Hoeing "In the Garden" #4 – Of Lilies and Sparrows


Note:  The memoir, In the Garden, portrays my mother, Ellen, an ordinary woman, who became extraordinary by surrendering her will and ego to the will of God at every crossroads of her life.  She chose faith over doubt, acceptance over resignation, hope instead of despair.  “Not my will, but Thy will be done,” was her mantra.  Ellen lived her entire life in a house, on the hill, on a farm in west Michigan(the site of present day Country Dairy)rooting herself in the place where she believed God had planted her.  There, alongside the love of her life, Henry, she found her calling as a helpmeet for him and transformed the house on the hill into a place of beauty and sanctuary for their family.  To view the memoir visit www.principia.com or www.janethasselbring.com.
In Hoeing “In the Garden,” the author revisits her mother’s story, cultivating and digging up tidbits of truth to provide inspiration and encouragement for the challenges of her life.

4a.  Consider the Lilies… – Finding Contentment

Water Lilies by Roy Lichtenstein
                                                                                                        
          In one of her prayers, “in the garden,” Ellen is fretting about a lack of money to buy clothing and supplies for her children for the upcoming school year. Here, in part, is the conversation: 
     God:  “My dear, Ellen, please stop worrying.  ‘Which of you by thought can add one cubit unto {her} stature?  And why take ye thought for rainment?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin.  And yet I say to you, that even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these…'” (Matthew 6: 25)
     Ellen: “O, my Lord, I want to believe. Please help me…I’m ashamed of myself for doubting Your word, Lord. Sometimes I think we need a miracle around here.” 
     God smiled.  “No matter.  Miracles are what I’m good at.  Now go in peace.  “Your faith has made you whole.”
     And then He was gone.
     Ellen finished cutting her roses  mulling over what the Lord had said.  Then feeling strangely steadfast and humbled, she went inside to fashion a bouquet and finish her ironing.”  (In the Garden pgs. 49,50)
     Ellen and Henry’s life on the farm was founded on scripture and prayer; yet, it was in nature – God’s creation, that their faith was honed, strengthened, and took on personal meaning.
     Here, in the great out-of-doors, with the eagle sailing in slow circles overhead, the dawn struggling with night on the faraway hill, the dewdrops sparkling on the lawn, the pond lying lazily just below the woods, the cows’ noses wriggling in the grassy bunches of the pasture as they munched and nibbled it’s nutrients, the raucous call of the crows pestering the blue jays at the feeder, and the stars sliding through the night, they learned that they, like the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, were essentially spiritual beings.  Though they were totally immersed in the physical realities of eking out a living and committed to caring for their family,  they were created, like the lilies and birds, in the image of God and thus spiritual beings. 
   
wild poppies in Portslade Sussex
Rolling hills in Portslade with wild poppies





      “Consider the lilies…”  The lilies referred to here are the beautiful wild poppies of the East. Emmet Fox notes in “The Sermon on the Mount,” that anyone who has seen a field of poppies dancing and swaying in the breeze will appreciate the sense of relaxation and freedom and joy that Jesus had in mind as being our true birthright.”  (pg. 103)
     Through communing with God in nature, Ellen and Henry came to understand that, just as the lilies and birds adapt and fit themselves to their element, so too, they, on an infinitely higher plane of creation than the birds and lilies, were part of God’s plan. Their true element was the Presence of God.  As Augustine noted, “Thou hast made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” 
     In the seemingly menial tasks of the farm, my parents found the presence of God. While Henry walked behind the horses, holding the plow and Ellen knelt in the garden, picking a pan of beans, they came to personalize the Truth, that in God, they lived, moved and had their being as unquestioningly as the birds and flowers accepted their condition as part of God’s creation.
     Eckhart Tolle refers to the spiritual essence of nature as an Intelligence which underlies and  sustains all created beings.  In his book, “Stillness Speaks,” he encourages us to bring awareness to the subtle sounds of nature – “the rustling of leaves in the wind, raindrops falling, the humming of an insect, the first birdcall at dawn… Beyond the sounds there is something greater; a sacredness that cannot be understood through thought.”  (pg.79)
He goes on:  “Watch an animal, a flower, a tree, and see how it rests in Being.   It is  itself.  It has enormous dignity, innocence, and holiness.”  (pg. 82)

                                 “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want…” (Psalm 23:1)

     Time spent with the lilies and birds taught my parents to look beyond the carking cares of this life to a realization that the real necessities and best joys of life are very simple.   After all, the most precious commodity, peace of mind, cannot be purchased with all the gold in Solomon’s mine and can be kept in a log cabin or in a hut of turf – or in a simple, humble house on the hill of the farm. 
      The lesson of the lilies?  God may give us more or less, but so long as we are content, it will always be enough.  We need never “want.” 

     “It’s been noted that those who do not try to seem more than they are, but are simply themselves, truly make a difference in the world.  Whatever they do becomes empowered because it is in alignment with the purpose of the whole.  Their influence goes far beyond what they do and their simple unassuming presence has a transforming effect on those with whom they come into contact.  So perfectly were Henry and Ellen in their place, it would be difficult to picture either of them living anywhere else. Their spirits were one with the birds, the crickets, the frogs, the breeze – the very soil itself.”  (In the Garden pg. 125)

                                                      Water Lilies at Veit’s Landing

         

Things with feathers…

Note:  The memoir, In the Garden, portrays my mother, Ellen, an ordinary woman, who became extraordinary by surrendering her will and ego to the will of God at every crossroads of her life.  She chose faith over doubt, acceptance over resignation, hope instead of despair.  “Not my will, but Thy will be done,” was her mantra.  Ellen lived her entire life in a house, on the hill, on a farm in west Michigan(the site of present day Country Dairy)rooting herself in the place where she believed God had planted her.  There, alongside the love of her life, Henry, she found her calling as a helpmeet for him and transformed the house on the hill into a place of beauty and sanctuary for their family.  To view the memoir visit www.principia.com or www.janethasselbring.com.

In Hoeing “In the Garden,” the author revisits her mother’s story, cultivating and digging up tidbits of truth to provide inspiration and encouragement for the challenges of her life.

                                                                Northern Mockingbird

                                                                “Things with feathers”

          “Things with feathers…”  –  Emily Dickinson’s symbol for hope.  So states Billy Collins in the  preface of “Bright Wings,” a collection of poetry he edited.   Here is the “things with feathers” poem:

“Hope is a thing with feathers

 That perches in the soul.

It sings the song without the words

And never stops at all.”     (Verse 1) Emily Dickinson

       This post is for lovers of Emily Dickinson and her poetry, and lovers of “things with feathers”  as well.  First off, let me admit that while I have immersed myself in Emily Dickinson’s life and poetry this year, I find her works illusive and extremely hard to get my mind around.  Having said that, I am so bold as to declare that I’ve written a book based on her “things with feathers” poem.
     My series of children’s books, Tales From Pelican Cove, describes nature and the wild/shore birds of Florida (where I winter) and beyond.  My 5th Tales book is entitled, “Mimi the Mimic and the Great Migration,” and features the Northern Mockingbird and the  migration of the Great White Pelicans to the Mississippi River Valley in mid-February.  The book is due out in fall 2014.  It is a tale of hope and remembrance. 
     A brief preview:
     It is mid-winter at Pelican Cove, when Mimi realizes her friends, the white pelicans, are preparing to leave for the north country.  Mimi spreads the word to her friends, warning them: “It’s time.” She urges them to meet her at the cove the following evening.  There, they gather to say farewell to the mighty birds as they form a “V” and flap off for the Mississippi River Valley, the first stop on their journey north. Afterwards, Mimi gathers her friends together, along with the fledgling pelicans, who are not strong enough to make the trip north, and recounts for them a poignant tale of how she was saved by the white pelicans on one of her migratory journeys north – thus her bond of friendship with them.  The themes of hope and remembrance are the underpinning, not only of Mimi’s story, but of the book as well.

                                                    Mimi’s friend, the Carolina Wren
                                                           
     “And sweetest in the gale is heard;
     And sore must be the storm
     That could abash the little bird
     That kept so many warm.”  (verse 2) Emily Dickinson

     The importance of hope in life is a no brainer, but the value of remembering might be overlooked in our culture of speed, devices and endless activity.  How often do we take the time to remember events in the past for ourselves and our children – events that have shaped and molded us into the people we are? 
     According to the philosopher, Paul Ricoeur, “Hope is the same thing as remembering.”  Remembering people and events was important to the great novelist, Alexander Dumas, as well, and a recurring theme in his books.  According to Tom Reiss, the author of “Black Count,” the story of Alexander Dumas’s father, to the novelist Dumas, “The worst sin anyone can commit is to forget.” (Black Count, pg. 3)
     Every year, when “it’s time,” Mimi and her friends gather to say goodbye to the white pelicans in order to remember how they saved Mimi many years earlier.  For them, it is a ceremony; a ritual.

Mimi’s friends the Great Blue Heron and Great White Egret

     “I’ve heard it in the chillest land
     And on the strangest sea;
     Yet, never, in extremity,
     It asked a crumb of me.”  (verse 3) Emily Dickinson

Wilson 

        I actually think I understand this poem somewhat and my book takes a stab at sharing what this poem has come to mean to me.  If any of Emily’s followers, out there, would care to share your ideas on the meaning of the poem, I’d love to hear from you.  And, when my book comes out this fall, I hope some of you will be intrigued enough to want to read it.  It is a story that parents and adults will love as much as the children for whom it is written.

Another of Mimi’s friends, the Wilson’s Plover

     P.S. I recently finished “Emily Dickinson and the Art of Belief,” by Roger Lundin.  It gave the reader great insight into Emily’s spiritual journey.  I highly recommend it for anyone who hasn’t read the book.