719. His Labor a Chant – his idleness – a Tune – oh, for a Bee’s experience of Clovers and of Noon! ~Emily Dickinson

Give and Take…
For to the bee a flower is a fountain of life
And to the flower a bee is a messenger of love
And to both, the bee and the flower,
The giving and receiving is a need and an ecstasy.
~Kahlil Gibran

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…store of bees, in a dry and warme bee-house
comely made of fir boards to sing and sit,
and feede upon your flowers and sprouts,
make a pleasant noyse and sight.
~William Lawson

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The men of experiment are like the ant;
they only collect and use.
But the bee…gathers its materials
from the flowers of the garden and of the field,
but transforms and digests it
by a power of its own.
~Leonardo da Vinci

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To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee, And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.
~Emily Dickinson

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No matter whether it hops, crawls, runs, wriggles, slithers, swims, flies, buzzes, chirrups, grows from the ground or lives in water, we, mankind, need nature. And those of us who garden know that what we as stewards of Creation must supply feeding stations and safe havens for the bees, the birds, and other wildlife. Therefore our flowers, berries, seed heads, etc. should be free of toxins. And among other things in autumn we need to resist disposing of things like hollow plant stems because tiny bees may be hibernating inside. All this is why years ago I started meeting the requirements for my yard to be certified as a habitat, and now that it is I proudly display my National Federation of Wildlife signs on the gates.

There are so many joyous components that go into what a yard and it flowerbeds and gardens are, and for me the buzz of the bees is one of the most essential of those elements. I love my bees and over the years I have intentionally planted things to attract them, especially after I began reading more and more about the alarming and widespread decline of bee populations as well as the collapse of beehives here in the US and all over the world. For instance, there are places all over our country where too many pesticides have been used over the years and as a result their ecosystems are void of bee populations. That’s why nowadays hives have to be transported from state to state by 18 wheel trucks so that farmers and growers can pollinate pollinate their crops and orchards.

What mankind desperately needs to realize is that should bees completely vanish from planet earth, there would never again be peaches and almonds(two of my favorite foods by the way) and so many other things, things we desperately need and depend on to support human life. So I always advise people who have a growing space to please consider planting things that will invite these amazing creatures to sup at their table. And as for being stung by one, let me just say two things: first, it’s a small price to pay for the preservation of our species; secondly, I have hundreds of bees in my yard, and I walk among daily among flowers to work in the beds or to take photos, and in the 20+ years that I’ve been doing I’ve not been stung once. A couple of times I have gotten a loud, warning buzz, especially when it’s a bumblebee that has been offended by my presence, and I just get up and walk away until the “grumbling bee” moves on. Ya know, now that I think about it, that works well in human relationships too. Hee hee!

Know also that wisdom is like honey for you: If you find it, there is a future hope for you, and you will not be cut off. ~Proverbs 24:14   ✝

**All images via pinterest and the internet; opening collage created by Natalie

409. Count the garden by the flowers, never by the leaves that fall. ~Author Unknown

I determine to live intentionally, God.
My life will be one of preparation and purpose,
bringing a heavenly fragrance into the stuff of earth.
~Jerome Daley

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The scent of a flower invites wildlife to its fragrant banquet, and the guests in turn purposefully do what they do so that the banquet table will never vanish or be empty. The Israelites were asked repeatedly in the Old Testament to offer up burnt sacrifices as a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Though animals are no longer sacrificed as burnt offerings, there are ways we can offer up a pleasant aroma not only to the Lord but as Daley suggests to bring a heavenly fragrance into the very “stuff of earth.” Even when physical pain or emotional loss, like a knife wielding demon, carves out great chasms of anguish within body and soul, one can choose to emit “a heavenly fragrance” instead of a demon-defeated foul stench. So it is that today I lift up my voice as a pleasant aroma to the Lord though the challenges of an aging and ailing body be great and painful.  And this lovely gladiola that came only to be blown to the ground by high winds, I count not as loss but as gain that the lovely lady came at all.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. -Psalm 19:14  ✝

Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you save, you heal, you restore, and you reveal Your Father’s heart to us! You have captured me with grace and I’m caught in Your infinite embrace! Like Saint Hildegard Lord, may I too be a feather on your holy breath and spread, like seeds, the gospel abroad.

