Praying amidst the petunias


By Barb Arland-Fye

Just two hours after taking a shower, I was on hands and knees, sweat dribbling down my clean T-shirt and jeans, pulling weeds from the garden. The initial intention was to make the garden look presentable without me getting dirty.

But soon enough, the physical labor and the beauty of God’s creation absorbed me. I feel closest to God when I’m outdoors, and being alone in the garden enhanced that feeling. It’s a time for contemplation in what has become an outdoor chapel for me.

I’ve never enjoyed weeding until this year because of the back-aching, tedious labor it entails. But tidiness gives me a sense of well-being, and the efforts of my physical exertion in the garden are instantaneously rewarded. Why I’m just coming to that realization in mid-life is not clear. Maybe that’s how God coaxes me into the garden.

Before this year, I found gardening a bit intimidating. What if I trampled fledgling bean plants or carrots? What if I ripped out the produce and flowers with the weeds? What if I developed a case of poison ivy or became a host to ticks?


Last year, I did trample some bean plants, but the garden still yielded an abundant crop of green beans and wax beans that my family enjoyed well into winter. Like a wide-eyed child, I still get a thrill out of watching a garden grow and produce food that nourishes my family — even zucchini. I am not a fan of this member of the squash family, but enjoy eating it on occasion. We already have a bumper crop of zucchini to share; it’s just making sure it gets shared before it rots. My husband Steve loves to bake; the excess zucchini gives him an excuse to make zucchini bread which he prepares in multiple loaves to give to family, friends, co-workers and soup kitchens.

I thought the garden would be a family affair, with all of us working together to nurture it. But it has become a solitary activity for Steve and me. I seem to be busy when he’s working outdoors and he’s usually gone when I feel the urge to garden. Our 15-year-old son Patrick says, “Gardening’s not my thing.” Colin, our 23-year-old son, would probably echo that comment.

The garden has, on occasion, disturbed domestic equanimity because of the rabbits and other wildlife it attracts. Steve sees the rabbits as pests that need to be disposed of. I see them as cute guests looking for a meal. Nonetheless, I don’t want them devouring all of the produce. I’ve suggested that we could take Steve’s photo and mount the image on a post in the garden to serve as a scarecrow.

I’m not so worried about Steve’s reaction to that idea — made in jest — as I am to my latest mistake in the garden. While pulling up weeds today that had entangled themselves in the produce and the petunias, I inadvertently pulled up the petunias. Maybe it’s time for more contemplation in the garden!

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