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Toiling in the Garden

St. Fiacre is the patron saint of gardeners. His gardening, however, was not a gentle hobby. Rather, he was more of a true farmer. He toiled in the field, relishing the hard labor as penitential mortification.

As the temperatures climb here in Northern Virginia I am feeling a bit like St. Fiacre. I am trying to bring a great swath of land under control. Our back yard slopes steadily downward until it meets the woods of the adjoining park. When we moved in a couple of years ago it was slightly tamed with a cypress ground cover, though weeds were visible throughout. Over the ensuing winter all of the cypress died. I was actually quite relieved since I was not too fond of the sticky evergreen look anyway. I cleared out the ailing cypress and tried to amend the chunky clay soil. I have been struggling to find perennials to brighten up this partly shade-partly full sun garden. They have to survive on a steep slope, tolerate clay and be unappealing to deer. After nearly three weeks on the road I returned to find my perennial garden a mass of uninvited green. Every day I try to spend some time clearing the undesirable plants and nurturing the wanted flowers.

As I labor in the garden the sweat just pours forth. I try to work when the garden is most shaded, but lately there just hasn’t been a cool portion of the day. In spite of the discomfort, there is something strangely satisfying about the physical exertion of gardening. It is a solitary activity. I don’t want my iPod the way I do when I go for a walk. I find it very good for my spiritual reflections to spend this time in a state of quiet, physical sacrifice.

My perennial garden has come a long way in the last year in spite of the slight setbacks of neglect that permit the invasion of weeds. Hopefully my spiritual life will see the same progress. Steady attention to study, prayer and reflection with regular weeding of vices and temptations should bring me closer to the Master Gardener. Hopefully as my patch of earth brings forth daffodils, daisies, rudbeckia, and cone flowers I will find my spiritual garden bearing the fruits of the Spirit.


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