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Jewish World Review April 16, 2003 / 14 Nissan 5763

Dayle A. Shockley

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Nature calls us in spring -- Spring is the time of year when the earth calls to me. I pull on a pair of gardening gloves, collect my spade and trowel and set out to prepare my flower beds for a fresh season of color.

Removing winter's abuse can be a grueling job. But to plant something in the barren earth, to feel the cool soil in my hands, to smell its musky aroma, brings with it a deep satisfaction that only gardeners understand.

I haven't always been a gardener. When we bought our home in the suburbs, it took me several years to get up the nerve to give gardening a try. But one spring morning found me carving out a kidney-shaped area in front of the house. It was a small plot of ground, but if I had any luck, it would be enough space for a big splash of color.

I enlisted a gardening expert to lead me along as I cultivated and enriched the soil with all of the things that make a garden grow. I made a note of when and where the sun rested. Morning sun. Afternoon shade. Then, the fun began.

At the nursery, I loaded a red wagon with three flats of young plants - all impatiens - in soft pastel colors. I drove home, gently lifted them from their cramped quarters and placed them in the black earth. I watered, mulched and scattered smooth pebbles around the edge of the bed.

Taking a step back, I clutched my heart at the loveliness before me. Where once had been nothing now sat clusters of tender plants, bobbing their little heads at me as if to say, "We like it here."

The next morning, I went outside to see how the impatiens had survived their first night together. As I rounded the corner, I caught my breath at the sight of their delicate faces dappled with April's sun. You look at something that beautiful, and you just want to cry. From then on, I was hooked.

Every spring since has found me planting a little something in the earth. As the young flowers settle into the ground, my hopes settle right along beside them. And so far, my hopes haven't been misplaced.

Year after year, my tiny garden gives back much more than I give to it. Its magnificent gifts feed not only my eye but my soul as well. Gardening has taught me patience, for patience must rule the heart of the gardener. I have learned the importance of persevering, for the very nature of the garden is to persevere, to rise above adversity, defying anything that would hold it down. And always, there is faith.

When you till the soil and sow the seeds, you are driven by faith. Faith that you will walk past the window one evening and catch a glimpse of pastel blossoms dancing in the fading light, like so many fair-haired children.

If you have yet to try your hand at gardening, now is the perfect time to start. Every garden, someone once said, "is an enchanted one."

Indeed. Especially when it is your own.

JWR contributing columnist Dayle Allen Shockley is a Texas-based author. To comment on this column, please click here.

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© 2002, Dayle Allen Shockley