Better Really Late than Never?

I planted a vegetable garden today.  Late August is not a traditional garden-planting time in Hardiness Zone 7. I recognize that.  But yesterday when I went to the local five and dime (yes, we still have one) to get a new nightlight for the bathroom, they had Brussels Sprout sets out, and I bit.

For the last several years I have relied on the all-volunteer vegetable garden.  Tomatoes in particular have been quite prolific, popping up in some odd places, but producing good quantities of fruit late in the summer.  Squashes of various sorts, too.  This year we had cilantro and tomatoes early on, but they didn’t make it.  The weeds grew up and choked them.  Now there’s something that may turn into a pumpkin inching out into the lawn in back.  Whatever it is, it’s about the size of a softball, and growing every day.

When I got back home with my nightlight and the three Brussels Sprout seedlings, I wasn’t sure what I would do with them.  There are no prepared vegetable beds in my yard.  Our very small yard is shared out among grass, liriope, azaleas, and weeds.  In the end, that one impulse purchase, something less than $3, had me raking and forking and digging and pulling and turning and hunting for the mosquito repellent and the garden hose nozzle for quite a while this afternoon.  I was sweaty and uncomfortable, but now I feel greatly and delightfully restored.

The book of Genesis sends some decidedly mixed messages about gardening.  On the one hand, gardening seems to be humanity’s primary vocation.

  Gen. 2:15  The LORD God took the human and settled him in the garden of Eden to farm it and to take care of it.

On the other hand, the punishment for disobedience to God is, pretty much, more gardening.  It’s actually the garden soil, not Adam who is cursed, but still,

Gen. 3:17 cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you will eat from it
every day of your life.
Gen. 3:18 Weeds and thistles will grow for you,
even as you eat the field’s plants;
Gen. 3:19 by the sweat of your face
you will eat bread—
until you return to the fertile land,
since from it you were taken;
you are soil,
to the soil you will return.”

Gen. 3:23 So GOD expelled them from the Garden of Eden and sent them to work the ground, the same dirt out of which they’d been made.

Later on when the prototypical gardener, Cain, comes up against the prototypical herder, Abel, it’s the gardener who loses out and the garden soil that once again bears the brunt of the punishment.  God tells Abel,

Gen. 4:12  “When you farm the fertile land, it will no longer grow anything for you, and you will become a roving nomad on the earth.”

Most of the work I put in this afternoon was an effort to make good soil.  Jesus had a thing or two to say about the importance of good soil.  Maybe that’s why it’s so satisfying to work in the garden.

Now, I wonder how lucky I’m going to be with these Brussels Sprouts?  I’ve given them the best soil I can.


My favorite person at my sending parish died last week, and her funeral was today.  The daughter, sister, and mother of Episcopal priests, she was my most ardent supporter in my sometimes slow and halting progress towards postulancy and (D.v.) ordination.  I sat with her every week in church, and we spent hours and hours talking in the sacristy as we cleaned up after the last service of the day on ‘our’ Altar Guild Sundays.

Those talks, and the ones we had at her house with her beloved chihuahua, Noel Coward, sitting between us, never failed to cheer me over the last several years.  We laughed together about the “Old White Women for Obama” tee-shirts that she and another octogenarian friend had made; we rejoiced together about the adventures of our children and (her) grandchildren; we marveled together at the wonders of the communion of saints and all those whom we loved, past and present, near and far.

The week before she died, I was away on retreat at a monastery.  Something suddenly compelled me to go to the monastery’s gift shop and get a postcard to send to her.  Although I got it in the mail the next day, it arrived too late.  Nonetheless, I recognized the ‘communion’ of saints was indeed communing in my desire to write to her at that moment.

Earlier this summer I had the opportunity to ask her some ‘serious’ questions as part of a class I was taking on ‘Aging in America.’  We talked about disappointments and set-backs, but she felt so blessed in her life that we couldn’t dwell long on those topics.  The little triplets next door and their charming German au pair, funny stories from her life as an Army wife, and even the spiritual blessings surrounding her husband’s early death from a brain tumor kept surfacing in our conversation. She told me then that her intent was to live long enough to vote for the first woman president.  I certainly wish she had!

Her funeral today was packed with friends and well-wishers.  Her grand-children served at the altar and as pall-bearers.  Her dearest friend preached, and her children were mobbed with expressions of love and support.  Having participated in greeting the body and praying for her before the service, I was given the honor of dismissing the congregation at the conclusion of the service.  It was a beautiful but heart-wrenching way to conclude my last service at my sending parish as I set forth to do the work she encouraged me to do on the path to postulated ordination.

God rest her soul.  May she rest in peace and rise in glory.