Vibrancy and Dormancy | The Catholic Gardener



I’d driven to an area where Sandhill Cranes often stop to rest during their winter migration. Not too far away was an open and dry fen dressed in its autumn blonde and gold. At its lowest point a small brook meanders past poplars, scrubby shrubs, and wild grasses. This little tributary turns into a full sized creek when rains are heavy. Creek or brook, it eventually meets up with a larger river several miles downstream.

Large tussocks of grass grew on the banks. I’d decided to rest awhile, and pushed aside the fronds of a nearby tuft and sat on the leafy mound. The water was cold and clear, and glistened in the bright October afternoon. Through the knee-deep water the algae coated stones and pebbles on the stream bed were easy to see.

A lemon-yellow lance-shaped leaf from a locust tree, with tips upturned like a tiny canoe, floated and bobbed in rhythm with the current’s ripples. The leaf sped around an oxbow and spun in the little rapids created by stones and sticks. As it came to the next bend it was caught in an eddy and stopped its forward progression. There it sat nearly motionless as other leaves passed. Eventually something in the water’s movement lifted the golden leaf from the calm and back into the current.

Rapid movement…then stillness…

My thoughts drifted to my journey as a Benedictine Oblate and I remembered reading a quote by Fr. Gabriel, OCD, about the “double movement of charity.”[i] As an Oblate I am called to action and service in the busy flow of the world, with all its turbulence and determined forward movement. I am also called to the quiet eddy of prayer where I can rest in silence. In either situation the goal is to unite my efforts to God’s will “…fusing the love of God and the love of neighbor into one and the same love…”[ii]

I am a beginner, a novice at this work of action and contemplation. The balance of these two loves—of God and neighbor—is not yet easily attained. I prefer peeking around the window sash of my cloistered rooms to stepping through the door of the shelter in town—where all its noises, smells, and emotions overwhelm my senses. My nature is toward a quiet salvation of souls rather than to overt evangelization.

Sitting on the bank, my attention was drawn back to the brook as a bright red maple leaf got caught in the eddy—and surprisingly one of its winged seeds with it. The leaf was a glorious vibrant red in the mid-day sun and the spinner dull, dried and wrinkled. There they rested, side by side—vibrancy and dormancy.

Soon enough an unseen movement lifted them back into the flow. The leaf, with its unmistakable color shouting the glory of God, went ahead. Soon to follow was the unremarkable seed.

As I walked up the bank and across the field to the car I was comforted by, or rather, comfortable in my plainness. It is the unadorned seed that may eventually bear fruit.

[i] Divine Intimacy, Father Gabriel of Saint Mary Magdalen, OCD, p. 999.

[ii] Ibid, p.1000.

Image by Jerzy Gorecki at

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