From a seed

14 05 2012

Saturday morning we’re on our way to City Hall to vote in the local election. We’re discussing the candidates when he asks, “Have you ever seen an artichoke blossom?”

In literary terms, this would be called a non sequitur, but it makes perfect sense in context. Especially if you know a little back story.

George and I have a complementary relationship. He loves to garden, and I love to photograph and eat fresh produce. (Perfect division of labor, wouldn’t you say?) Displayed on our kitchen wall are four photos I took at the Kroger Art Gallery back in April of 2008. I wanted a sage green palette, and that’s why two of the four feature artichokes, but honestly, I might have chosen them regardless. I love the subtle shade shifts, the layers and shapes, the texture. Really, there’s nothing not to love about an artichoke.

Earlier that morning while I was still in my jammies, waking up with the help of my daily bucket o’ latte, George and Jacob spent an hour or so at the community garden. (Again, division of labor. We have this thing down.) When he saw the artichoke blossoms, he knew my camera and I would want some of that action. Thus the aforementioned question, and thus — upon completion of civic duty — a quick swing by the house, camera grab, and return to the garden.

Exit vehicle. Enter a happy place.

I look through the camera lens, and life pauses. A moment distills into a single frame, defining the edges of beauty, and inviting me to slow down and see deep. As I wander this paradise, happily snapping away, George and Jacob chat with other gardeners.

This is a “community” garden in the truest sense of the word. Individuals manage their own plots, but there are also shared areas for herbs, fruit trees, berries, and grapes. The culinary college comes here for fresh herbs, and twenty percent of everyone’s harvest goes to a local food bank.

I meander over to the curbside where some rosemary poses for a portrait, and I spot George and Robert.

They’ve never met before but easily slip into shop talk, and both of them know a thing or two. George is the compost expert, and Robert, well, he grew up on a farm in North Carolina. This gardening gig is his native soil. (He also has the best hair ever.)

Like many of the garden’s patrons, Robert comes often and lingers long, savoring every aspect of the process. He’s about to leave for the day, but when he notices my camera, he asks, “Did you see the grapes?”

I didn’t. He leads the way.

I click and he talks — about how he’s training these vines and his plans for pruning, about current methods in Napa Valley but his decision to stick to the old way — and his passion animates his words and ignites his smile.

The grape vines aren’t part of Robert’s personal plot. He cultivates them because he wants to, for their intrinsic worth and beauty, for his own and his neighbor’s benefit. For love.

“This is where good wine begins,” he says, and the breeze whispers a sweet amen.

I understand why he loves to be here. Why George loves it, too. Common ground, gently tended by sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, it feels right. Holy. Perhaps we should take off our shoes.

We admire berries and plums on our way back to the plots, and that’s where we meet Mary Ann.

This is Mary Ann’s first garden. Ever. She bought the seeds at a nursery, and she comes every day to check their progress, but she laughs as she explains that she forgot to use labels, and now she can’t remember what some of the plants are.

George and Robert identify them all for her, and then they lift some leaves on her cucumber plant and say, “You need to harvest these.”

Mary Ann is all amazement, and she jumps up and down, giddy with wonder and delight. About a dozen perfect cucumbers wait to be picked, and even though she’s come every day, she’s only noticed blossoms. She hasn’t looked beneath the leaves.

“I don’t know what I’m doing,” she says. “I just bought these seeds and planted them a month ago, and there are already cucumbers? From a seed? I can’t believe it!” And she dances in the aisle, right there between garden plots. She laughs, and we all laugh with her, and it feels like church ought to feel. This dancing for sheer joy, because we bring so little — a mere seed of faith — and all this mystery, it explodes into life, green and growing and filling the earth with fruit.

It’s there. I know it is. Waiting for us to look beneath the leaves of fear, distrust, and cynicism. True Community, waiting to be discovered. Unseen Life, waiting to erupt into dancing. Nascent Faith, waiting to sink into good soil, put down roots, and blossom a hundred fold.

But how do a bunch of bruised and broken souls become the living, breathing Body of Christ? How do we get from dry and lifeless to this feeding of five thousand?

As we’re driving away, I snap a photo from the car.

Grateful prayer. It’s so simple. Kind of like a seed.

Sounds like the perfect starting place to me.

{If you’re interested,
you can see more
community garden photos
here.}

* * *

Giving thanks in community for (#441 – 459):

new mercies every morning
first home group, the promise of community
fresh produce piled on the kitchen counter
Luke and Jacob reading on the deck
basil leaves
homemade pizza
Dad’s patience
Mom’s smile
this house becoming home
lovely neighbors
meeting God on the pages of His Word
the way beauty can break a heart
how well he knows me
books
color
rain
Grace’s baby bump
unshakable promises


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26 responses

14 05 2012
Patricia Hunter

So, so beautiful, Jeanne….every word, every photo, every seed of faith. Oh, how I love the body of Christ. Grateful for all the ways the LORD loves you and me and those we hold close to our hearts. xox

17 05 2012
jeannedamoff

Thanks, Patricia! Your gratitude overflows in everything you say and do. Love you.

