Often, our thoughts are so channeled toward our backyard gardens as places dedicated to our own subsistence work that we forget our neighbors might enjoy the view of our gardens through their own kitchen windows. Today's sabbath rest visits a garden that touched a life in a way many would hardly imagine.
It comes from a book called What Difference Do It Make? which is the sequel to Same Kind of Different As Me. These books offer a look into the lives of those who have a passion to help the homeless, as well as of those homeless people they touch. This particular excerpt is about a man who wants to take his gift as an artist to help addicts and ex-cons forget their troubles through creating art, even if only for a bit. " 'I don't know why art works, why it helps,' he told his world-weary audience [of homeless men.] 'I'm not a therapist. All I know is that it's powerful for me.' " In time, he made it powerful for them, too.
Time, almost like time on a gardening calendar--for him to build relationship with the men, and for him to uncover and clarify his own faulty perceptions and expectations. But eventually, he took his little corp of artists into a homeless center's garden and created something magical.
"Beautiful gardens surrounded the mission--flowers, vines and trellises sheltered in leafy canopies of shade. One day, Don took a handful of men outside and told them. 'Pick anything you want to draw. But whatever you pick, you're going to draw it eight times.'
"It was an exercise in commitment. 'Commitment and follow-through is hard for addicts,' Don said. 'They want something that's immediate. When something doesn't work quickly, they move on to something else.'
"One man picked a vine-covered trellis. But as he sketched and sketched, he focused on the trellis itself, struggling over and over to render the spots where the thin, white wood crossed. It was as though he didn't see the vines or the leaves or the flowers at all. Meanwhile, he became more and more frustrated and impatient.
" 'Slow down a little,' Don coached him. 'What else do you see here? Do you see leaves? Shadows? Colors?'
"The man tried again, this time relaxing a little, sinking into the moment, less intent on the hard detail and more open to the total picture. After a few more tries, he showed his piece to Don, who was impressed with what the man had achieved in the end.
"Art, said Don, teaches something we all need to learn, especially about people who are different from ourselves. 'To see things the way they truly are, sometimes you have to look more deeply.' "
I would venture to say gardening can be some people's "art" in this respect.
Never stop seeing your garden "new every morning."