The Zen of Gardening (and Life)

Flower gardening is one of my favorite engagements.  For me, it is relaxing, and ultimately fulfilling to see the work come to fruition in blooms, color, and symmetry around our home.  I like to just look at the progress and the results (just ask my wife how many times I stop at the end of the driveway in our car when coming home to look at my plants).  Flower gardening is not a passion, in that deep sense of the word, but it provides for me a connection with the outdoors, fresh air, and watching things come to maturity.

A recent Facebook post got me thinking about the zen of flower gardening because of the humorous responses I received from a number of people.  I posted that I spent time one morning using graph paper to lay out designs and flower beds for the coming season.  I also placed on the graph what I have accomplished in the previous two years of garden work.  My intent in the mapping was to provide what was just right for our house.  You might know what I mean, not the overwhelming gardens where the plants overtake the house and all its windows, and not the kind where there are Spartan attempts to make a house look presentable.  It is the kind of gardening that is simple, yet accentuating.  Purposefully placed, with no haphazard dots of greenery to fill in space. 

For me it is a study, a reflection, a purposeful reading of magazines on perenniels and annuals; the height a flower will get at maturity, what will grow best in our climate, which plants are hearty and will last year after year.  There is thus a zen in my use of graph paper as I drink my cup of coffee pondering placement, design, and interconnectedness of plants.

We think of Zen as something mystical.  But that is because we don’t understand the word’s history or basic meaning.  While it has come into vogue as an Eastern word, its origin is Sanskrit; an Indo-European word meaning “to see or look at.”  It is in the looking and seeing in my mind’s eye that I am able to map out what is there before me; to be intentional about what needs to take place in the early weeks of spring, so that the later days of summer and fall display beauty, fragrance, and art.

My zen of flower gardening maybe is translated from my own life and focus on mission development, planning, and goal setting for the ultimate purpose seeing my life come to fruition; to matter both now and maybe be translated into the lives of others.  Maybe some beauty of my life will add fragrance to another’s.  That is my hope, that is my own zen of life, too; to see and look at what needs to be considered and done so that I might live well now, not in some future moment.

The graph paper layout of my gardening is just like my day planner; a way of seeing life, looking at it, and figuring out how to design and plant early, so that in the summer and fall of life I might deliver on what I have planned.  I want both my plants and my life to develop, mature, and ultimately be beautiful–not too much, not too Spartan, but just right.

Blessings for this day, dear reader. Grace and peace to you.

David Neidert

A Sacred Conversation

The hours went by very quickly sitting in a private hospital room.  The hours cascaded seamlessly as I sat with my college roommate discussing health, the past, what has transpired already, and the future.  He was there for a knee replacement, the result of years of wrestling (where he was a collegiate champion).  The surgery would hopefully return him to some freedom from pain that he had experienced for most of his adult life.

But the time was more than talking about injuries (mine included which resulted from a fall that shattered my femur just a year earlier).  Our time was filled with remembering our roommate days (and laughing about them) and it was filled with the lessons learned to date.  We talked of friendship, perserverance in life, passions, things beyond our control, contentment, and legacy; all of it to consider what the two of us together and individually have given to the world as our payment for being in it.

The best conversation came when Rick asked, “What is your burn?”  I knew what he meant.  What is the passion that burns in my heart.  As a good coach, he has asked that of hundreds of student athletes; now he was asking me.  It hasn’t changed over the years.  My passion is education through a number of venues; teaching at the university level, writing, and teaching in the life of the church.  If there is one that has become more essential for me in the past five years, it is the area of discipleship education in the life of the church;  helping people not just know something about scripture, but make sure they integrate into their daily lives.  And, not just to have an opinion about something, but to have a solid foundation of why they believe what they believe.  Too much meaningless talk in this world, as noted in the New Testament letter to Titus.   Too many talking-heads available 24-7 telling us what and who to believe.  So my passion is helping people understand what they believe SO THAT they might discern what is true, noble, excellent, and worthy of our energy in these complicated days.

The conversation ended with what have we done in this world; what lessons had we learned.  We both agreed that we have learned to be content in life; to savor what has been given to us, to embrace what happens every day, to be present in the moment and not worry about what is not yet realized.  Our experiences have taught us that today is the day, even if we have plans for tomorrow.  We were in sync as we both realized that we are only a cog in the vast machine of the universe, playing out our part for a minute or two in the scope of the history of the universe.

We agreed that what we offer each day, to the best of our abilities, with “kind and generous hearts” (as Mr. Hoggett said to Babe) is all we can do in our four score of life, if we should be so lucky to get them.  I was deeply blessed to be in the room with my former college roommate.  It has been 34 years since we shared a dormitory room, but our hearts are kindred and linked nontheless.  It was a sacred moment for me (and I trust too for Rick), one that will be etched in my soul for years ahead.

Blessings to you, dear reader, for this day and those to come.  Grace and peace.

David