A Garden of Delight

Pixabay.com, CCO

To renew our wearied heart, we often head outdoors to be in a garden or wander a woodland park. If we are fortunate enough to live near an arboretum or commercial greenhouse, we can experience, literally, a breath of fresh air from the oxygen emitted by the hot-house plants.

I’ve been in love with plants since childhood. My first memory is of lying on the grass nose-to-petal with yellow creeping buttercup. My four-year-old hands were trying to pluck a tiny budding stem when I discovered the ground a few inches away moved. Pulling and crawling along, I dug tiny fingers into the soil until I had several chains of little plants.

Father was not pleased by what my curiosity had done to the yard.

Through the fractured and hormonal times of adolescence, I would run to the quiet of nature. There I could find creation’s orderliness un-constricted. It was comforting to know that the trees would continue to grow and seeds continue to sprout.

The art and beauty of landscape architecture nourished in me a desire to create prayer and memorial gardens, places where drawing closer to God was available beyond the pew and allowed an opening for the Holy Spirit to move in the heart of someone longing for Jesus.

It doesn’t matter the season or the latitude we live in, in God’s creation we find an ever-present way to both refresh and ground our spirit.

Our Lord speaks to us in the Bible with parables of nature. It was in The Four Waters[1] that St. Teresa of Avila used gardening analogies and set forth stages of spiritual development by depicting the different stages or grades of a life in prayer in metaphorical terms taken from watering a garden. Her insightful description of spiritual development is that God plants the garden which is irrigated in different ways through prayer.

Pixabay.com, CCO

A favorite quote by St. Teresa offers a way we can attend to our soul. She wrote “A beginner must think of herself as one setting out to make a garden in which her Beloved Lord is to take his delight…[2]” Her words are the theme of this blog.

We read in Isaiah 66:1-2 the Lord asking, what can you build for me as a resting place—I made all things. We can build for Our Lord one thing, a resting place in our souls—a garden pleasing to the Lord.

In creating a garden of the soul, like earthly gardens, we pull out the weeds, keep things pruned, and remove old seed heads so that new flowers come forth. We remove the debris that makes it hard to know what is truly there, and in so doing we allow new seeds to sprout.

Many of the Bible parables speak of nature. There is a godly reason for that; we were created for a garden, we were created agrarian. The imagery is easy for us to understand; it is an experience of love, a memory of paradise.

There is a sense of homing with nature, a restoration of peace in remembering that first garden, created for our delight. I am refreshed often as I encounter the Holy in all the growing spaces; it is a greening, a growing of the soul.

What is encountered to create a garden in my soul, is what I will offer to you. From the seeds planted in the oratory, to their growth in the Adoration chapel, I pray my musings will bear some small fruit for God’s own profit. Here you will read stories and thoughts of finding the Creator in his creation, plants that can be used for spiritually themed gardens and how to grow them, and like a farmer’s almanac little bits of information unearthed from saints and seasons decades ago…and maybe a recipe or two (I love making soups!)

I hope you will visit again and thank you for stopping by.

Continue reading

Decompressing; Photos in a Garden

Aleteia pro life gardenIt’s been all too much. We’ve heard, “The gates of hell will not prevail…” but Satan is sure having a go at it during this Year of Mercy! So much hate, intolerance, and violence.

A cartoon making the rounds on social media says, “My desire to be well informed is at odds with my desire to remain sane.” After reading that I stepped away from the computer, took my rosary and camera, and heading into the garden to rest my weary heart in the company of the Creator.

Here are a few of the photos that I took (sorry if they seem a bit grainy). Rest your eyes a moment, take a deep breath and pray, Come Holy Spirit, come now, come as you wish.

Trumpet Vine

Trumpet Vine

asiatic lilies

Asiatic Lily

 

 

 

 

 

Mouse Ears Hosta

Mouse Ears Hosta

Golden Splendor Lily

Golden Splendor Lily

Pansies

Pansies

Annabelle Hydrangea

Annabelle Hydrangea

Daylily

Daylily

I hope these images may have softened the anguish, we’re all feeling it.

A favorite quote from St. Teresa of Avila helps me to realign when my thoughts tip towards despair.

