By Sr. Whitney Schieltz, SC Federation Canonical Novice
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I often use the word creative to describe myself; and this past year as a canonical novice has been an opportune time to explore the importance of creativity in my life. When I think of what it means to be creative, the first activities that come to mind are painting, sculpting, writing, and even cooking—activities that are completely within my control and can be done in a short amount of time. However, this spring I have found a new creative outlet—one that requires patience, dedication, and letting go of control and the idea of perfection—and that is gardening.
As the arrival of spring evoked conversations about what to plant in the raised beds around our house, I began reading articles and watching online videos about how to plant and maintain a vegetable garden. During my research, I came across numerous discussions about the physical, mental, and spiritual health benefits of gardening; but it wasn't until I actually dug in and began planting, weeding, watering, and harvesting that I realized how miraculous gardening is. As a kid, we always had a garden in our back yard, but I was more of a harvester/consumer than a planter/grower. Now, however, I understand what drove my mom to spend hours at a time kneeling in the dirt, pulling weeds, and dragging a heavy hose around.
|some of the raised beds outside the Novitiate House|
While my earlier ideas of creative projects focused more on the final product, gardening reminds me of the importance of the creative process. When I'm working in the garden, all of my senses are engaged. I feel the sun beating down and the breeze blowing by; I hear the birds in the trees and the airplanes overhead; I smell the flowers in bloom; I taste the dirt being stirred into the air; and I see the arrival of new sprouts and blooms. I am hard at work, co-creating with God, but I am also still and silent. It is a perfect place for meditation and prayer.
|I'm especially fascinated by the potatoes!|
It’s no wonder there is so much imagery of gardens, cultivation, and harvest used in scripture to deliver the Good News. My previous spiritual director often referenced these terms, as well; but it didn't really translate until now. Now that I have experienced the literal cultivation and tending of a garden, perhaps I will better be able to heed the wisdom of St. Teresa of Avila and tend the landscape of my soul.
"Beginners must realize that in order to give delight to the Lord they are starting to cultivate a garden on very barren soil, full of abominable weeds. His Majesty pulls up the weeds and plants good seed. Now let us keep in mind that all of this is already done by the time a soul is determined to practice prayer and has begun to make use of it. And with the help of God we must strive like good gardeners to get these plants to grow and take pains to water them so that they don’t wither but come to bud and flower and give forth a most pleasant fragrance to provide refreshment for this Lord of ours. Then He will often come to take delight in this garden and find His joy among these virtues."
– St. Teresa of Avila