Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, from which you came, and to which you shall return.
I remember a feeling of fear as a child whenever I heard those words during mass at the Catholic Church. I didn’t want to turn into a pile of ashes. I didn’t want to become dust blowing around on the ground. And just what did you mean, calling me a pile of ashes?
As is all too common, I heard those words as a child and had not a clue as to what they meant and didn’t question it either. It wasn’t until I was much older that I started to understand that we, as humans, come from the earth; we are part of the earth. John O’Donohue puts it well
Your body is as ancient as the clay of the universe from which it is made;
and your feet on the ground are a constant connection with the earth.
Your feet bring your private clay in touch with the ancient, mother clay from which you first emerged.
I love to garden, both vegetable and perennial. We always had a garden when I was growing up, whether it was in Detroit or in the suburbs of Michigan. I have fond memories of my dad going out to the garden, salt shaker in hand, where he would pick a tomato from the vine, sprinkle it with some salt, and take a bite. Is there any better way to enjoy a tomato? And somewhere in a photo album is a picture of me as a little girl sniffing the flowers.
So it seems natural that gardening runs in my blood. I’m not always successful at it and some seasons weeds are my best friend. And for whatever reason, as I planted seedlings in the vegetable beds this year, I began to think of our connection to the earth, to the dirt that I was digging and pushing around.
I don’t always have the time I’d like to devote to my gardens (hence the acceptance of weeds as my friends). And it was knowing that I don’t have as much time that I started to think of gardening as a spiritual practice. During this time, the garden becomes my sole focus, my intent, my presence. The phone stays in the house. I don’t wear an iPod. It is just me, the gardening gloves and tools.
In making my gardening a spiritual practice, whether I spend 15 minutes or an hour, the time spent becomes a richer experience. Bird songs seem louder. Bees seem to buzz with greater intensity. It is as if the world becomes more vibrant.
In making gardening a spiritual practice, I now understand even better our connection to the earth. I have a better appreciation of John O’Donohue’s words, that we are part of the “mother clay.”
As we nurture the earth, so will it nurture us both physically and spiritually.