Garden Prayer

purple and pink stalks of foxglove in a garden, with a stone house in the background

Early in the morning, before the children are awake and while the grass is still dewy, I like to walk in my garden. It’s “my” garden only because it shares the same small plot of land my family and I inhabit. The garden does not really belong to me; I belong to it—at least for the short time I’m here. Today I’m still in my slippers and have my first cup of coffee in hand.

Much of what grows had been planted two or three homeowners ago, some I’ve planted since our arrival; but, if they belong to anyone or anything, the plants and flowering trees I come to see and smell — viburnum, dogwood, magnolia, and crab apple— belong to the sun and rain and soil. These living things are a beauty not of my making, though surely made of my desire.

At the moment, the rose bushes are in full burst of red and perfume. The hydrangeas are sure to open their moppy heads as soon as the sun falls upon them. The weedy looking globe thistles are turning lovely blue and spiky. The foxglove, however, rules the garden. Its central stalk is five-feet high and heavy with pink, scoop-shaped blossoms with charming freckles inside. I am awed by the abundance.

I’d intended to walk the garden simply to observe and wonder. Ah, but there’s a weed that must be pulled, a stray stem the needs to be pruned, a blossom drooping and fading that should be snipped. So I set down my coffee cup on the back porch, grab a small pail, and go to work. I end up with muddy hands, wet slippers, and a pail full of weeds and trimmings. Why can’t I simply observe and wonder? Won’t the beauty of my small garden world survive without me?

I step back to the porch to retrieve my coffee, now cold, stamp the dew off my slippers, and take one look back at the garden before I return into the house. The garden is no more beautiful now than when I first arrived. My weed pulling, pruning, and snipping haven’t really improved the garden nor made that much of a difference as far as I know.

It’s like prayer: The words I speak don’t really change anything, but I know they change me.