The heavy late summer air in the Washington, D.C., area does not as easily draw one out into the garden as the siren song of spring, but gardening in late summer necessitates (and perhaps simultaneously instills) a kind of gutsy hope. Late summer gardening is an activity that proclaims, “It’s not too late; I haven’t given up yet.” The work may lack the springtime inspiration, but it is a courageous investment at a time when growth is still possible, although not without real effort.
It is true in life as well. In the places where our lives have grown unruly and tangled, it is still possible to tend soil, to uproot weedy growth, and to air out places that have grown dark and stale. Tending the soil of our hearts is very much like tending the soil of God’s earth. Spiritual growth is organic, as Tim Keller points out, emerging from the inside out. And gardening — really connecting human-ness to humus, and all that grows therein — is a divine gift of work.
So here are a few blogosphere nuggets that situate gardening within a life lived well in God, who may want to grow you and me up in surprising ways, even in late summer:
- “I have said on occasion that I think gardening is nearer to godliness than theology. … True gardeners are both iconographers and theologians insofar as these activities are the fruit of prayer ‘without ceasing’ (1 Thess. 5:17, NKJV). Likewise, true gardeners never cease to garden, not even in their sleep, because gardening is not just something they do. It is how they live.” – Vigen Guroian, “Gardening in Paradise,” from On Being, April 9, 2012
- Lots of thoughtful insights and resources are mentioned in this Duke Divinity magazine article on Norman Wirzba and his encounter with the life and thought of Wendell Berry – especially Berry’s The Unsettling of America – and how significant gardening and creation care are to the vocation of being human. Sherry Williamson, “Norman Wirzba on Taking Care of Creation,” Divinity, Winter 2009. For example: “It was no accident that Scripture located the first human drama in a garden — the Garden of Eden, literally the ‘garden of delight,’ he says. In Genesis, God charged people to ’till and keep’ the garden, thus giving them their most fundamental identity and vocation.” (Check the box near the bottom of the piece for recommended reading – a terrific list.)
Thomas Turner of the blog Everyday Liturgy on “The Theology of Gardening,” from October 2011. Meditate on these points, and also scroll down for the three related posts: “Morning Gardening and Simple Prayers,” and especially Thomas’s “Gardening in Our Own Hell,” which returns full circle to Berry’s Unsettling.
- And for the courageous few who will, here are some practical tips for your garden in these late days of summer.