Like many others, my husband and I spent more time than usual this summer in our garden, thanks to a combination of lockdown and lots of sunshine. It was as if, by giving us such good weather, God was (emphatically!) inviting us to take time to really appreciate and make the most of all the beauty of the natural world around us – a world most of us generally hurry through with senses dulled, plugged into devices and heedless of the sights and sounds of Nature in all its God-given glory.
With traffic limited, we were also able to take daily walks on country roads one would normally be cautious of, recalling to mind a childhood tradition of ‘Sunday walks’ around the same roads with my father (which I think were mainly for the purpose of giving my mother her well –deserved ‘Sunday rest’ in peace and quiet!). We could hear the buzz of insects feeding, cows grazing, and the songs of birds. We watched solitary bumble bees weave drunkenly from flower to flower, buzzards glide overhead; and, over a period of some weeks, a family of goldfinches flitted frequently across our path as the adults raised their offspring. With such beauty all around us, it felt easy to be aware of God’s goodness and to feel the need to give thanks to Him.
Having generally completed our walks in the morning, many afternoons were spent in the garden – planting, feeding, weeding. Among the packets of seeds we had bought pre-lockdown was one of taller plants (unspecified) for the backs of borders. We were a bit slow to get them planted, and, as neither of us is highly knowledgeable we weren’t entirely sure we would recognise the young seedlings when/if they emerged! Gradually however, a half a dozen or so fairly healthy green shoots appeared … and grew …and grew …. – eventually recognizably as sunflower shoots.
They were battered and all but uprooted by heavy winds in September and we discussed pulling them out, since it seemed too late anyway for them to flower. However, I decided to stake them up and see what happened; my gardening philosophy is “Try it and see: it will either live or die”! By the last week in September there were some very undeveloped flowers; but within another ten days or so, they had really come into their own. When I see their sunny faces ‘smiling’ at me now, I’m very glad I didn’t give up on them!
There were two lessons for me in this experience. Firstly, we don’t always recognize good things in their early stages; and this is true of God’s plan for us too – we cannot always know what fruit will be borne out of our current circumstances. Secondly, don’t give up on things too easily. I think this is especially true of people – faith, support and extra patience allow late ‘bloomers’ to grow into the beauty God intends for each of us.
Rosemary Finan is a retired teacher and a volunteer with the Derry Diocesan Catechetical Centre.