While I was gardening

The art of gardening and the science of life.


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3:00 am thoughts and long walks

The past few years have brought some extensive and important changes to my life.  None of these changes were easy, smooth, or intended but all have resulted in positive outcomes.  And as is usually the case, most change arrives with disrupted sleep and peculiar thoughts – thoughts that wake me in the early morning hours, rattle around in my head for a while, and amuse, confuse, or irritate me until I return to a deep sleep.  Most recently, two thoughts most troubling are ‘what is God’s responsibility to humankind’ and ‘since humans are a result of millions of years of evolution, when did the Fall occur?’.  Still working on those.  Sometime last month, while on vacation in Hawaii, I woke early thinking that I need to stop pruning all the plants in my garden and let The Wild take over.  That thought was nixed quickly.  Most of last summer I woke early with plans of Japanese gardens on my mind – moss gardens with large stones and aged wood debris.  This spring I began building such a garden in the Demonstration Gardens of Carkeek Park, so that particular thought is resolved.  I hope it remains resolved, although because of the editing this new bed receives from a well-intended visitor who likes to move the moss pieces around in my absence, I’m not sure of the outcome.  If he/she really wants to help, bring us more moss!

But, as I was saying, many of these thoughts remain unresolved.  A few days ago I had a helpful, insightful meeting with a priest at the church I began attending early this year.  I continue to be surprised at this particular change – a unitarian in a trinitarian community – but  there it is.  I’m not Christian, not even certain of a God who interacts in human life, but I find myself compelled to attend service each Sunday morning.  The sermons are intelligent.  The service is ancient and ritualistic.  The building is large and beautiful.  And there I sit, surrounded by believers whose (apparent) depth of faith is unshakable.  So, I asked the priest if he would answer some questions, and he said he would be pleased to meet with me.  We met for over an hour.  In our meeting, he listened closely and sincerely, and responded with insight and compassion.  And he did the wisest thing a person can do when faced with someone who struggles – he did not offer solutions.  In fact, he asked me questions.  Questions upon questions.  And he pointed out the benefits of sincere doubt.  As I said, the meeting was insightful and very helpful.

When I find these and other questions almost overwhelming, I will go out for a long walk.  If I can’t find a resolution to a problem, I tell myself to take a hike.  A few years ago I was struggling with such an unresolvable issue that I had walked almost 7 miles before realizing it was time to turn back and head home.  I slept well that night.  I have always used long walks as a means to work out problems, questions, or confusion.  While walking or hiking, I have discovered solutions to problems, seen creative gardening ideas, or discovered that an issue wasn’t as serious as I had thought.  Movement helps, for many reasons but not the least is exhaustion.

Questions may always arise.  Questions may always wake me in the early, dark hours of morning before sun and reason shine through the quiet.  But I look forward to a time when an answer instead of a question wakes me.  When that happens, and it will happen someday, I plan to go back to sleep and sleep until noon.

And then I will take a long, easy walk to a favorite cafe.