I am an avid member of The Church of Nature of which I am the founder. Membership in this faith only requires that you dedicate a portion of your life to the preservation, enjoyment and appreciation of nature. Throughout my life my most joyful, fulfilling spiritual moments have been connected to nature in some way.
On Easter Sunday my family had brunch and exchanged Easter baskets. My Brooklyn-based son joined us for the weekend and my daughter took the day off from her bookstore job so we could all be together. And how did we choose to spend our day? We all worked in the yard for several hours during the afternoon before going out for dinner. It was the kind of day that lent itself to such work: cool, intermittently sunny and cloudy, and breezy. My husband and son worked very hard to clear a patch of land bordering our neighbor’s front yard which was filled with ivy and not much else. My daughter had expressed a desire to have her own flower garden to plant and attend to. She had lived for seven years in sunny Santa Cruz California where she had planted a yard full of blooming beauties before she left to return home seven years later. My son has his own little cultivated plot in the front yard of the brownstone he lives in with his girlfriend. His landlord and passersby all delight in his artfully arranged plantings.
How did we all become such avid gardeners? My interest grew gradually and didn’t really begin until we bought our first home with a yard full of random plants, including bamboo! My husband and I worked hard for several years to rearrange plants we liked, to eliminate those we didn’t, and to add what we thought would bring us pleasure without too much maintenance. By the time our back and front yards were planted with perennials that delighted us every year during all seasons, it was time to move to a bigger home. The night before our move I ran out of the house and sliced off a piece of each of our two peonies to bring with us. Those two peonies are my greatest pleasure every spring.
Our current yard presents us with many challenges. There are several gigantic pine trees which tower over everything, as well as several oak trees which shower their gifts upon us during every season except winter, and a backyard made of concrete left by the previous owner. We also have a very sandy hill that starts about 50 feet from the back of our house which was nearly barren when we arrived and now is full of thriving rhododendron and azalea bushes and junipers which are as tall as trees. After 15 years of living in this, our second home, we still haven’t quite figured out the best way to cultivate this property.
So there we were, on Easter Sunday, with our rakes, shovels, wheelbarrows and garden gloves removing the unwanted ivy, trimming the damage off our plantings from a very punishing winter, and preparing the soil for a new small flower garden. As we worked together, I thought all day about how Easter is traditionally a day for renewal and rejoicing about a new beginning and how we were, in our own way, participating in the spirit of that annual celebration.