Gardens Transcend Life and Death

Part of my video ministry at St. Anne’s involves live-streaming funerals when requested. This was much appreciated by families who had overseas friends and relatives and especially when personal attendance was not possible due to Covid restrictions or concerns.

It has been a humbling experience to hear of the wonderful, loving lives led by people I only knew from a distance. Today I live-streamed a funeral for Earl Billman, someone, that I had gotten to know during my years at St. Anne’s. Earl was an usher among other things and he always had time for a friendly hello and conversation after mass. Earl was a gentleman, gardener extraordinaire, and beekeeper.

This poem was printed on the back of the program for his funeral mass. I thought it was worth keeping and publishing. I’ll be thinking fondly of Earl as I go about my gardening chores this spring.

Making A Garden

Man plows and plants and digs and weeds;
He works with hoe and spade;
God sends the sun and rain and air,
And thus a garden’s made.

He must be proud who tills the soil
And turns the heavy sod:
How wonderful a thing to be
In partnership with God.

Poet: Unknown

A Little Scriptural Reflection in Mid-Summer

According to the book of Genesis, when Adam and Eve screwed up big time. the Lord, God evicted them from the garden and said this:

“Cursed is the ground because of you!
In toil you shall eat its yield
all the days of your life.
Thorns and thistles it shall bear for you,
and you shall eat the grass of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
you shall eat bread
Until you return to the ground,
from which you were taken;
For you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”

(Gen 3:17-19 NABR)

This tells me two things about the author,

  1. The author had a garden.
  2. The author also had a wickedly dark sense of humor.

I get this passage of scripture because it certainly speaks to my experience of gardening.

(After three years of scripture school I tend to be a bit analytical in my reading of scripture. This passage of Genesis comes from the Yahwistic source, one of the four older sources that were used to compile what we know as the book of Genesis)

I did print out and laminate a copy of this passage to put on a sign in the garden. It will help keep things in perspective.

Wasps and Hornets – Humble Workers in the Vineyard

Several painful encounters with wasps put enmity between them and their seed and myself at an early age. For most of my years since then, it was open warfare and I usually walked outside with a can of Yard Guard in each holster, ready to dispatch any member of the Vespa Genus that even thought about attaching a nest to any part of my domicile.

My attitude has softened a bit as I became more of a gardener, and I’ve developed, shall we say, a working relationship with these little creatures. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still have a lot of respect for them, as they are armed, and they still sit down hard when threatened. But they are more helpful than harmful, and if you don’t threaten their nest,  they are usually quite docile.

The reason I’ve become more tolerant and respectful is because they do an excellent job of ridding the garden of pests. That means I don’t need to use any pesticides. It is interesting to watch them at work; they will inspect the underside of each leaf and if they find a bug, it gets a paralyzing sting, and then is carried back to the nest to be food for the next generation of gardeners.

Working in the Vineyard

It all revolves around wine.

As if that weren’t enough, I read an article from NPR this week that said that wasps and hornets are responsible for that complexity of flavors that is part of the enjoyment of a good wine. It seems that these critters bite the grapes while on the vine, probably to get a bit of juice. In their gut, they carry a microbe that is essentially brewer’s yeast, which they inject into the grape, which starts the fermentation process on the vine. That and other microbes that the wasps and hornets spread is responsible for the different fermentations and flavors that make for a good wine.

Nature is way more intertwined than we ever expected.

All Good Gifts

The first warm days of Spring and  the beginning of planting are very special. Most of my days are spent in my windowless subterranean studio, so being outside in summer is a real gift. I spend as many of my non-working hours outdoors as possible.

Back in the 70’s when I was young and newly married, Steven Schwartz’s Rock Opera “Godspell” was a hit. I was involved in a local theatrical production of the show at St. Hubert’s, our parish at that time. We used some of the songs at mass, as everyone scrambled for music in the vernacular in those early post Vatican II days when contemporary liturgical music composers were still looking for their voice. Natalie and I were fortunate to see the play on Broadway,  in New York — as a matter of fact it was the only play I’ve ever seen on Broadway in New York.

Schwartz’s “All Good Gifts” is still engraved in my memory and plays loudly when I get my hands in the warm garden soil for the first time each spring.

               We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land..
               But it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand..
               He sends us snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain…
               The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain…

              All good gifts around us
              Are sent from Heaven above
              Then thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all his love…