We were late gathering for directions to guide our first springtime Garden Work Day, but I knew it would look better once we got through the morning. It was colder than expected. So cold, in fact, that I put my slim winter gloves under my rubber dipped gardening gloves just to keep the numbness at bay. We had coffee cups lining the stairwell to keep us inspired; that is, until the momentum kicked in and we let the garden tool handles get the best of those goblets of black liquid gold.
Kind of a silly way to begin the day, but it seemed like the best to ease into the more subtle truths that emerged when working in the front yard. I remember asking Aaron if he took any pictures before we started. From other garden experiences, I knew the result of our effort would produce a visible change. But, without a photo I wasn’t sure we’d appreciate our corporate effort.
And then the Big Book moment happened (thank you Mary Laymon for that language): most of life we don’t take pictures of our individual growth and therefore we can miss the transformation that occurs between our personal before and after moments. Not so with the changing of the seasons. The barrenness of winter is visible and sometimes palatable to us; the rains of springtime prevent us from venturing out sometimes, yet the water makes us aware of things thawing; the heat of summer creates an appreciation for breezes—whether they are gentle or robust; and the colors of fall capture our attention to light, change and endings.
I love pulling weeds when I work in the garden. It’s my favorite contribution to the growth process because I know I’m creating a more vibrant environment for the plants and flowers to grow within. I also like the visible results. And this year, living in community, I was able to take note that weeds in my heart were no longer sticking around this spring.
After years of noticing bitterness, anger and unforgiveness, I chose to enter a recovery group at the Eve Center that would help me identify the root of these weeds and give me courage to make the deepest and most strategic pull at them. It hurt. A lot. Yet I know that just like the ground we worked that March morning, my heart is now a more vibrant environment. And I can see the seeds of community, friendship and accountability flourishing into shared laughter, random public dancing and a willingness to remain prayerful even when words would not come.
I am grateful for the rhythm of Morning Prayer that was often encouraging. I am thankful for the rhythm of shared meals that guide me to slow down. And I am thankful for our yard and garden. The emergence of beautiful things gives me hope that I’ll see a similar fruitfulness in my heart, relationships and communities to come.
Leslie Stevenson (pictured during our intentional community garden work day) is a fellow at Brendan’s Crossing a Young Adult Intentional Community and Service Year in Cincinnati, Ohio sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio.