A Glimpse of Eden

For my Gigi. Happy grandparents day!

My grandmother spent most of her time on her knees. She prayed and she gardened. She spent most of the year serving in various ministries of the church, and her summers tending to a garden in the backyard of a cottage nestled in the Pocono Mountains. On one side of this tiny brown house were the translucent waters of Lake Waynewood. On the other grew what I could only compare to the Garden of Eden.

St. Francis was the patron saint of animals and ecology. He was known for baptizing animals and preaching to birds. My uncle says that the birds tweeted about him to one another and that’s how Twitter started.
Among a myriad of flora and fauna, a statue of St. Francis preached to bird resting on his index finger. One rhododendron bush and a patch of daisies down the stone path, a resin cherub attempted flight. She told me that he was a guardian angel protecting the cottage, and that I had one protecting me as well. Growing up in a Protestant home, I didn’t always understand the doctrine of my Catholic grandmother. However, I appreciated the sentiment of being protected by angels, and I hoped it was true.

Sometimes she would pour sunflower seeds into the palm of my hand. I would sit in the mulch for hours on end waiting for creatures to join me for a snack. The squirrels and birds steered clear, but every once in a while a chipmunk would nestle into my arms and chew on the seeds. I’m sure he wasn’t always the same chipmunk, but I named him Chippie. I felt like Snow White, whose gentle demeanor engendered a magnetic attraction for wildlife. When I got older, my family adopted a puppy. We named her Daisy, which suited her as she spent many afternoons sunbathing among her namesake. As the saying goes, her bark was worse than her bite. Unfortunately her bark was enough to scare the chipmunks away. Although I still see chipmunks darting across the yard, they never stop by to say hello.

For eighteen years I watched my octogenarian grandmother on her knees, praying and gardening. Her knees are weak now, but from her I have learned that there is more to worship than singing or lifting your arms. Sometimes worship is spending hours in the dirt preserving God’s creation, or maybe trying to create something yourself. Unfortunately, she never taught me how to garden, and being planted in God’s word wasn’t something my grandmother could teach me. That was something I needed to seek out for myself.

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