A beginner must think of herself as one setting out to make a garden in which her Beloved Lord is to take his delight…”

Let us all orient ourselves to becoming that garden, striving to bloom among pestilence and weeds.

If you’re inclined, there are some powerful and focused prayers from Elizabeth Scalia here and here.

Images by Margaret Rose Realy, Obl OSB. All rights reserved.

 

Stay in touch! Like The Catholic Garden, Morning Rose Prayer Gardens’ page on Facebook:

Keep Shoveling, Dearie

field tree 2014Restless and awake through the night, in bed under layers of quilts, I listed to the sleeping dog’s whimpering barks. The cat had realized that the dog’s sleep and my wakefulness was an opportunity for undisturbed cuddles. She chortled softly as she walked around the foot of the bed. She placed her front paws on my shoulder and nestled her head against my cheek.

I stared out the small dormer window. The streetlight’s glow through the window marked a cross high on my bedroom wall. Even without my glasses I could tell it was snowing. I let out a deep sigh of both relief and weariness. The purring cat curled closer to my chest.

Sometime during the past few weeks, among the holiday cheer and in-between presents, the switch had flipped from alone to isolation. To live a reclusive life is a blessing; to feel isolated is a thing to be cursed. St. John’s words on dark nights of the soul helped me understand these familiar occurrences. When in that darkness, I rely deeply on faith and seek earnestly the Face of God in the smallest events. Like a mantra I’ll repeat the Bible verse, be still, be still…“Be still and know the I AM God.”

From the window the dawn filtered slowly through the winter storm. I encouraged the cat from the fold in my arm and sat up on the edge of the bed. Nesting feet into slippers I lumbered into the day.

Throughout the day it continued to snow and had steadily increased. With a second night of snow predicted, and another third storm soon to follow, I had to start clearing the drive before the accumulation was more than I could manage with my back.

I love snow, love how it softens and quiets my world, how it mutes distractions and draws me into the present. I become more attentive to how I step, to watching out for others, and realize how vulnerable I am in a world grown cold—and blessed to have protection.

cupcake snowI headed out the front-porch door, bundled in an old seam-frayed coat, furry hat, and insulated mittens. I grab the shovel, and broom to clean off the car, and paused, distracted by the beauty of it all. The apples that still hung on the tree had snow thick and peaked like frosting and looked like suspended cupcakes. Every limb and tiny branch was edged with snow. The parallel white-on-black lines of branches were an entanglement of contrast that fooled the perception of depth.

The contrast of it all—the beauty and the threat—was what had my attention.

With an arthritic spine I knew the task of shoveling was a dare…a triple-dog-dare. I would either feel heroic in success or as foolish as a preen-teen boy with tongue frozen to the tether-ball pole, knowing better. I took the gamble and began to clear the snow.

Immediately I realized that lifting a shovelful was not an option. The accumulation was already too much for me to handle. Usually my neighbor Gary (aka Bear) would plow the drive, but he had moved last spring. I stood upright, and for a moment felt discouraged…there was no one to help.

The contrast of delight of new-fallen snow rubbed hard against the reality of the situation. The contrast of perceived isolation in my heart chafed the joy in my soul.

If I were to get the car out in the morning for an appointment, the snow would have to be removed before more accumulated. Stooping, I began again, and prayed. I persevered and pushed, rather than lift, small lines of snow.

As the drive was slowly cleared I thought of the people in my life that, these past weeks, helped me push through depression. There was the delight at Mass of seeing a friend, who lives over an hour north from church. And the unexpected marketing gift from a publisher shortly after Christmas. The sweet teasing and bantering of writing friends on Facebook brought laughter to my days. Then, from 2500 miles away, came an embrace of caring words from another woman who writes.

Sometimes it’s not possible to alone lift ourselves from the accumulation of challenges in life, but we can with the help of others push our way through whatever is at hand.

By the time the drive was cleared, the switch of isolation had been turned off. With a warm cup of tea I rested my back and watched the snow continue to fall as dusk came and settled the day.

(1/2014. Images by Margaret Rose Realy, Obl OSB. All rights reserved.)

