[Photograph by Jared Fredrickson]

Alice Atkins planted hostas, foxglove, and lily-of-the-valley on the two-tiered banking that marks the edge of the back yard. In her last years (and the year between her death and our buying the house), Alice couldn’t tend to the beds; ivy and bittersweet covered everything. It took hours and a lot of hard work to clear the banking of the invasive plants a few weeks after we moved in – Fall of 2002. The work brought a beautiful gift in the Spring: all the plants that had been dormant came back, and myrtle grew to cover the thin, poor soil that could not sustain anything else.

Since that Spring, I have been the second caretaker of this garden, cutting back the choking ivy and thorny bittersweet to give what was lovingly planted a good place to grow. Each year, I say a prayer of thanks to God for the faithful return of perennials, and for Alice’s devotion to planting them and keeping them in the first place. When my time here is over, I hope someone else will become caretaker #3.

I didn’t appreciate the Bible’s garden metaphors until I started tending garden beds myself. Now, it’s a truth that resonates in my bones: when I tend to the life God has given to my care, a beautiful and holy life thrives. When I don’t, I get buried in thorns and choking vines instead. My inner life or my outer one – it applies equally.

Instead of thorns shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off. [Isaiah 55:13-14, NRSV]

6 thoughts on “Instead

  1. What a special gift each Spring when the perennials Alice planted once upon a time start to come up. Her lovely legacy lives on.
    The first shrub we planted in the Spring 1986 after we moved into our pretty much finished new house on Valentines Day, was a yew that my husband spotted in front of a gas station. We don’t know if someone was just discarding it or if it just fell off a truck. We planted it in the corner next to the chimney and it’s doing just fine especially with white lights for Christmas.
    The forsythia and lilac bushes were given to us by a very special man Mr Darling who loved walking the circle each morning and afternoon with his little dog. He has passed on since many years now but his thoughtfulness to share his little young plantings with us will always remain in our hearts.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Robin. It’s amazing how much joy can come from a plant, given by someone dear or rescued from the side of the road. peace, Johnna

        1. Jared definitely has a gift for the art of photography! You have shared his beautiful photos previously in your writings. They are wonderful!

          1. I’ll let him know you said so! Taking pictures is something he loves, and I appreciate him allowing me to put them up on this blog. Peace, Johnna

  2. Johnna, I love the photo you posted! The different shades of green with the splash of pink are definitely colors of Spring!

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