14 05 2012
Robin Lawrimore

So inspiring… so thankful. I love that Church is everywhere and cannot be contained in walls, but spills over into garden rows where there is great rejoicing at the harvest!

17 05 2012
jeannedamoff

Thanks, Robin! Love that image of the church spilling over in abundant harvest.

14 05 2012
lschontos

My day started off in a grumpy, whiny Eeyor way. This has gently blown away the clouds and sent a shiny shaft of light right straight into my heart.
You are, without a doubt, one of my very favorite writers – for you write with your whole heart and it reaches mine.

17 05 2012
jeannedamoff

Oh, Linda! What a lovely thing to say. I have a hard time picturing you as an Eeyore, but I’m so glad this post blew away your clouds. Love to you, friend.

14 05 2012
chris

hi Jeanne,

great post–and gratitude list. i’m so glad that you’re all feeling at home in your new digs. & i know what you mean about color–if we hadn’t experienced it, we could never imagine how much joy it engenders!

have a great week,

chris

17 05 2012
jeannedamoff

Thanks, Chris. We are loving this place more and more. And color! It takes my breath away. And to think that God didn’t have to give it. May we never forget to notice these simple yet miraculous gifts.

14 05 2012
Kelli Parker Becton

great shots – love the artichokes and the artichoke blooms!!!

17 05 2012
jeannedamoff

Thanks, Kelli!

14 05 2012
Deborah Carr

Your description of Mary Ann just takes me back to my first garden and my giddiness as it began to grow, as well. I remember planting rows and rows of beets (I love beets) only to discover as the crop emerged that the seed packet I picked up was actually radish (I hate radish). I don’t think I’ve ever had such a bumper crop as that radish.

17 05 2012
jeannedamoff

Ha! That’s so great. 25 points for making me laugh. :)

14 05 2012
kingfisher

Oh, such bright and lively lovely pictures. Love them! Love your enthusiasm and ability to see God’s plan even while admiring gardens and meeting new friends. Thank you.

17 05 2012
jeannedamoff

Thank YOU! xo

14 05 2012
Chris ter Kuile

Hello Neighbor (both @ home and in the garden)! :)
Your husband shared the link to your post w/ the garden members and I’m so glad he did. Much like the garden seems to be becoming a small world, with vines and leaves almost touching the the aisles, I feel the same about the Church. As much as we might sometimes feel like the minority, God gives me eyes to see how I’m surrounded by an ever-growing garden of believers (and not just in the church building). Happy to be your neighbor and love that we have Christ in common. Your post is rich. And so are we.

17 05 2012
jeannedamoff

Thanks, Chris! I love your thoughts on the Church, and I’m so delighted to be your neighbor, too. Yes. We are rich. Love to you and your sweet family.

15 05 2012
pastordt

Oh, Jeanne – how lovely, lovely. All of it. I would be the one with the camera, too – not the trowel. :>) But we need all of us, don’t you think? And when the local church is working well, it does resemble this kind of community camaraderie – care/concern/joy – all shared. So glad you’re finding home where you are now.

17 05 2012
jeannedamoff

Thanks, Diana! Yes, we all have our part to play. How wonderful when we find it and pour ourselves into it for the Lord’s glory and the common good! Love to you, lovely friend.

15 05 2012
richelle

i so love the photos… and so wish i had a place like that community garden to learn about gardening. we’re trying, here – but haven’t met with a whole lot of success yet – well, except for the banana trees that really like washing machine water!

thanks for sharing the photos – and for the challenge on what community looks and feels like!

17 05 2012
jeannedamoff

Thanks, Richelle! You made me smile with your thirsty banana trees. :)

16 05 2012
Kathy Murphy

What a treat! Love the commentary as much as the pics! And to think this beautiful garden is right in my “backyard.”

17 05 2012
jeannedamoff

Thanks, Kathy! It is a happy place, isn’t it? :)

16 05 2012
Blake Edwards

Wow, artichokes bloom?! This was good.

17 05 2012
jeannedamoff

Apparently they’re in the thistle family. Who knew? :)

Thanks, Blake. Good to see you here!

17 05 2012
Grace Romjue

I love this whole post… the pictures, the stories and the way you share them all so effortlessly and skillfully. But I especially love your list of gratitudes. Each one made me smile.

17 05 2012
jeannedamoff

And now you can add one more gratitude to my list — my delight as I read your comment. Love you, your husband, and your DAUGHTERS!!! xoxo

Your comments are a gift. Please know I read each one with gratitude.

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