Just Keep Going

 

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We all get cut back a bit through life, sometimes a little more like a prune than a pinch.

I often find the greatest truths in the simplest garden lessons.

The begonia is an amazing plant…it just keeps going along and blooming, and when cut back, it starts up again.

~ Gladys Taber

The Angel Wing begonias are a lesson in humility. They too start up again when cut back and hide their beauty beneath their wings.

Image by Heidel Bergerin at pixabay.com.

 

 

Covering Ground, Unwilling to be Barren

6F6A3033Had I still been using a typewriter, there would be a pile of balled up, partially typed pages surrounding my desk. I thought I had a good piece written, but then not quite. It was reworked, altered, I paraphrased another writer, tried to add wit which only seemed forced, moved paragraphs…no, lead sentences…no…start again.

I thought this column would be about barren ground, earth laid fallow and exposed. I wanted to tell you about how it’s not natural to create an unproductive and sterile land. That nature wants to protect itself. Gardeners and farmers know that exposed soil is soon covered by plants. All manner of seeds fall to the ground and take hold. The seeds sprout, their roots secure the soil, and the ground is protected from the ravages of sun and wind.

I wanted my column to lead you into reflecting why we at times are not being fruitful. But all my words lacked depth, sounded trite and fell short in a way that was embarrassing.

I left my desk and sat before the home altar where I prayed and read. I went to Adoration and offered to God the few words that I had printed out and carried there. I tried to be open, to be still and calmly wait. I sat in the upholstered chair with the dog. I stared out the window. I returned to my desk and stared at the monitor.

All that I had were snippets of thoughts, disconnected and dispersed, and an imagined pile of wadded up paper strewn around my feet.

I found that I felt like the fallowed ground in my unproductive metaphor. My nature doesn’t want to be fruitless and barren, not even for a day. I feared that if I were idle for too long the winds of change would blow hot and carry away what was fertile ground, leaving me exposed as nothing more than the proverbial Dust Bowl.

I want to be fruitful…so add yet another blank sheet to my digital “typewriter.” Words or weeds, they both cover ground eventually.

Image by Mariask courtesy morguefile.com.

(1/23/13)

Mother has the Patience of a Saint

Soloman's seal and cross

Solomon’s seal and cross

Silently she stands, peering at me from around a tree as I slog my way through the project. She’s been waiting for me to complete her rose garden.

I started it the beginning of May, the month dedicated to our Holy Mother. The idea for a Marian rose garden didn’t originate with me, it was by request. The thought of attempting to garden again was a challenge to how I’ve come to see myself with physical limitations. It felt like a dare, and I usually don’t respond to those. Taking on this project would mean learning about patience and moderation so there would be minimal aches from my Mary behind treearthritic spine.

Moving forward a lot of prayers were offered as I struggled to let go of expectations. Tasks I had done in less than thirty minutes now took the better part of a day, and a day in between to recover. Prayer also supplied endurance to persevere—and needed materials.

One expectation that had to be let go was that the garden would be completed by Mother’s Day. I now hope for the end of the month, on The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, May 31.

The next phase was to deal with the sod, and then plant the roses. I fussed for a few days on the placement of the bushes, finally deciding the order of the roses should be white/Joyful Mysteries, red/Sorrowful Mysteries, yellow/Glorious Mysteries, and last purple for the recently added Luminous Mysterious—the sorrowful being embraced on each side with joy and glory.

There is still more to do.

Next was trenching out the sod for the edging of bricks—those lovely, now clean treasures! The bricks will provide an edge for the lawn mower wheel to ride over, eliminating the need to trim the grass. edger flippedHaving learned earlier the benefit and ease of using an electric edger, I repeated the process, cutting two lines around the bed in the width of the bricks. I found the cultivating hoe was perfect for rolling up strips of sod. Over the course of a couple of days I was ready for ground cloth and mulch.

cutting edging brickscutting edging pulling strip

 

 

 

 

 

 

To lay the ground cloth, secure the material with U-shaped landscaping pins at the farthest edge and unroll to the other end, leaving about two inches extra at each end. The material will usually blow around, so I used a brick to hold a portion in place while I worked my way across the bed. Slide the cloth up onto the sod/soil and cut a line partially across the material so it will go around a bush. When you figure the cloth is far enough up, cut an X and fold the flaps under so the cloth encircles the bush. Pin the split in place and move on to the next plant. Repeat the process for the next course of ground cloth, allowing a three inch overlap on top of the previous row. Pin in place. It took three courses of material to cover my garden area.

Trim back the extra cloth allowing an extra two inches or more to lie under a flat edging; in my case, the bricks. If you are using a vertical edging you’ll leave only one inch and slide the ground cloth between the edging and the soil on the garden side.

Next week, the finishing touches.

I made poetry stones, too!

(All images by Margaret Rose Realy, Obl OSB. All rights reserved.)

Seeds of Wisdom from Saints and Curious Sinners

thumbnailIt’s one of my procrastination techniques.

I need to get blog posts written before I get a project back from my editor that’ll need all my attention.

Instead, I’m rummaging.

It began innocently enough. The little cubbies of my desk were stuffed, layered with dust and tiny paper tabs from spiral notebooks that looked like cookie crumbs.

I tossed the old notes and greeting cards, and cardstock bookmarks, but there was a good sized handful of quotes, written on scraps of paper, that I wanted to keep. Which took me to the files…too many files. And then I wanted to find the envelope with all the little sweet comments written from friends.

I sifted through boxes and drawer after drawer—picking at this, reading that, pulling starters for columns—and not coming up for air until three hours later. What was I thinking?

Indeed, what was I thinking? When rummaging we look with an intent of finding something. Often going back to the same place a couple of times, certain that “it” is there, somewhere, we are sure of it.grouping

It was a surprise to find multiple folders—in two drawers—tabbed as something spiritual. And to find within the folders hundreds of prayers, sayings, Bible quotes, insights, pages torn from Magnificat, tiny brochures, instructional booklets—some in triplicate in different locations—and handwritten 3×5 cards dated some twenty-five years ago. A Holy accumulation of impressive size!

I was searching, yes, and avoiding what I had to do, but why…for what?

A few days ago I had driven along farm lanes to the country church for morning Mass. There are only the four of us regulars. Walking in the nave was dark, altar candles unlit, and my three compatriots were absent. It wouldn’t be the first time that only Father and I shared communion. I waited and prayed as I watched the sunlight move across the stained glass of Jesus depicted kneeling against a rock, the Agony in the Garden.

As the tower bells rang out, and still no priest, I knew Mass would not be celebrated. I was caught off guard by my tears—no communion, no Jesus. I hungered for the Eucharist. It was too late to go into town and receive at another church. Reluctantly I stepped out of the pew and stood looking to the crucifix a few moments longer. Driving home I prayed the priest was okay…and felt sad.

Not so many years ago, before my reversion, it never occurred to me that people could hunger for Mass. This day I discovered that during those years of coming home I was rummaging for God.

In my seeking I gathered words and thoughts that guided. Incremental scraps tucked in a dozen different places, seeds of wisdom gleaned from saints and curious sinners. I stored them away for anticipated days of winter, those times of darkness when my soul would be adrift.

grouping 2My decades long rummaging was not a wide eyed scanning of places “it” could be found. But more like the hand in the drawer feeling about back in the corners, shoving things aside, a little frantic at the not-finding-the-sought.

And about my procrastination day? Well, I think I am still searching for a few lost keys.

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

Mouse in the House

It’s turning cold outside, and with it comes that scratching sound that distracts me from my prayers. They’re running up the chimney wall and across the ceiling. With any luck the rodents will run under the bathroom sink and into the cheese-filled trap.

I’m conflicted. I really hate having to kill mice. They are funny little things. One late summer evening sitting in the yard, I watched a pair of them scurry, hop, and tumble with one another under the sunflowers, gathering fallen seeds from birds.

I remember from childhood sleeping on the floor in the back room and, having saved tiny pieces of bread or corn from dinner, would place it under the radiator. Soon enough my “pet” field mouse would run up and snatch my gift. It wasn’t long until the little rodent was waiting for me to feed it. It would tickle my finger tip with its tiny paws, eat, and eventually dart off. The mouse was always aware of any danger to its tiny being and would run for cover at the slightest threat.

Having grown up in Detroit in an area where personal threat was a very real thing, I am (still) uncomfortable and distracted in public. For the love of God, I set that fear aside. It is not just the opportunity for physical harm that keeps me mindful of my surroundings, but mental and spiritual peril as well.

I fret over what my responsibility is in public situations—of men being sarcastic and mean to women, mothers being verbally abusive to energetic and misbehaving children, cell phone users speaking inappropriately (ignoring their companions or children) in public spaces—and the general rudeness of people living under stress and the oppression of being without a sense of God. My confidence of being a good Christian often wanes in public.

To be some sort of a presence of Christ we all work at being attentive to people and their wants, confusions, challenges, and stories. It is in our silence that they reveal their needs. I attempt to be a source of calm, offering prayer so the Holy Spirit can work in them.

I sidestep sharing on the same level. The encounter is not about me. They needn’t know more than I am a gardener, Benedictine Oblate, and that I love to pray—the people I meet fuel my desire to do so.

I see myself as a mouse, scurrying about the perimeter of life to avoid detection, and at the same time aware of what is going on around me. I snatch up little morsels of food I find—those little bits and pieces of human sorrows, needs, and emptiness that are dropped—and carry them back to a place of safety for prayer.

Meanwhile, the devil prowls about ready to pounce, and sometimes I get caught in his claws. Wounded, I know where to find healing. And from the wounding I learn to be more vigilant, to circle sooner behind the Holy and wait.

It’s not about being perfect in our encounters, or praying more. It’s about doing and being our best no matter how small we are.

(Photo by Rama, Wikimedia)