What is a garden? It is our beginning, and it is our end. We were always meant to be gardeners, to be caretakers of green and fruitful places. That we originate in Eden is a truth written in the DNA of our bodies as much as it is written in our souls. We are dust and dirt. In death, we return to the ground. But what of our souls? The heaven we anticipate is a paradise, a sheltered garden. That is what the ancient stories say.
Beginnings and endings are so well defined. So crisp and sharp, you could prick your finger on them and not even mind. But we live our lives in the middle, and the middle is so often a muddle of soft gray. Not sharp enough to cut, but so easily drained of color and life, I am sometimes tempted to lie down like Briar Rose and sleep my life away.
These are the months when I feel that temptation most acutely. These soft and soggy days of late winter. Whatever snow remains is more mud than crystal. The air isn’t cold enough to invigorate, but it isn’t warm enough to cheer, either. Last summer’s garden feels as long-ago and far-away as Eden. Perhaps I only dreamed those flowers.
I need something to light a fire under the lukewarm water of these days and my familiar, late-winter despondency. I need to live a chapter rooted in my beginning that grows like a green vine toward heaven. I need to make a garden. More than that: I need a flower garden.
It won’t be Eden, and it won’t be paradise, but on certain days and at certain moments (early June, golden hour, late September at sunrise after a rain) I’ll be sure that the garden of our beginning and our end has somehow drawn near, and Eden itself will glimmer just at the edge of sight.
Will beauty save the world? I don’t know, but year after year it saves me. In late-winter, my dream of a garden is the one thing that pulls me to my feet. I shrug off despair with every tiny seed dropped in a tray of soil. I hope for heaven—I do—but that is such a far-off hope. In a garden, memories of Eden and dreams of heaven mingle, and I am finally able to say with conviction: right here, right now, here in this middle place, all is well.
And, finally: I am rooted. I am at peace. I hold joy in dirt-stained hands.