After the last dishes in the sink are scrubbed and tucked away for the night, at least at this time of year, I immediately scurry outside to the gardens. In the heat of the day, the bright light from the sun white washes the flowers and they look pale and slightly lifeless. But it is just the light. A mere hiccup of environment circumstances, I know, because the gardens are ravishingly beautiful.
When the sun begins to drop behind the mountains, a glow emerges from the hills, and the gardens come alive in saturation. This is when I grab whatever baskets I can find, along with my favorite red pruners that currently match the ripening cherries in the surrounding orchards, and begin. This is not the time the pull weeds, move waters, or plan projects. In fact, it's strictly forbidden – by my own mind, of course. This little pocket of time, between the work of the day and the rest of the evening, is my time where I purposefully train my mind to see the beauty of our labor.
As a gardener and dangerously self-motivated person, this can be difficult. There's always a cluster of grass that needs taming, a rose that needs to be dead headed, a stray pair of children's socks lingering in the pathway. Always. Because I also happen to be incredibly motivated by beauty and order, my natural tendency is to take a few moments to pick up the socks or snip off the spent flower heads.
But I fight the urge. Everyday, I have to put that desire to bed.
Instead, I wander through the gardens – properly wander. Last night, I forced my oldest to come wander with me. She was in the middle of a good book and was less than inclined to tear herself away from the pages, but I absolutely insisted. “To do what?!” she beckoned. “To experience it all.” I replied.
We started with the currants.
The black currants are just a year old now and though they only offered a large handful of ripe berries, were a welcomed harvest. Right next to them, we witnesses the first cosmo in bloom, I squealed over the first blue hydrangeas (I've been trying to turn them blue for years!), and admired the self-seeded Bells of Ireland that are growing out of cracks in the rock wall. I continued to drag her along through the beds – the sound of our sprinkler off in the distance, watering the cow pasture. We made our way to the strawberry patch, which immediately shifted her bad mood, as she filled her hands with soft berries. I pointed out to her the first of the pink strawflower that had bloomed and we each chose our favorites (the ones with the light pink edges and yellow centers, of course) before gathering up a large bundle to take inside and dry. Strawflower likes to be harvested and in fact, doing so increases its harvest. The same can not be said for Shasta daisies, but since their blooms finally opened, we gathered up large bouquets of them as well. Lest it sound too precious, rest assured that we had to pick a few beetles and earwigs off the blooms, but pay that no mind.
My basket was beginning to fill up now.
She continued to drag her feet while I continued to pull her along – we landed at the bi-colored sage. It had sent up remarkable purple flowers but the leaves were still perfect. Snip, snip, snip. Into the basket. This year, my plan is to freeze-dry the sage leaves. I take a mental note to do that in the morning…
The common sage is at its prime too. Better grab a bunch of that while I'm here for sage fritters.
We ended our wandering at the “chicken garden” (aptly named because of it being the rogue chickens very favorite garden to scratch up when I'm not around to shoo them away). I reminded Georgia of the mulberry tree that was producing its first berries this year and showed her how to spot the ripe, dark, fruit, growing off the stems of the tree. There were just a few, but we ate them anyway.
The plumpest, buzziest (new word – what about it) bumble bee I've ever seen stumbled over the clover flowers and into the comfrey. Hello my friend.
“Can I go back inside now?” she smiled. Though she resisted my wanderings, I knew her heart had been lifted by our time in the gardens. There was a lightness to her face, a created space that hadn't been there before.
One more thing first – I insisted.
A final sweep though the garden took us through lavender bushes, to trellises being climbed with sweet peas, to the first blooming echinacea and snap dragons.
A few moments later, she was back into the pages of her book while I found a stray vase to tuck our summer bouquet into.
The wood table in the kitchen was now covered with yarrow and helichrysum and sage. I'll dry those in the morning, I reminded myself…
And then I set the summer bouquet on the fireplace in the cottage kitchen.
An hour of wandering and this is all I had to show for it.
But this bouquet was also a thousand times more than my greatest dream.
Who am I, Lord. That I get your grace and your mercy through the redemptive work of your Son. That I get a garden of snapdragons and calendula and raspberries on top of that. This gift, the beauty of it all, walking these gravel pathways with my children, brings an overwhelming gratitude – painful even – to my heart. I feel it. I see it. I want you to know that I see it.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.