When my kids were little, one of their favorite books was Dirt Is Delightful. Inside the book were hidden doors that, when opened, uncovered the many wonderful things you can find in the dirt, such as bugs, plants, and many other things. I never understood why they liked it so much when I thought there were so many other childhood classics available, such as any book by Dr. Seuss or Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.
Despite my constant encouragement to expand their reading repertoire, the dirt book won out every time.
I thought about that book a few months back, at the beginning of gardening season. I had come home from work to meet the plumber because our upstairs shower needed repair. The downstairs shower was already in need of work, so another plumbing problem is not what we needed. Also looming on the horizon were my upcoming medical procedures and next year’s school tuition payments.
Feeling weighed down by life, I headed out to my garden. I stared at the flats of plants I had purchased but had yet to plant. My husband, Mark, had been diligently watering them until I could find the time to get them in the dirt.
Tired and not feeling quite up to the task ahead, I sat down on the ground and started picking at some of the weeds that had started poking up in my flower bed. After I had pulled out a few, I ran my fingers through the newly disrupted soil. It was warm and soft.
I looked up and noticed a lone plant growing amidst a clump of other flowers. I grabbed my spade and dug up the plant and transplanted it to a more appropriate location. Then I noticed an overabundance of lilies that were drowning out surrounding plants. I dug some up, relocating them to other parts of the yard. Others I placed in a bucket to share with friends.
For the next hour or so, I made my way around the yard, moving plants, removing plants, trimming plants. I cut some flowers—so more would bloom—and created bouquets. One would go on our table; others would be shared with family and friends.
I also cleared the area where my vegetable garden once was. I planted some seeds I had bought in hopes that I would once again have a garden. I’ll be able to use the food I harvest to feed my family and share with others.
Before long, I noticed I was feeling less anxious, less overwhelmed. As I dug down into the dirt, I felt energized. It seemed that the more I worked in the garden, the more relaxed I felt.
I gathered the plants I no longer needed in my yard and brought them to my neighbor up the street. She was thrilled to get some new plants and offered me some of hers in return. I took some to my parents and gave others to my sister.
By the end of the day, I was dirty, tired, and sore, but felt satisfied. I slept that good, deep sleep that comes from a job well done. The next day I awoke ready to take on all the challenges ahead. In the end, I think my kids were right: dirt is delightful.
Saints in the Garden
When I was growing up, we had a statue of Mary on the cabinet in our living room. In front of the statue was a candle that my mom would often light when we had a difficult test or something challenging going on like sports or play tryouts. She also would often gather flowers from our yard and place them in a small vase in front of the statue.
In our backyard was a statue of St. Francis. It, too, was surrounded with flowers, especially ones that attracted birds, butterflies, or other animals and insects. We always sprinkled our bread crumbs by the statue, so that birds would perch there and eat. It always brought home for me the concept of St. Francis as the patron saint of animals. Enjoy this video of Father Murray Bodo’s analysis of St. Francis’ Canticle of the Creatures.