 

 

Cultivating God’s Garden through Lent

CGG Patheos book coverIt must be a bit unnerving for a deacon to go all a cappella  in front of the congregation when cantering the Epiphany Proclamation. I’ve listened to friends Dr.Gregory Popcak and Deacon Greg Kandra — lovely voices both — chant the proclamations of The Epiphany or Easter. This year at a local church, the deacon there did an excellent chant as well. What I heard within his proclaiming was that Ash Wednesday is coming early this year on February 10. That’s only a few weeks away!

Like a lot of folks, I like having a Lenten book of reflections. Having a daily read to meditate upon helps us grow towards a personal Easter resurrection.

To that end, I would like to offer you an excerpt from my book, Cultivating God’s Garden through Lent, available on line through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the publisher Patheos Press, in hopes that you will consider it for your faith journey. It was awarded the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval!

First Week of Lent: The Creator’s Joyful Gifts

Friday of the First Week

Attentiveness to Details

The big Eastern White Pine tree that grew at the southwest corner of the house was recently removed by the local power company.

When it was young, I would attach food to it during the winter to feed the animals; peanut butter-coated pinecones rolled in seed, corn cob halves hung with twine, and home-baked animal cookies full of protein. Its adolescent boughs held out hope for many animals when food was scarce.

As it grew, the boughs spread further into the garden. It wasn’t until many years later that I figured out it was not the cultivar I had thought it to be. This Eastern White Pine was going to be big, very big. It had not been planted in an appropriate site so as to grow to its full potential.

So it grew, as the cliché goes, “where it was planted.” It protected the birds, housed the squirrels, and hid the raccoons. It buffeted winter winds and provided shade from hot summer suns.

I would listen from my upper bedroom windows as its boughs whispered when the winds blew through them. When working in the yard I would often stop and touch its long delicately soft needles, the same needles that would fall off in late summer and provide beautiful golden mulch for the flower beds. I loved how the new growth, called candles, would come out pointing toward heaven, and how the pollen would burst into the air like incense when I thumped the male cone clusters with my hand.

Repeatedly it needed harsh pruning to keep its limbs off the house. The lower boughs encroached into the yard so far that they eventually had to be trimmed up the trunk so one could walk under them. Its expansive limbs grew between the electrical wires and were repeatedly trimmed back by the power company. With all this cutting-back as it grew it became misshapen, less beautiful than it was intended to be. Yet it was as fully what it could be in the circumstances in which it was planted.

During storms, and there are many of them here, the branches would hit the wires as well as the sides of the house. During one particularly nasty winter, three massive limbs broke off due to snow loads. The blessing was that they brushed against and then fell free of the power lines, and completely missed the house and wooden stockade fence.

I had prayed many times about that tree. It needed to be removed and I could not pay to have that done. It was ruining the siding of the house. It was a threat to my neighbors during the winter because of its potential to create a power outage. It grew only feet from my bedroom wall and I feared a wind shear or tornado would drive it through the roof. I loved that tree. I was also frightened by it.

My prayers were answered one spring day when a representative from a tree trimming service hired by the power company came to my door. The young man who stood there very respectfully explained about the neighborhood pruning that would take place in a few weeks. As I walked outside with him, he delicately tried to describe to me what this large, already misshaped pine would look like if they trimmed it back the required distance to free the power lines.

While he spoke I was secretly hoping that the Holy Spirit had moved someone somewhere to answer my earlier prayers. When he asked permission to completely remove the tree I nearly squealed. He looked at me, startled and a little relieved as I exuberantly answered, “Oh yes, please!”

Having an overgrown tree removed may not seem like suitable stuff for prayers, especially when I think about a friend dying of cancer or the violence in the world. Yet, there it is once again, God’s attentiveness to the smallest details in my life. I sometimes think God just wants to see me wriggling with delight.

____________________________

My Lord,

Let me always be confident in your love. Help me to know in my heart that every prayer uttered, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is heard by you. Let us accept that the betterment of a soul is always your answer to prayer, and be assured that you are ever present in the details of our lives.

If you’ve already read the book, thank you! Please let others know that you enjoyed it, and maybe, if you have the time, leave an Amazon review.

Also for the new year from Ave Maria Press, is another one of my books, A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac. Its a month-by-month look at our faith traditions, how to create liturgical gardens, and some good old fashioned gardening advice.A Catholic Gardner's Spiritual Almanac