Yesterday, for the first time in many months, I spent some time in my garden.
You have to understand: I’m not a gardener. I have a garden. There’s a difference. I cannot talk knowledgeably about this plant or that; I don’t have an instinctive feel for what seedlings will work best together. But last year the coronavirus challenged me to plant my very first vegetables—tomatoes and cucumbers and lettuce—and so I started taking my garden more seriously.
Yesterday I began cautiously (one might even say humbly) clearing out some of the winter’s debris and assessing what’s needed for the spring. And immediately some scenes from this past year sprang to my mind. The pandemic may have inspired me to become more self-sufficient, yet as a beginner, I had—for example—no idea how many tomato plants one needs, and so I planted… well, let’s just say, quite a few! I ended up spending much of the summer delivering tomatoes and cucumbers and herbs and flowers to other people—masked, with a furtive knock on their door followed by a quick exit so we wouldn’t be within six feet of each other.
I learned a lot about growing things in this pandemic year. About how to tend to living things. About the need for water; my area experienced a drought last summer on top of everything else. About others’ needs for fresh food when scarcities happen at grocery stores.
I also saw the joy something small and living can bring to lives starved for beauty. The smile on someone’s face when I dropped off some seeds or a small plant. I’m remembering that as I consider next month—May—marks the end of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ anniversary year, declared in the hope that this year and the ensuing decade would be a time of grace—for humanity, and for all God’s creatures. It feels in some ways as if the pandemic put everything else on the back burner for a while.
And so perhaps this season is one of finding our way back.
The pandemic didn’t eliminate our need for connection. Connection to each other. Connection to nature. And as we approach Earth Day 2021, I’m remembering everything is truly all related. The pandemic taught us we don’t need to clog our highways with fuel-burning vehicles to get the best out of life. My gardening experience taught me that we can start small, with just a few plants, just an offering that’s easily shared with others.
We don’t have to join Greenpeace or live entirely off the grid to make the world better. We can start with the very title of Pope Francis’ encyclical—Laudato si’: “Praise be to you!”
How can we praise God? What energizes me is knowing we can do it in the smallest ways as well as the sweeping ones. By planting one tree. By growing one garden. By visiting an elderly neighbor. By sharing whatever we have with others. By volunteering. By praying for God’s beautiful and fragile creation. By acknowledging the economic, climactic, and health inequities of the world, and finding ways we can take steps—even small ones—toward alleviating them.
As I stood in my garden, picking up paper and plastic the wind had blown in, I felt in a small way that I was, indeed, finding my way back. What about you? How can you find your way back, in this moment, in this day?
Pope Francis’ challenge remains relevant to us all today. Do we “dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it”?
We can. By finding our way back… right now.
by Jeannette de Beauvoir