Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB, ponders the aging process and the ways she is reflected in her own gardens.
As we age we come to embrace on many levels the verse John 3:30, "He must increase; I must decrease."
The gardens have become fewer and smaller as I’ve aged. The riot of color from spring's thaw to late autumn's freeze have given way to a simpler view of textures and shapes, under the boughs of trees.
I still work the gardens at a slower pace — ever careful of what could trip and cause a fall — and plan more for what is essential and when it really needs to be done. I’m growing comfortable with new normals and the minimizing of a once exuberant life.
I’ve become a reflection of my gardens — smaller and preferably off to the side in the shade.
The boldness of hosta leaves, the vibrancy of tree peony blooms, or the structure of an oak leaf hydrangea all have a life, but only in dappled light. Those plants, and many more, are not meant to be in the intense full sun. There are others better suited for that — to dance with the light and welcomed attention.
I think of shade gardens as a kind of whisper from the Creator calling me to be still, sit with Him a while, and to look where His Light shines clearest. So, like many gray-haired types, I seek that distant shady spot from which to watch the busy freshness of life.
I’ve not felt that I’ve lost who I am, my identity as a gardener in this slow decline. Like my gardens I have transitioned and become more defined. My roots are still deep in the soil of faith, and nourished by the compost spread over time. Our Lord has whispered new ways to be all of whom this different ‘I am’ is, and I try to listen as best I can.
My attempts to write or create art are not done with the confidence of training — which at times is glaringly obvious. My approach is one of openness, more of a practice continued for God's glory. It is He who prospers the works of my hands, and carries my efforts like dandelion fluff on a breeze.
I am content to still be His gardener spreading fewer seeds. We all have transmuted gifts, those that have changed in nature, though in essence we remained the same.
About the Author
Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB lives an eremitic life and is the author of Cultivating God’s Garden through Lent, A Garden of Visible Prayer: Creating a Personal Sacred Space One Step at a Time, 2nd Edition, and A Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac. A freelance writer with a Benedictine spirituality, Margaret has a master’s degree in communications and is a Certified Greenhouse Grower, Advanced Master Gardener, liturgical garden consultant, and workshop/retreat leader.