1177. The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just to the body, but the soul. ~Alfred Austin

I look back with gladness to the day when I found the path to the land of heart’s desire, and thank fate ceaselessly with a loud voice that it did not permit town to sap all the years away while the heart was turning to wind-voices and flower-faces and the hands of kindly earth. ~Mrs. George Cran

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There are times when I cannot believe I am separate from this earth, when I could swear the wind blows through me as it does the woven needles of the pine tree by the creek, when I feel my feet planted deep in the earth with the roots of trees and wildflowers, drawing essence. ~Cathy Johnson

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The love of dirt is among the earliest of passions, as it is the latest.  Mud-pies gratify one of our first and best instincts.  So long as we are dirty, we are pure.  Fondness for the ground comes back to a man after he has run the round of pleasure and business, eaten dirt, and sown wild oats, drifted about the world, and taken the wind of all its moods.  The love of digging in the ground (or of looking on while he pays another to dig) is as sure to come back to him, as he is sure, at last, to go under the ground, and stay there. ~Charles Dudley Warner

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Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. ~Genesis 2:8-9  ✝

**All images but one found on Pinterest; all collages created by Natalie

1172. The word “miracle” aptly describes a seed. ~Jack Kramer

From one seed a whole handful:
that was what it meant to say
the bounty of the earth.”
~J. M. Coetzee

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What do you see in this photo? Obviously it’s a plant of some kind, but that’s not what I see when I look at it nor is it the true import of the image. Okay, so what more, you might ask, is there to see? Well, first I see a miracle, then I see God’s grace, next I see beauteous splendor, and finally I see a divine promise. Really, all that, in a nondescript, green cup-like object? Indeed I do! This large sunflower obviously has yet to open; nevertheless and even though the flower is not visible, I see great beauty in the fringed “cup” that’s holding what I know to be a stunning yellow sunflower. I also see great promise in it for I know that when the sunflower does emerge and mature, it will proffer an enormous amount of seeds which will not only guarantee ever-lasting continuance but also provide food to sustain living beings. The miracle in it is three-fold: 1.) it came forth from a small black particle buried beneath dirt, pain old, ordinary dirt, 2.) it’s growing in my garden although I did not sow it there, and 3.) it has not only survived neglect and lack but it has also thrived and grown to a height of six feet. As for grace, God’s amazing grace was promised us countless eons ago and this plant is just one more wondrous proof of life that He was and is still the faithful Steward of all that He has made.

Not all things are blest, but
the seeds of all things are blest.
The blessing is in the seed.
~Muriel Rukeyser

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. ~Genesis 9:11  ✝

1051. The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart in nature. To nurture a garden is to feed the soul. ~Edited quote by Alfred Austin

In my garden there is a large place for sentiment.
My garden of flowers is also my garden of
thoughts and dreams. The thoughts grow as freely
as the flowers and the dreams are as beautiful.
~Abram L. Urban

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Once upon a time there was a tiny seed, a sacred and anointed seed, deposited deep down in a woman’s soul, though she wasn’t aware of its presence. The Creator of the seed had sowed it there long ago, but it wasn’t until she’d become despairingly broken and cynical about life that He set off a spark to split the seed’s casing. Thus an unexpected and silent impetus began within in her dark world where hope for happily ever after or even anything better had all but been extinguished. Her first awareness of the changing tide was vocalized one spring by the melodies coming from a songbird. It had been an especially painful night when she found herself lying there at dawn listening to the bird’s sweet song and feeling a vestige of joy beginning to whisper in her heart. Wanting to know what kind of bird, where it was, and why it was so cheerful, she arose before long and went outside. She found the winged minstrel perched in her neighbor’s tree, a dogwood that was filled with hundreds and hundreds of stunning pink blossoms. Thrilled by the sight of it her brain was flooded with memories of flowery images from her now distant childhood. And in that magical moment, though she’d always thought herself to be lacking a “green thumb,” she knew, knew that somehow she had to create that kind of natural beauty in her world again. Wanting to start prudently at first, however, she bought only a few pots, filled them with soil, pushed them together on a corner of her patio, and then sowed in them an assortment of inexpensive seeds. Soon afterwards came a most wondrous day, one in which she saw “that first, minuscule, curled, pale green wisp of a sprout poking up.” In an instant her heart felt unsurpassed gladness and her ears heard God’s voice speaking, for the seed in her had germinated as well. So it was that the credence of fairytales, in part, was restored, a devout gardener was birthed, and a faith journey was restarted.

