A SACRAMENTAL GARDEN
The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (10/12/05)
Gardens and gardening appeal to many people for various reasons. Some like to work the soil and watch things grow. They like flowers, vegetables, herbs, trees, and bushes. They like to sniff the roses and herbs, eat ripe tomatoes off the vine, prune bushes and trees, feel well-worked soil drift through their fingers. They like physical work in pleasant surroundings.
Others not only like to work the soil, they also love of the beauty of a garden. They feel as though they are painters with a palette, limning textures and colors, designing beds and walks. For them gardening is an art in which the gardener gives voice to the mute melange of soil, water, sun, and air. For garden artists design is the heart of gardening. They appreciate the shape of a bush, the dangling tendrils of a climber, and the colors of leaves, flowers, and stems . They even cherish the rocks, their shapes, patinas, and colors.
The reason is simple. Gardens and gardening are therapeutic. They’re good for the soul. They draw the mind away from the hurly-burly of everyday life. They allow people to regain their temper for having lost it. The physical sensations of taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing beckon them to those simple pleasures of the senses. The deep purple of an eggplant, the fragrance of a rose, the songs of birds, the architecture of a tree, the shape and texture of rocks, all draw the mind away from persoal internecine conflict to the immediacy of beauty. The beauty of a garden soothes the savage breast lurking in everyone. Without it, people are often Shakespeare’s "Poor Brutus, with himself at war" who "forgets the shows of love to other men."
One of the great pleasures in life is sharing rewarding experiences with those for whom we care. Gardens offer those communal experiences. Beautiful gardens cause passersby to stop and chat and bring friends together to share their delights. Gardens bring an ease of communion.
Still others experience gardens as sanctuaries, places set aside in which the mind can not only find peace and ease but also take flight on journeys of the spirit. The curved lines of walks and foliage free the mind "cribbed, cabined, and confined" by the boxes and straight lines of society. As people embrace the discrete sensations of beauty, they often touch the fringes of eternity. The physical pleasures of the garden release the heart and mind as the garden sacramentally becomes an "outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace."
For many gardeners, gardens and gardening can become "moveable feasts" of the imagination. They can simply close their eyes, breathe deeply, and recreate in their mind’s eyes the feel of soil, the color of flowers, the shape of a branch, the aroma of life. As their spirits take wing and fly to the "uttermost parts" of the imagination, they journey into the outer reaches of inner space.
William Blake in his "Auguries of Innocence" said it best:
To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.
Copyright (c) Dana Prom Smith 2006