As I continue to follow the recommendations of the reflections of Joyce Rupp, I am practicing another the emphases of Celtic spirituality this week–discovering the goodness of Creation. She suggests “listening to creation,” pausing to look at what you see, finding something new to you, and letting creation reveal its deeper meaning. This is much more challenging to me than last week’s call to see God’s presence in the ordinary, in my case blessing each of my children morning and night. I seem, either by nature or nurture, to need to work at connecting with creation.
I have been working hard at trying to engage what Calvin calls the “second book of revelation,” the natural world, and so this invitation to a focused practice is welcome, though not easy. However, I have received a gift that has made the practice more central in this past year which is the installation and blossoming of a drought-resistant garden in our front yard. We chose to embark upon this project for practical reasons: the merciless drought in Southern California has frightened and threatened us all. We have been given standards by which we need to decrease our water usage, and have been seeking ways to be good stewards of the water we do have. The garden took longer to install and cost more than we first estimated, despite the rebate that came from the state government. Yet what has developed where our lawn used to be is a constantly unfolding display of wonder and beauty. Under the tutelage of the marvelous Merilee, a garden designer, we were able to create and execute a garden that not only saves water for our parched land, but gives us examples of the ways that God’s mercies are new every morning, much to our surprise.
It begins in the dark. It is full of surprise. I am never sure when I go to bed at night what I will find in the morning that has blossomed. During Advent our purple bearded iris on the south patch kept us entranced with a new bloom almost every day, a continual parade of glory from one violet sentinel to the next. Now in Lent the white iris on the north side sheltered by the salvia has begun the same array, one blossom per day; is it marching us toward Easter?
The variety seems infinite. Just when I think I have noticed each plant and flower, another one emerges in shape and color utterly different than the one next to it. What are those little neon green capsules all in a row? What are those tall drapy red leaves in a bush? What color are those tiny florets hiding behind that prominent plant? Creation, when I focus my attention, has more manifestations of beauty and design than I can count.
I continue to be challenged by beauty. I have long known that I am “buoyed by beauty,” a phrase that I read in a narrative describing my beloved isle and community of Iona in Scotland. But my own little clusters of drought-resistant plants in front of my house keeps expanding my definition of what beauty is–not only vivid color, now only shapely fronds, not only striking succulents–but odd outcroppings, angular leaves and open patches are beautiful too. And how glad it makes me.
This week I am taking care to observe–truly, madly, deeply–the creative array that proliferates in my front yard, and ask myself how this reveals the Holy One to me. Calvin teaches me that there is much about the Mystery that can become known in creation. I am hoping that is discovering the goodness that is there, I will also have a deeper intimation of the goodness of God.
Personal photo from front garden.