Andy Hawes 




A friend, who knows I have a passion for gardening, gave me a book, The Well Gardened Mind by Sue Stuart- Smith. It is an enlightening read exploring the physiological and psychological benefits of gardening. The author, a medical doctor, psychiatrist and psychotherapist, discusses the scientific evidence for the benefits of gardening to a person’s well-being. For example; neuroscience has discovered that a soil bacteria M. Vaccaeto, which the human olfactory system is sensitive to, boosts serotonin levels in the brain increasing a sense of well-being. That is why the smell of freshly dug earth is so lovely!

As, is so often the case, science gives proof to the wisdom of Scripture. Although the destiny of all creation is described in the book of Revelation as a city, the whole history of salvation begins in a garden; ‘The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it,’ (Genesis 2.15). The name Adam means ‘Of the earth’ – there is a profound link between ‘human’ and ‘humus’. One image of peace and harmony in Scripture is each person ‘sitting under his own vine and fig tree’. Jesus frequently uses gardening images in his teaching and describes our Heavenly Father as a ‘Vinedresser’.

Easter and Spring go together in the northern hemisphere; it is a time of sowing and planting, of lawn cutting and preparing the ground. Now is the time to engage with creation and allow all its healing and restoring gifts to enrich and strengthen the mind and heart. Not everyone is able to garden, but everyone can grow something at home, or enjoy and relish the beauty of creation in its spring unfolding. To relish creation is a spiritual exercise; to engage physically with creation is a prayer.

If this all sounds like tree-hugging, new age stuff let me add some context to these statements. Out spiritual self is incarnate; for a while we are body-dwellers dependent for our being on the fruits of the earth. Creation, is the work of the Word of God; ‘all things were made by him and without was not anything made that was made’ (John 1). In and through Creation the Lord is speaking to us through every sense. A life divorced from Creation is one divorced from the Creator. This is why getting our hands dirty, washing the earth off potatoes, or feeling the wind on the face, is a prayer, if prayer is personal experience of God. 

Our sacramental life is dependent on the fact that God made us integral with creation. We live because we eat ‘the fruit of the earth and the work of human hands’. Every Eucharist is a harvest festival. Without creation there is no communion. Much of the spiritual malaise of our time is the result of a way of life divorced from creation.

Take a bracing prayer-walk, arrange flowers, bake a cake, stroke the cat, feed the birds, look at the stars. Do something to consciously meet God in creation! Be thankful for the ‘deep down goodness’ in things. At the Eucharist, be thankful for the bread that becomes The Body. Blessed be God forever.