to have leftover from breakfast. Every now and then I have to chuckle now knowing that those 3 pieces of toast were no happenstance. What a time that was!!! Blessings, Natalie

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      • Yes, indeed, happy families do leave us a heritage of precious and lasting memories. I’m go glad you have a warm, caring family around you too, Amelia. All the people who were a part of that world I wrote about are gone now except for my two sisters and I. My daughter just turned 41 on the 12th of this month and I will be 71 tomorrow. My hope is that James and I have given and are still giving her and her children memories they will cherish too. Blessings, Natalie

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  2. What a wonderful description of your early appreciation for God’s creation, Natalie. I love the picture of you and your sisters–it looks like photos of me and my three younger sisters! Blessings! Laura

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    • Thanks, Laura, I’m so glad you liked it. My youngest sister and I just finished a memory book that started with our great grandparents and ended with our 3 marriages. We had so much fun reminiscing and working with these old photos. That’s what made me think to write about part of it on my blog. I actually cried off and one while we worked on the book and this post because those are such sweet memories, and how I’d love just one of more day in the place. Blessings, Natalie

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      • Laura, if you’re still online would you do me a huge favor. A new blogger said he tried to open my About page and it wouldn’t open. I checked it an it opened right up, but maybe it’s when others try that it’s not working. So when you get a chance would you go to my blog and try to open the About page? No hurry, I just thought I’d find out if others were having problems with it so I’d know whether or not to contact WordPress. Thanks, Natalie 🙂

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  3. How valuable to have such memories and to have had such an uncle, Natalie. I’m also happiest with my hands in the dirt, outside, surrounded by birdsong. Nothing beats this 🙂

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    • Yes, Annette, Uncle and Auntie were both extraordinary and memorable people, and we were so blessed to be a part of their lives. And you’re also right about nothing beating being outside and digging in the dirt. We do in fact share that love! Have a great day, my friend. Blessings, Natalie

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