Some people call it God, others call it Divinity, the Universe… whatever “it” is, we find evidence of it in every spark of life, every breath, every moment of joy.
Some of us struggle to accept or identify this mysterious filament of life, wondering what others see that we don’t see. I was one of those people for many, many years. I spent my life growing up in the Catholic church, lured by the ceremony of my first communion. I remember holding the rosary gifted to me on this occasion and feeling like I belonged, like I was part of something bigger. Isn’t that what so much of religion and spirituality is? Connecting us to something bigger, giving us a community and a place we belong?
Then sometime in middle school I began to question the validity of the stories told. How could we know those things actually happened? If big obvious miracles used to happen, why didn’t they occur in the modern day? Why did the Catholic holidays align so well with pagan holidays, but pagan spirituality was “bad”? That plus some serious teenage angst had me doubting the reality of more than just Catholic dogma. I became angry at the mere idea of God. I wrapped God up in this bubble of dogma, judgement, and who-knows-what-else.
So, time passed, as it tends to do. Years and years later my mom called me to stop over and take photos of her apple tree. It was in full bloom and looked stunning. And everything I saw in the world shifted.
I went towards the tree, taking photos and admiring the scent of the blossoms. A little closer in, I’m snapping away, only seeing what it immediately in front of the camera lens. When you’re in that place, you see with this tunnel vision. I’d move a little to get another shot, but was only minimally aware of my surroundings. Ducking under branches, pulling back a leaf to get a clear view, I started to notice something blocking my view momentarily. I’d be able to see through the viewfinder just fine, then a little fuzz would go by, then I’d see again.
When I pulled my face away from the camera to see what was going on I realized that the tree was DROWNING in bees. Literally bees everywhere. Hundreds I bet (ok, maybe dozens, but still) were happily floating around from flower to flower, gathering pollen and minding their own business.
I had entwined myself deep into the tree at this point so jumping back in surprise wasn’t much of an option. Instead, I froze, slightly worried that if I moved too quickly it would trigger a sting (or two or three). But also… mesmerized. These bees were just going about their day, gathering pollen and drinking up nectar. They had no one telling them what to do or how to do it, they just did it. Even more remarkable, the apple tree needed those bees to use them in this way. Without the bees, they wouldn’t be pollinated and those beautiful blossoms would close up to die instead of closing up to produce an apple.
How could a system to intricate, so detailed and with so many moving parts just come into existence? And those bees were just a tiny fraction of the miracle of nature! All these parts, all these dependencies and symbiotic relationships… how could the have just happened?
But then again. How could anyone or anything dream up that much detail? I realized in that moment that my anger at “God” was misplaced. It was more anger at the school I had moved to that I didn’t fit into, anger at a bunch of teenagers who didn’t know how to welcome someone new in, anger at my awkwardness and confusion in society.
I still don’t think the Catholic church has it just right, and those bible stories seem more like a tidy way to teach common values while forming community. (Which is just my opinion and in the grand scheme of life it means no more and no less than anyone else’s opinion on the matter. Because in the end there is no possible way for us to know for sure either way.)
But I now see the Divine in everything. God is in the seedlings breaking through the dirt under my grow lights right now. The Universe has a hand in the love we can feel for an absolute stranger, the way just the right combination of notes in music can bring some of us to tears, and the way certain people just click without knowing why. That magic is certainly in every plant sitting stagnant and dormant in my backyard, waiting for spring to come so they can emerge from their sleep and bring beauty and nourishment to us.
So, I garden. I garden to keep sane. I garden to stay connected to the Divine. I garden to give my spirit nourishment and my body sustenance. I garden to teach my children that Mother Earth provides. I garden for the thrill of it, I garden for the easy source of procrastination on cleaning the house. I garden for a plethora of reasons, all of which stem back to that day in the apple tree. Nature is amazing and we who dirty our hands with her rich soil are rewarded with her bounty are blessed beyond measure.