For many years I have kept, what I refer to as, “My Little Book of Special Things.” I suppose you could say it may be somewhat like a journal. This little book is a treasure, full of wonderful things and beautiful words. In going through this book a few days ago, I came across this lovely piece, written by Dr. Kent Nerburn. Clipped no doubt from a garden magazine, this piece touches me now, just as it did so many years ago. So, on this lovely Sunday in June, I thought you might enjoy it too.
“The Gift of Garden“ – Kent Nerburn, Ph.D
I have not always loved gardens. They seemed too controlled and futile. It took a friend of mine, a Jesuit priest, to open my heart to their beauty. He was a deeply learned man and had spent his life in pursuit of ultimate issues: What is God, what is the nature of good and evil, what is the meaning of life? But as he grew older, he had turned his attention to the creation of a Japanese garden.
Inside a small yard, day by day, on hands and knees, he would lovingly pluck a leaf, bend a twig, place a stone, or trim a branch until a new and unexpected shaft of light showered down and danced upon the earth. He now spent more time with his garden than he did with his books.
I once asked how he had come to this. “I still ask the large questions,” he said. “But I no longer seek large answers. A flower, or the space between a branch and a rock, these are enough.”
He bid me get down to where he was carefully removing a leaf from a small plant. “Look here, he said, as the leaf released and fell softly into his hand. “This looks like nothing more than an insignificant shrub. But in fact it is a small tree, strong and full, with a rich and private life than no one knows or sees.”
He pointed to a sliver of sunlight beaming down upon its branches. “I opened this to the sun last year. See how the branch is turning to the light? This took months. But I knew that by allowing the smallest bit of light to shine upon this plant, it would slowly turn its face toward the sun.”
He turned and smiled at me. “Are any of us so different from this tree – strong, full, with a life almost unnoticed? And who among us does not grow and prosper when someone shines even the smallest bit of sunlight upon us? What more do I need to know of God and faith?”
He stood and walked slowly back into his library. “If I cannot see the face of God in a flower or a shaft of light, why should I expect to see it in ideas and books?”
I have never since ignored a garden. They are, in all their richness, the bearers of great truths. A well-placed rock is a statement of eternity. A flower in bloom is creation made whole.
Life, death, earth, and sky all come together in the intimacy of a garden’s space. At least once a day, I try to contemplate a garden. The season does not matter. The weightlessness of snow, the timelessness of rocks, the time-bound mutability of plants, the fragile immediacy of flowers – somewhere within is a lesson that will touch my heart and link me, if just for a moment, with the universal rhythms that are the source of all true peace.
I reach down and touch the delicate leaf of a plant. My friend’s words rise up in my heart. “Everything lives, everything dies, everything leans to the light.”
If I knew only this, it would be enough.
Wishing you and yours a beautiful day, full of light and love !