405. As the garden grows, so does the gardener. ~Nora Jarbou

Where you have a plot of land,
however small, plant a garden.
Staying close to the soil is good for the soul.
~Spencer W. Kimball

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On a lesser scale what John O’Donohue said of the farmer that was quoted in my last post could also be said of a gardener. It may not have been fields that I chose to cut and create, but the labor to put flower beds around this piece of land was equally tough and punishing. The soil here is heavy clay laid over bedrock that in some places is a foot or less below the surface. That and the fact that bamboo and its extremely hard to dig up rhizomes were consuming the back of the lot may have been the reason only a few trees, the grass, and one small flower bed were here when we bought the place. Whatever the reason for the lack of little else I had to do a lot of digging, cutting, uprooting, and amending the soil to create the many “clearances” where I now plant and sow. And like the farmer’s fields, each bed has become a presence in my life, a unique and sacred presence that has not only tempered my heart and greened my thought but has also brought me back into the Lord’s keeping. The earth and its wildlife indeed seem now to trust the intention of my hands, and what has happened over the years in my “fields” has changed my heart and spirit for both had grown cold and hard and dark from living so long away from earth’s engaging and compelling ways.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot. . . ~Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 ✝

Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you save, you heal, you restore, and you reveal Your Father’s heart to us! You have captured me with grace and I’m caught in Your infinite embrace! Like Saint Hildegard Lord, may I too be a feather on your holy breath and spread, like seeds, the gospel abroad.

258. If your heart is straight with God, then every creature will be to you a mirror of life and a book of holy doctrine. ~Thomas à Kempis

If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures
from the shelter of compassion and pity,
you will have men who deal likewise with their fellow man.
~St. Francis of Assisi

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Between the houses on our street and the ones on the street behind us run power lines which also function as a sort of “interyard” highway for our sizable squirrel population.  During the course of a day’s time the squirrels run back and forth and back and forth along the elevated “freeway” that exits on various nearby “farm to market” tree branch roads.  From there they scamper down to the ground below or up to their hand built “high rise condos” or take “fence-line” lanes into adjoining yards.  When not engaged in foraging for food or water they playfully chase each other round and round.  Their spunky antics whilst doing so are often engagingly comical, and the agility with which they perform daring acrobatics with no fail-safe never ceases to amaze me.

The fluffy-tailed creatures seem to have little fear of me, but they become alarmed if and when a feral cat begins to stalk them.  To date, though they’ve barely escaped being pounced upon a time or two, they’ve perceived the threat in time and avoided being captured by scampering up, up, and away into places too lofty for most cats to follow.  Afterwards the escapee sometimes stays on high making chicken-like noises, until I, the games keeper, chase the predator away, or the cat grows weary of the clucking and leaves of its own accord, or the squirrel’s attention is diverted to or by something else.

The earth, its resources, and its creatures are a part of a holy, good deposit.  And because I’ve always felt a closeness to and reverence for Creation, I try to be a good steward of my deposit–my home, my family, and my little patch of Eden.  To that end through the National Wildlife Federation, my yard has been established as a wildlife habitat– a sacred sanctuary for me and all who dwell in or come here to visit.

Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you–guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.  2 Timothy 1:14  ✝

257. The tree is a slow, enduring force straining the win the sky. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Have you ever noticed a tree
standing naked against the sky, how beautiful it is?
All its branches outlined and in its nakedness,
there is a poem, there is a song…
When the spring comes, it again fills the tree
with the music of many leaves.
And this is the way of life.
~J. Krishnamurti

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Trees don’t just provide shade or rhyme and lyric for mortals; they are frequented by and home to an assortment of wildlife.  For example birds not only perch and sing in their lofty heights; they build nests in them as do squirrels who also use the branches as connecting highways to get them from one branch or tree to another.  When it’s winter as it is now and the trees are leafless, I can see the little fluffy-tailed acrobats make leaps, sometimes very daring ones, from one branch or tree to another as they work back and forth or up and down gathering acorns and building nests.  This week while I was observing their antics, I started looking at the differing filigreed patterns of our naked trees.  It was then I noticed the combined density of several trees in the northeast corner of our lot.  They obscure the heavens now almost as much as they would when in full leaf.  In this aerial thicket of woodiness the horizontal branches of my willow tree cross in front of the vertical branches of neighboring trees, and so their poetry or music is more of a series of mingled couplets or vocal duets as they make their “endless efforts to speak to the listening heavens.”

The trees of the field shall know that I am the Lord…  ~Ezekiel 17:23a  ✝

213. Hope is the extraordinary spiritual grace that God gives us to control our fears, not to oust them. ~Vincent McNabb

Ah! the year is slowly dying,
And the wind in tree-top sighing,
Chant his requiem…
High in the air wild birds are calling,
Nature’s solemn hymn.
~Mary Weston Fordham

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With lows in the teens and 20’s, the few things that had been hanging on have now perished along with their joyous songs of life.  In their place after last week’s arctic blast more and more strains of “nature’s solemn hymn” can be heard.  All is not lost, however.  The change of melodies is a part of God’s grand design, and I find strength and hope in watching His plan play out each year.  In fact on days when I feel really out of sorts, I’ve learned to go outside and find something to do even if I have to bundle up to accomplish it.  It might be nothing more than refilling the bird feeders and making sure all the overwintering wildlife have water, but the time out there steadies my inner compass again.  Feeling earth’s heartbeat and subsequently getting in step with its rhythms, also quells any sense of hopelessness brought on by the trials of life and the ongoing reports of a world torn by conflict and chaos.  It’s like when I first felt my child move in my womb.  I knew the sensation which felt like the wings of a butterfly barely grazing my uterus was the unmistakable touch of something sacred and right stirring inside me.  The Lord’s movement in my inner life is much the same.  It may be an ever so slight brush against my soul, but I know I’ve been touched by His loving Presence and am being held firmly in the arms of His grace regardless of what transpires with men gone mad.

See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him.  See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.  He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.  ~Isaiah 40:10-11  ✝

202. There is a communion with God, and there is a communion with earth, and there is a communion with God through the earth. ~Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, French philosopher and Jesuit priest

Grass is the forgiveness of nature-
her constant benediction.
Forests decay, harvests perish, flowers vanish,
but grass is immortal.
~Brian Ingalls

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Maiden grass, purple fountain grass, blood grass, little bluestem, pink muhly–what’s not to love about such names.  Not only are they alluring monikers for gardeners, but their visual charms provide great cover for  wildlife and their seeds are good food sources for birds.  Few pests bother them, and given a bit of wind their airy, flower panicles, feathery plumes, or striking seed heads resemble fairy wands as they capture and play with available light.  What I like best about them is that in their swishing and swaying the echoes of the eternal and murmurs of sacred benedictions can be heard.  A garden and all its plantings, be they grasses or trees or shrubs or ferns or herbs or mosses, always speak of earth’s primeval and venerable origins as well as man’s connection to the Holy Voice that spoke everything into being.  But it is in the movement of the grasses that I most feel the in and out movement of God’s ruach, His life-giving breath.  Chardin whom I quoted above contended that the more he devoted himself in some way to the interests of the earth the more he belonged to God.  It is the same for me because being close to and working the earth is like being attached to an umbilical cord that keeps me forever connected to and sustained by Him, the loving Source of all life.

Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make music to our God on the harp.  He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills.  ~Psalm 147:7-8  ✝