This year, I did something I've always wanted to do- bury something on Ash Wednesday that would bloom into life by Easter.
Mid-February might seem rather early for gardening, especially for some of you northern folks, but for this region it's just about right. After all, by the end of May it's already much too warm and humid to be outdoors past eight in the morning, which leaves me with these next two months to make preparations for my flowerbed, and the two after that to enjoy it. This might be the last year for a long time that I'm able to have such a lovely garden, and I want to have as much fun with it as possible.
Right now it looks rather bleak, especially from a distance:
When I look closely, though, some of the plants are starting to get tiny green shoots.
On Wednesday, I planted some crocus corms and a lily-of-the-valley root. I got them a few weeks ago, but due to weather and inclement professors still hadn't planted them; I finally decided to save them for Ash Wednesday.
I wanted crocuses this year, because I hadn't grown them since I was a very little girl. I especially like the white ones with fine purple stripes; I've always liked striped flowers, probably because they look like candy. I remember growing crocuses near the mailbox when I was little, and discovering them one day, and watching them carefully- it was such a miracle to my mind that they came back the same every year, and were so many different colors, and knew to open in the morning and go to sleep at night. Then I got older and didn't find it quite so much of a mystery anymore, and then I grew up and knew it was a miracle again. I got some this year, to remind me of that.
I also got a lily-of-the-valley root. It was on clearance for less than I'd ever seen them sold before, and it reminded me so of St. George and consequently Georgie that I decided to grow it this year. I was doubly glad I'd chosen it, because while I was paying at the counter, the tired-looking cashier's face brightened, and she said they reminded her of her mother.
"We always had them in the garden, growing up. A big old patch of them on one side of the front door, and hyacinths on the other."
"That sounds lovely."
"It was- they smelled wonderful."
"I'm going to give them a try. I know they'll take over a garden up north, but I'm not sure how well they do down south."
The cashier looked me dead in the eye and said, "Virginia is the South."
I once read somewhere that it takes more faith to plant a flower than to plant a tree- if one plants a tree, he can hold its slender sapling stem as he shovels the dirt around its roots, and leave it there, and watch it as it takes to the ground and extends its branches. Flower bulbs and seeds are different, though- a little piece of something, with barely anything visibly alive about it if at all, to be buried carefully and left there- to be trusted to the earth, and waited on for a time.
It's so simple, when it only happens in a garden. I know seeds will come up if I care for them and they were planted in the right places. Before God made man, he was a gardener. He understands the life inside seeds that I have to be content with simply knowing is there. He cares for what he plants better than I can, and never plants anything in the wrong place. He also never plants dead seeds. In spite of this, it's still difficult to trust God, sometimes- but when I am blessed with such beautiful analogies in creation, it gives me something to hold on to.
Time and again, I find myself returning to the dust of my garden for comfort. Its symbolism is always there, comforting me with utter sense, even when I'm not conscious of it. Someday I'll return to the dust in a deeper way than planting things in it- though to me it's a beautiful thought, not a grim one. Souls are a lot like flowers.
Try planting a little something, this Lent. Spend a little time meditating as you take care of it every day. Lent is not about barrenness, but about death waiting breathlessly to come to life.