Chaplain's Corner: A Celebration of Earth

     This week brings us Earth Day, the second week in the season of Easter, and it is National Poetry Month.  With all of this in mind, I would like to share a beautiful poem by the American poet Andrew Hudgins called “Christ as a Gardener” in which he draws upon the powerful story in the Gospel of John in which Mary, visiting the tomb, believes Jesus to be the gardener, the story that is heard year after year on Easter Sunday. 

Christ as a Gardener
The boxwoods planted in the park spelled LIVE.
I never noticed it until they died.
Before, the entwined green had smudged the word
unreadable. And when they take their own advice
again—come spring, come Easter—no one will know
a word is buried in the leaves. I love the way
that Mary thought her resurrected Lord
a gardener. It wasn’t just the broad-brimmed hat
and muddy robe that fooled her: He was that changed.
He looks across the unturned field, the riot
of unscythed grass, the smattering of wildflowers.
Before he can stop himself, he’s on his knees.
He roots up stubborn weeds, pinches the suckers,
deciding order here—what lives, what dies,
and how. But it goes deeper even than that.
His hands burn and his bare feet smolder. He longs
to lie down inside the long, dew-moist furrows
and press his pierced side and his broken forehead
into the dirt. But he’s already done it—
passed through one death and out the other side.
He laughs. He kicks his bright spade in the earth
and turns it over. Spring flashes by, then harvest.
Beneath his feet, seeds dance into the air.
They rise, and he, not noticing, ascends
on midair steppingstones of dandelion,
of milkweed, thistle, cattail, and goldenrod.

     My favorite part of Hudgins’ poem are the first two lines: 
The boxwoods planted in the park spelled LIVE.
I never noticed it until they died.

     Especially now, as we stay in our homes and neighborhoods, these lines have taken on a new meaning for me.  I have noticed so much since our way of life went dormant. And I am not the only one; just yesterday my stepdaughter asked her dad, “when did we get that tree?” referring to a tree in our back yard that has been there for all 13 years of her life in this home.  A few weeks ago, my daughter and I started taking afternoon walks after school to a pond that we discovered at the edge of a field in our neighborhood. We never really paid any attention to it before, when our lives were so full and busy that we had little time to wander and explore.  The pond is beautiful and filled with wildlife: we have seen a mother duck and her ducklings, baby turtles, pigeons, and fish. We particularly love a breezy day when we can watch the wind create designs across the water. When life slows down, we are able to see more clearly, to notice things that have always been there.  Hudgins refers to the words that are buried in the leaves - now is the time to discover those things that have been buried beneath the busyness of our lives. Now is the time to pay attention. To be still. And to listen.  

Let us pray.
O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
-Book of Common Prayer, pg. 832
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