It's been a week of Garden Therapy, Horticultural Healing, Soul and Soil, Sweat and Sunshine, Water, Wellies and Dirty Hands - loved it. The turf is laid and we have a new lawn in the making; the flowering currant bush, gnarled, aged and past it, has been removed though its ancient roots registered angry reluctance; the potentilla is re-sited but not happy, but we hope it survives; the bottom corner is cleared of other territorially greedy shrubs and is ready for reshaping into a cottage flower border.
Not everyone knows this, but I once sold geraniums and pelargoniums door to door in Lanark! The previous summer dad and I took cuttings, propagated, repotted, and produced a couple of hundred healthy potted plants. They flew out of the car boot in less time than it took to say pelargonium, and we came away wondering if there was a business in this. There wasn't of course; our prices were too low, the plants had been cared for and nurtured in a too time expensive way, and there's only so much you can do with an 18ft greenhouse!
My first job was in one of the plant nurseries on Clydeside - I used the rotavator in the 20 or so 50 metre greenhouses, ploughed the fields and prepared the soil for the winter bulbs, was responsible for 6 greenhouses of Clydeside tomatoes, from planting to shooting and de-leafing, to watering, to harvesting - has anyone who reads this ever sat down in a hot greenhouse, picked a tomato that is just on the turn from orange to red, bit off a small chunk, just enough to suck out the seeds, and then eat the whole delicious thing, and declared with the juices on the chin and the quiet certainty of one who knows, who just knows, this could well have been the fruit Eve fell for - a Clydeside tomato plant, laden with trusses of go on eat me tomatoes, growing in tempting abandon in the Garden of Eden.....!
All of which is a way of saying that when it comes to spiritual discipline of the physical manual work variety, it's hard to beat the liturgy of dirty hands, organic life, and the chance to help maintain the fabric of God's created world. My dad of course is long since dead, and at his funeral someone who had never met him, but who took time to speak gently and attentively to my mother, drew a word picture of a man whose roots were in the ground, whose working life had been on farms amongst beasts, and whose feet had worked the earth. He said, "John Gordon was a man of the soil", and in all the other deep and emotion churning moments and memories in that service, that's the one that cracked me open.
So when I garden, I get stuck in. Mostly I'm the labourer, taking instructions from the horticultural choreographer; but always I recognise the genetic predisposition to pray not by clasping my hands, but by getting them dirty.