For a northeast gardener, June is one of the most spectacular months in the garden. Most gardens are in full bloom after the long wait of winter. Today, as with many days, I can sit back and just bask in the beauty that surrounds me. The wonder of the blue skies airbrushed with the white of the clouds, the different shades of green in the grass and trees, and the rainbow of colors of the flowers in bloom; a canvas of color that God gives us as a gift every day. A canvas that can change with the wind and weather, yet always creates a masterpiece to behold; flowers from heaven.
Years ago, I took a painting class (oh how I miss that) and one of the favorite things I learned was how to create depth and movement. The process of layering colors, to shade or illuminate a certain area, amazed me. I’d start with an unlikely color on the canvas and as I worked in other shades and highlights, the image suddenly came to life. Although I haven’t painted in years, that lesson has stuck with me and I have never looked at God’s creation in the same way again. My eye catches the yellow on the tips of the leaves where sunshine rests upon them, and as I push past the exterior I’m drawn deeper to its center where the darker colors display its shade.
Over the years I’ve received plants as gifts and have swapped a few with other gardeners as well. I’ve collected little trinkets from relatives that have passed on and seeds from places that I’ve visited. As my eyes capture these items, I’m reminded of people and places that have brought me happiness, peace, laughter, and even a tear or two. These items bring me comfort and provide an opportunity for me to pray. I pray for the souls who have passed on and for those they left behind, and I thank them for the memories and lessons they left me with.
Early in our marriage, my husband and I lived in a home owned by my in-law’s. We shared a two family house with my husband’s sister and her family. My brother-in-law and my husband both loved the outdoors and they’d talk about grass and trees and who knows what else – I was always too bored with the conversation and usually drifted off mid discussion. There was a particular tree that my husband loved. I can’t remember if my brother-in-law planted it or just provided my husband with all the facts about it. All I knew was that it provided both families with a shady area to sit outside on hot summer days and was an anchor for our clothes line. This beautiful, stately tree was called the tulip tree. I knew nothing more about it. Eventually both families moved out of that house and my husband made sure to grab a seedling of the tulip tree to plant in the yard of our new home. That was over 25 years ago.
A few years ago, while sitting out back, I noticed something on the top of the shed roof right below the tulip tree. As I approached the shed I found the most beautiful flowers on top and stood perplexed at where they had come from. When my husband came home I immediately brought him in the back to look at my discovery and he just looked at me with dumbfounded amazement. “What?” I said. He said, “It’s the blooms from the tulip tree.” Suddenly it clicked, that’s where the tree got it’s name. As a long time gardener I was a little embarrassed that I didn’t know this. Why hadn’t I notice this before? (side note: in many areas this type of tree doesn’t bloom until its 15th year and when it does, it is usually towards the top of the tree where it is difficult to see). More importantly, why hadn’t I listened to the story many years before that my brother-in-law told my husband? What a gift that would have been for me.
My brother-in-law passed away several years ago. He was much too young, leaving a wife and three young children. His loss was difficult for all of us but especially for his wife and children. He was a man who loved his family, the outdoors, rock and roll, and the gift of laughter – oh what a wonderful laugh he had. Every June I watch that tree and wait for those beautiful blooms to come out -sometimes I’m lucky enough to grab a few from the bottom branches that I can float in some water. The day I notice those blooms, I pray for him and find myself in conversation with him about his children. I talk about his son (my godson) that looks just like him and what a wonderful dad he is and about his daughter who follows in his footsteps as the ultimate DIYer, the woman can paint a house, tile a floor, and dig a hole as good as he did. He lives on in his other daughter with her gift of gardening – telling her own story of flowers and trees. I know he smiles down upon them as they roast marshmallows around a campfire, swim in the creek, or hike and bike a trail – everything he did with them.
“Mom, why do people die?”
“When you are in the garden, which flowers do you pick?”
“The best ones.”
There is healing in God’s creation and it brings strength to the body and soul. It rejuvenates you each time you watch that tiny sprout peek through the earth or a new bud appear from a barren tree. There is hope in the cycle of life and death, knowing that saying goodbye is a season, one not meant to be forever. There is a synergy between us and nature as new life breathes into our soul and we become one with the experience, not the outcome. Living life – the experience – is the process of planting, growing, struggling, battling of disease, blooming, harvesting, and caring for what surrounds us.
John 12:24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.