Things Lost…Things Given in Return

In Recollected Essays by Wendell Berry, there is an essay called: The Body and the Earth. At the beginning Berry shares a quote from James E. Bostic, Jr., Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development.

Here it is:

“But just stop for a minute and think about what it means to live in a land where 95 percent of the people can be freed from the drudgery of preparing their own food.”

Wait! Read that again…see what this man’s job was? It’s possible that this mentality led to the dying of our small farms. But to say that growing and preparing your own food is drudgery?  To put your hands in the warm earth and plant…to water…to watch things grow…drudgery?

It was meant to be from the beginning. There is great satisfaction in seeing a garden grow. Even better: sharing with others around an old fashioned dining table.

We’ve lost something rewarding in our country. I am old enough to see the progression of it. When I was a child and went to “the farm” the milk was fresh, dinner was from the garden, and Grandma’s bread was homemade, along with her cookies. We ate wholesome eggs from the chicken barn. We enjoyed the hard work of stacking hay and shucking peas with grandma on a hot sunny day.

Grocery stores were much smaller with less variety of foods, and very little processed foods. Your meat was home-grown, or it came from a butcher. Small farms were manageable with a family with a few children. Working together, growing, preparing food was hard work, but satisfying. This was a great example of family unity.

I gave up the garden at the house when we moved. I always tried to grow cucumbers and I never had success. We had a flowering tree that smelled like oranges, a purple lilac, and Rose of Sharon. I left behind bleeding hearts, spring tulips, daffodils, lily of the valley, forget me not’s…and my blueberry bushes. I miss the yard and trees…and the big porch to sit out and watch my birds.


Though we moved to the city in winter, I recognized some of favorite trees I left behind. Lilacs and Rose of Sharon trees line the streets where I now walk.

Spring came late this year and in a blast of a moment. The trees suddenly burst everywhere and allergies once unknown to me burst forth also. I have never seen so many flowering trees in one place!

In return, I am enjoying flowers without work. My knees tell me this is all good, but I miss digging in the earth.

I bought pansies early because if you don’t, they’re gone. Then I couldn’t resist picking up flower seeds. My children gave more plants for Mother’s Day.

Just outside our apartment are six small boxes for anyone feeling the urge to garden. I dug in the earth, and I planted flowers and seeds, not vegetables. I hung hummingbird feeders, hoping the evergreens were close enough for cover.

Up and down the streets I can smell lilacs. Some places there are dogwoods, eastern redbuds, cherry trees and wisteria. Honeysuckle is everywhere.

Things that were once lost were given in return. I am not babying my neighbors’ flowers and trees, but I can still sing praises over them.


Blessed are the people who know the passwords of praise,
who shout on parade in the bright presence of God.
Delighted, they dance all day long; they know
who you are, what you do—they can’t keep it quiet!
Your vibrant beauty has gotten inside us—
you’ve been so good to us! We’re walking on air!
All we are and have we owe to God,
Holy God of Israel, our King!  Psalm 89 Msg.



Of Hens & Chicks…or How to Neglect a Plant

I’ve had a pot of hens & chicks for three decades. I know it’s hard to believe that I could keep it alive that long with moving and all.

When we sold our house the pot was next to the porch, frozen to the ground. I worked at getting it loose but it was a long winter. My neighbor came to the rescue and pulled the sorry, busted pot loose.

Sunday we picked up the sad-looking pot of hens & chicks. Green life was showing, even in the chicks hanging over the edge.


I always kept them in a pot otherwise they would multiply all over the flowerbed, as do the forget-me-nots and lily of the valley. It also made them easier to move.

Why didn’t I leave them? I have some sort of attachment, as I do for the Christmas cactus’ of my mother and two grandmothers, which I’ve also had for decades.

I wonder how those plants survived at times. I would see them by the porch every time I went outdoors. Most of those times in a hurry going to work, sporting events with the Sweets, or shopping. Mostly I let nature water them, except when we’ve had an unusually dry summer.

Last year we had plenty of rain and they looked like this:

The rooster sticking up.

I had to ask my Facebook friends what was growing out of the top of my plant. Someone called it a rooster, (appropriate) and they appear occasionally. I never saw it so healthy and robust.

There are times when I am like that shriveled hen, browning at the edges and drying to a crisp. I find myself drooping when I neglect more serious talks with God.

I can read my Bible all the time, but if I’m not careful it will breeze right over my heart and become a meaningless thing: a duty.

I didn’t take time to READ it.

I could pray the same prayer, sort of a chant. It would mean nothing.

The Holy One delights in honest prayers. There are plenty of examples of that in Psalms.  David was so totally honest, I wonder if I dare say some of the things he said to a Holy God.

And yet, David was the apple of God’s eye.

As the earth renews growth in spring, renew your prayer life. Dig in the soil of your heart and plant new scriptures, and pray for your hearts renewal.

Today I bought new soil for the plants, and cleaned out the dead leaves. I picked up my favorite happy faces—the pansies before they were all gone.

Put some joy in your life. Grow a plant this spring!