Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit

Gardening As A Spiritual Practice


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.

4 thoughts on “Gardening As A Spiritual Practice

  1. I enjoyed reading your post, Amy. The garden has always been a place of healing and renewal for me. When I moved from an apartment to my new home, I was so happy to plunge my hands into the earth once again.

  2. Gardening is something I never did until I retired 2 years ago. I took over the care of our small vegetable garden from my hubby, who was more than happy to hand over the responsibility ! Like you, Amy, I’ve developed a tolerance to the intrusion of those pesky weeds, and the veggies don’t seem to mind. When I get out into my garden, I enjoy watching the comings and goings of the birds nesting in the trees separating my house from the neighbor’s. It makes the rather tedious chore of hoeing and pulling out weeds a lot more pleasant. My cats also provide free entertainment by following me around and chasing the birds and each other…Best of all, gardening gets my body moving enough so I can cross off ‘go to gym’ from that day’s to-do list ! One of life’s little pleasures..

  3. Lovely post!

    I didn’t always see gardening as a spiritual practice, and mores the shame for that. What I now consider a chance for deep communion, I once just considered a chore to be rushed through. But now each time I have my hands in the soil, or my nose in a blossom, I’m reminded of a line from a poem by Jude Rittenhouse: “How each growing thing digs down deep, long before its seeds can learn to fly.”

  4. Hi Karen, Dora, and Deborah,

    As always, thank you for your comments and compliments. It is curious how the act of digging in the dirt, weeding, deadheading, and simply being in the garden can lift our spirits. Sometimes I think stewardship of the land is programmed into our DNA.


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