My favourite morning hour is six to seven before the world is awake and bright and loud. This is when I walk the dog, when it is cool and quiet.
My favourite evening hour is eight to nine after the sun has sunk below the treeline but there is still light in the sky. This is when I tend my gardens, when it is cool and quiet.
Even in the golden days of August, there are still reasons to putter.
"What are you doing?" calls a voice through the dusk.
"Collecting rocks," I reply.
We have a pile of slate rock at the edge of our property and after the sun goes down, when I know I won't come across a snake snoozing on a warm stone, I gather flat stones to place in the gaps in my flower gardens. Gaps are good; gaps provide a space to kneel and breathe.
The chickens are tucked up on their roosts so my husband shuts them up for the night.
"Want me to help?" he calls to me as I fill my wheelbarrow with rocks.
"No, thank you," I reply, preferring to work alone and in silence.
This is not truly work, however, this hauling and placing of rock, the digging in the dirt, the pulling of weeds. It may feel like work during the day when it’s hot and sunny, when the lawn mower drones and trucks rattle by on the road, but in the evening, this is a meditation. A time of peace and quiet, a time when the shadows slip in and twilight narrows the world to the patch of garden right in front where our hands are touching the ground.
This is vespers, when the toil of gardening becomes an act of prayer, when we are down on our knees in the dirt, breathing in the smell of earth and plants, hearing the rustle of leaves in the light breeze, brushing the soil with our fingers. We are filled with peace and hope and the promise of joy.
A prayer ends with “Amen”, which means “So be it”. It was Oliver Wendell Holmes who said, “The amen of nature is always a flower,” and that’s where gardening meets our faith in something other than ourselves. Be it soil and plants or spirit and persons, we plant, we feed, we watch; we take care of each other, we nurture. We do it year after year after year no matter what challenges we face.
There comes a point when we must get up off our knees, wipe the dirt from our hands, and hope for the best from our labour and the weather, saying, “So be it...”
The sun has set. I join my husband on the back deck. It’s darker than it was a few days ago, the days shorter, the nights cooler, the mosquitoes waning along with August’s full moon.
We sit there until ten o'clock then we say good night to the chickens in their coop, good night to the stars quivering on the tips of leaves, good night to the flowers folded into themselves like they are praying.