I am a gardener. I am 71 years old, retired and living on ¾ of an acre in San Antonio, TX. My husband and I both have some health issues, so we have been living like hobbits since March 12, when my doctor said to me, “You need to go home and hibernate.” We have kept sane by keeping a daily rhythm that includes online morning prayer and compline (prayer at the end of the day) with our Episcopal church, meal preparation, house cleaning, reading, knitting, tending to our dog and cat, and the care and maintenance of all of our gardens.

With my own case of “COVID brain” (so-called by many, due to the ongoing stress we are experiencing) it’s been important to remember the poet Mary Oliver’s guidance:

Pay attention. 

Be astonished.

Tell about it.

Almost more than anything, digging, weeding and planting has kept me oriented toward the One in whom we live and move and have our being. Both of my grandmothers were gardeners, and they had continued to grow flowers, herbs and vegetables through two world wars, the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918-1919, the Great Depression and a variety of family tragedies. I have felt their presences close at hand as I’ve gotten dirty and sweaty.

I find myself marveling at new life of all sorts, and also giving thanks for plants that are ready for compost. I always visit with the plants, thanking them for their beauty and their offerings, taking time to notice their health and to pay attention to the state of the gardens overall. 

I have had a wildflower bed in the front yard this year, and once we were on lockdown, many families began stopping to admire bluebonnets and scarlet phlox, then larkspur and coreopsis daisies. The people who were stopping were of almost as many colors as the flowers!

This past couple of weeks, it has felt like the flowers are an offering of healing—I watch as parents point out flowers to their children, as some walkers take selfies with their dogs and the flowers, as occasional runners pause to drink their water and take in the Indian blanket and California poppies. It’s a kind of communion, a kind of deep connection and care.

I have met a lot of neighbors that I had not previously known. I have had the happy experience of being engaged in watering or weeding, and hearing someone holler, “LOVE YOUR FLOWERS!” The garden has offered beauty and diversity of color and shape and scent. And it has called forth the beauty of the diversity of this neighborhood, and helped us to call forth kindness and care from one another. 

At one point, a young neighbor drew a lovely chalk rendering of the flowers on the sidewalk, and wrote beneath it, “Good people live around here!” Her experience of the flowers, and of the walkers, runners, bikers, skateboarders, dogs, parents, children, was one of kindness and connection.

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