It is spring and my “New Dawn” rose bush is heavy with pale, pink puffs. Clusters of four puffs on each stem, trailing up the brick wall of my kitchen window, making the preparation of every meal blissful!
I wanted to share my bliss (if that is possible?), so I sent photos of this rose bush and another to my mother-in-law whose yard is packed in with flowering beauty. Every square inch has life climbing up from the soil. Plants rarely die in her yard. Sometimes a deer munches too much of her botanical bounty, but all in all, living things do not die there.
This is partly why I sent these photos of my prized roses. I simply wanted to share, or brag, and document the unusual blooms in my yard.
I say unusual because of the 10 years I have lived in this house, most flowering plants haven’t flowered. And my mother-in-law who lives 550 miles away, knows this, so her response to my rose picture read, “Pretty, you are finally getting your green thumb.”
“Finally? Finally, getting my green thumb?” “I have a green thumb!” I mused, “It takes a green thumb to get anything to grow under these 200-year old Oak trees in my yard.”
The human condition known as sin was implanting itself deep in my soul fast, and I could feel the indignation rise out of the illusion of a green thumb and, as quickly as it rose, it settled down into a reality.
Who of us really has a green thumb? What a delusional term we use despite our knowledge of controlling very little. Who controls the sun and the rain, the soil balance and the wind? Is it the one with the green thumb?
How arrogant of me to take offense because of the color of my thumb. It is not by the singular power of my hand that makes the roses grow, but with the full cooperation of the earth. In partnership, reverence and awe my roses grow. So, when I reply to my mother-in-law I might humbly write, “Yes, I have finally found a way to work with the land, and it has rewarded me, beautifully.”
Eugene Peterson says,
“Any attempt to grow crops that is not mindful of the soil will not be successful. Any attempt to cultivate a spirituality copied from something grown on someone else’s soil is as misguided as planting orange groves in Minnesota” (Under the Unpredictable Plant, 109).
Gardening isn’t an act of power over the land, but a contemplative watchfulness of the land. Yes, the one who might be called the green thumb, has indeed watched, studied, and spent time in her garden so that she might be drawn into the things from below. It is this mindful approach to gardening that my mother-in-law has developed, and with age and wisdom I am becoming a participant in creation, too.