For we are glad whenever we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. ~2 Corinthians 13:9  ✝

724. Earth, thou great footstool of our God, who reigns on high; thou fruitful source of all our raiment, life, and food; our house, our parent, and our nurse. ~Isaac Watts

So will I build my altar in the fields,
And the blue sky my fretted dome shall be,
And the sweet fragrance that the wild flower yields
Shall be the incense I will yield to thee.
~Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners
or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—
Did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?
This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.
This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.
This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil
of this sacred earth.
So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are
but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world is made,
and the stars that blaze in our bones,
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge we bear.
~Jan Richardson

“Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you; and let the fish of the sea declare to you. “Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this… ~Job 12:7-9    ✝

*Image via Pinterest

299. Last weekend, there came a bitter cold snap, which did great damage to my garden…It is sad that Nature plays such tricks on us poor mortals, inviting us with sunny smiles to confide in her, and then, when we are entirely within her power, striking us to the heart. ~Edited and adapted excerpt from Nathaniel Hawthorne

Who loves a garden
Finds within his soul
Life’s whole,
He hears the anthem of the soil
While ingrates toil;
And sees beyond his little sphere
The waving fronds of heaven, clear.
~Louise Seymour Jones

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I’ve been trying to figure out today what it is about a garden that is so seductive and irresistible for me, but I’m still no closer to an answer than when I’ve pondered it before.  I just know that something in nature calls to me and touches me on a deep level, brings glad music to my heart, and feeds “life’s whole” within my soul.  That’s why the losses due to last weekend’s dirty “trick” have struck a grievous blow to my heart which in turn has sent me sinking down, down, down into what one writer has called winter’s “vale of grief.”  Normally I can shake things off pretty quickly, but in addition to that casualty the arthritis in my left knee and left foot have me hobbling around on a cane, unable to get outside and do things that need to be done in the garden, and that’s creating a bluer than blue, bluish “funk.”  Now after spending way too much time inside, stationary and feeling a bit sorry for myself, I’m STARVED!!!  Like a junkie, I need my “fix.”  I need to hear the “anthem of the soil.”  Moreover, I need to touch the earth and dig in the dirt.  I need to feel Eden’s beating heart, her rhythms.  I need to hear the birds singing over my head.  I need color.  I need to see things growing and to look upon flowery faces, even a wretched dandelion would do.  I need to feel the sun’s warmth on my back.  And as much as anything else I need to feel God’s palpable presence in my tiny corner of His sanctum sanctorum.

Alas, sadly, I’m afraid it will be sometime before all those needs are met.  So I dug around on Pinterest board’s trying to find the kinds of images that typically draw me into a garden’s web of magic and glory.  Since I have no way of knowing when Old Man Winter will return to his arctic cave nor when my body will stop betraying me, they and a a little garden poetry will have to suffice.

From there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find him if you search after him with all your heart and soul.  ~Deuteronomy 4:29   ✝

248. I look back with gladness to the day when I found the path to the land of heart’s desire… ~Mrs. George Cran

Earth, thou great footstool of our God,
who reigns on high;
thou fruitful source of all our
raiment, life, and food;
our house, our parent, our nurse,
and our teacher.
~Edited and adapted excerpt from Isaac Watts

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What’s that whisper in the wind?  Do you hear it?  Listen, there it is again!  Oh, I know.  It’s that ancient and seductive call that tempts the gardener to come and play in the dirt?  And it doesn’t take much bidding before this one can do naught but hearken to the bewitching pleas.

For days now I’ve heard the “call” because even though winter is still quite young,  January has obliged the “voice” by bringing some warmer days.  So several days ago I began clearing my flower beds of autumn’s dead, leafy debris, cutting off seed heads to be scattered elsewhere, and pruning weak, leggy growth off shrubs and roses.  Working close to the soil let me, as usual, hear earth’s heartbeat, and that sweet sound in turn spread a soothing balm over the spiritual doldrums.

Ironically, however, it occurred to me as I worked today that I was blessing the warmth of the same sun that only a few months ago I’d been cursing for its relentless waves of miserable heat.  That brought me face to face afresh with the truth that too much of anything spoils even the very best of things, that there is a purpose, if not understanding, in all things, and that gratitude, when in comfort or lack, is the only appropriate response to a day’s gifts.  So, you see, it was more than an ordinary call or faint heartbeat that I’d heard; I’d encountered the Teacher and He, leading me in and out of flesh and spirit, had shown me, again, wisdom growing in the garden’s “soil.”

…and the Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all your undertakings, in the fruit of your body, in the fruit of your livestock, and in the fruit of your soil.  ~Deuteronomy 30:9a  ✝

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.)