I just got back from finishing up another residency component for my doctoral studies. All I can say is it’s good to be home.
Although I really enjoyed my time in Washington DC, I was ready to sleep in my own bed, pray in my own garden, cook my own meals.
Last week, one of my professors spoke about a “Spirituality of Place,” in essence somewhere where we can encounter God. Although I’ve never had a problem, to use St. Ignatius’ words, “finding God in all things,” I had never really thought about it as a spiritual practice. In fact, there’s even books written about it.
Without a doubt, I grew up experiencing a spirituality of place. From our earliest days, my siblings and I were taught it by our mother. She often said that her garden was her therapy, and so it was. One of the last times my mother and I spent quality together before her final illness was last January. I had just finished pruning the last of her roses, and I was wiped out. She wanted to come out and see what I had done (maybe to examine the damage?), and told her to hold off a bit, because I had a quick errand to run.
Jumping in the car, I headed to the Baskin and Robbins down the street. I came back with a scoop for her and a scoop for me, each in cups. Both of us shouldn’t have indulged, but sitting in her back yard, the only one of my childhood in sunny California, we talked and enjoyed every spoonful. I have no idea what the flavors were, but just being with her in the place she loved so much validates that there is such a thing as spirituality of place.
While I was down in Washington, there was lots happening in my garden about an hour away. Late spring was peaking, and there was much in bloom. Some plants, like my Louisiana Swamp Iris, bloom quickly and then that’s it. Gone. I look forward to those bright yellow flowers each year, and was sorry I missed them at their best. The plant above, a Philadelphia Mock Orange, fills my whole back yard with its scent. I planted it specifically by my back door, where I have my little prayer garden. Luckily, the crazy weather has thrown it off a bit, and when I came home Friday, it was at its best.
My mom taught me that a good gardener always has something in bloom. That’s much easier in California, but I’ve done my best. From the first snow drops and crocus till the fall mums, something’s blooming in my yard. Just this afternoon, I put in some new coneflowers which will bloom until the first frost.
Yes, there’s such a thing as a spirituality of place. Yes, God is present in our churches, in our homes, in those we love. He’s also there in nature, whether it be a majestic mountain or quiet meadow. The ocean or an alpine lake. God is there waiting for me each morning in my garden, when I come out and sit as the sun comes up, sipping my coffee and thanking Him that I have the eyes to see His grandeur once again.