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Promoting the Beauty of Creation and Care of our Common Home: A Garden Spirituality


Panelists took time out from enjoying nature and celebrating Earth Day on April 22 to answer this question: How are you and/or members of your community promoting the beauty of creation and the care of our common home?

Rita M Yeasted is a Sister for Christian Community from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After beginning a business career, she entered the Sisters of Divine Providence and became an elementary school teacher. Completing graduate work in English, she began teaching high school and college English. In 1987, she transferred to the Sisters for Christian Community and recently completed two terms as one of their team of international communication coordinators. Presently, she is a distinguished professor of English at La Roche University, her alma mater, and still teaches full-time.

"The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there he placed the man whom he had formed" (Genesis 2:8).

My earliest memory of a real garden was the large vegetable garden planted behind my grandparents' home. There, as a child, I learned the names of all the vegetables, and I can still tell a kohlrabi from a turnip. While my mother planted flowers, as did both my grandmothers, the practicality of growing one's own food impressed me from an early age.

Years passed, and summer flowers grew in small pots in various places I have lived, but when I moved into an old house with a backyard of crabgrass and possibilities, I decided to try my luck.

The previous owners had put a wading pool for their daughters in the center of the yard, and they asked if I wanted it. I surely did not, so they took the plastic pool with them, leaving me with a circular hole, 10 feet across and 6 inches deep. My uncle filled it with composted soil, and I planted not vegetables but spring bulbs, day lilies, and summer annuals around the edges after the bulbs died off.

Eventually, I attempted tomatoes and peppers in pots, two raised beds of beans, peas, carrots, broccoli and lettuce. From summer to fall, I eat vegetables that truly are organic — at least, the ones the deer and rabbits leave me.

Gardening helped me to withstand the pandemic. Planting, weeding and harvesting, all within my small space, reminded me — as it does every year— of the cycle of life. Gardening, for me, is he handmaid of prayer, with lessons of patience and disappointment. Being close to the earth, feeling the soil in my fingers, connects me with life and God in a different way from teaching.

This Lent, our university chaplain chose the theme of "tending the garden of our soul." The words of John 12:24 — "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone" — are played out for me every year. After a hard winter, on the first warm day of February, I purchased a package of anemone bulbs and planted them in my St. Anthony garden. Every day, I look to see if they have broken through the soil. Already, clusters of crocuses and daffodils are blooming in my circular garden amid the mat of dead leaves from my maple tree. As I pull the leaves back, I expose green shoots eager for sunlight.

A gardener's spirituality lasts through every season. We experience death followed by renewal annually. We weed, we water, we bless the earth, and it blesses us in return. Earth is our sacred home. On Ash Wednesday, we are reminded that we came from dust and will return to it. But there is a promised Resurrection, and my garden reminds me of that every spring.

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