Monthly Archives: August 2013

A Basil Bush

Quote: God who gives the wound gives the salve.
~~Miguel de Cervantes


Today I bought a small pot of basil.  Unfortunately, it was the only pot on the shelf and a terrible specimen.  Years ago I might have been fooled into thinking it beautiful, but an unexpected garden lesson taught me the truth.

Twenty years ago I grabbed my first packet of basil seed in an urgent wild determination to have an herb garden.  Never mind that my cooking was the bare-bones, onion-is-good-in-everything, style.  Never mind that I didn’t recognize the names of half the packages in my hand, including basil.  I would learn.

My first wonder at planting those packets of seeds was in how very teeny, tiny and almost non-existent they were.  They showed up like heavy dust at the bottom of the packet.  My garden book taught me a trick that helped to spread them out over several square feet:  mix them into a tablespoon of sand and toss!

Once planted, I made their potential lives impossible, if not miraculous.  I raked them into the soil too vigorously and showered them generously with mulch.  Buried under too much soil, they had no hope of growing tall enough to reach sunshine.  The birds didn’t mind.  I don’t know how, but bird eyes and noses can find a minuscule basil seed under half an inch of soil.

Imagine my shouts of joy two weeks later, as here and there, I found lucky herb plant sprouts around the garden.  One stubborn basil sprout grew tall and proud at the corner post closest to the path.  I loved to check its progress upward every morning.  What joy I felt as it reached eight inches tall!

And what despair I knew the next day when I discovered it broken off just above the bottom leaves!  It was more than I could bear.  I quit looking to the corner of the garden in the mornings.

Weeks later, on a leisurely day where I could poke and prod under and around plants checking for ripe squash and tomatoes I came upon a lovely small bush in the corner where my broken basil had been.  It bushed out in three large branches close to the ground in brilliant emerald green, and it smelled delicious.  It smelled Italian!  Basil!!

I broke off the ends of the stems and ran into the house to find a recipe for my first herb harvest.  Over the weeks, as my cooking improved, we continued to break off the ends of the basil limbs for new recipes.  Undeterred, the basil bush grew and grew.  Visitors to our garden commented, “I’ve never seen such a beautiful basil bush!”

Succeeding gardens taught me the secret of my basil plant.  It must be pruned early and continuously.  At every juncture where a sprig of basil is harvested, two or more new branches will grow.

I’ve also learned this is God’s secret with me.  While I would like to have my life grow untamed and free from pain, God knows the power of pruning.  Carefully, he pinches off a life option here, but he opens two doors for me there.  Firmly, he breaks off my prideful branches and waits for humility to grow in their place.  And the more I turn to His Word, the more he teaches me about the pruning I need and come to expect.

The basil plant I bought yesterday is tall and stringy, eight inches tall in one strong stem.  But I know how to fix it.  I know it has the makings of a beautiful bush.


Scripture:  My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.  Pro 3:11-12


Meditations:  In the Garden


Copyright 2013.  All Rights Reserved.

God’s House


When Vic and I bought our dilapidated Victorian house, all of our friends knew where our time and money would be going.  They were right…fifteen years marked off not by seasons or holidays, but by home-improvements.

What they didn’t know, though, was that my heart really wasn’t tied to the house that would demand such devotion.  My heart belonged outside in the yard, even more run-down than the house.  Oleander bushes around the back yard were no more than stands of tall dried sticks.  At least they hid the sorry truth of our yard from neighbors, a full expanse of packed, hard dirt, a vast brown wasteland.

Move-in day was simple for us as young marrieds in our first home.  We set our clothes in the closets and carried in our dining room table and chairs.  Move-in finished!  Excitedly, we grabbed our remaining small wad of money and drove to the nursery, making our first home-improvement purchase, trees.

Trees wouldn’t care how bad the house looked.  They would grow undaunted by the list of tasks demanding our attention.  We could survive without tile in the kitchen or curtains on the windows, but we absolutely needed trees.  And grass, a flower garden, a vegetable garden, a hose, a drip irrigation system, lawn sprinklers, and monkey vines to grow over the new trellis and up onto the peaks of the roof.

Almost immediately after we planted and mulched the last tree, Vic arrived home with two long 4×4 posts, a stack of lumber, a pile of used red brick and a sack of cement.  “What’s that?”  I asked.  His answer, “A patio.”  I had no idea!

One year later, plus ten more stacks and piles of lumber and bricks, an electrician, planter beds, and an overhead drip and mister system for twelve pots of hanging ferns and spider plants, there it was.  We had our Mexican brick patio.  It doubled the square footage of our house.

Meanwhile, inside the house, we hung curtains, patched cracks in the walls, put up a new ceiling in each bedroom as soon as falling plaster made it necessary, and rewired the house to eliminate the fire hazards of ancient cloth covered wires dangling across attic beams.  We refinished wood floors and installed new bathroom fixtures.  But the improvement projects that really mattered most to us were the ones that took us outside.

We slept inside the house.  But we lived outside on the patio.  We grilled, we hosted neighborhood garage sales, we entertained with volleyball, and we sat swinging on the porch swing, just ‘hanging out,’ breathing in misted air and watching new fern fronds grow.

Improvements on the inside of the house soon were merely ways of moving the outside in:  a skylight over the bathtub, an enlarged kitchen window looking out over the ferns on the Mexican patio, and French doors from our bedroom directly out to a separate, smaller redwood deck patio with a gurgling fountain.

Fifteen years after planting our first tree, I think of the early Jewish nation traveling with tents, living under God’s sky.  I know they suffered terrible heat and suffocating dust storms.  Insects slept with them.  No, life wasn’t easy.   But life had its rewards.

I wonder how much of God’s beautiful house do we no longer “see,” living inside the permanent homes of comfort we’ve built?  How many conversations with God never happen because we don’t have a tree overhead and a bed of grass to lie in?

Oh, to hear the wind pushing at the side of a tent!  Oh, to hear the clear call of the birds, “Come out!”  Oh, to live unfettered outside in the house God built for us with His own hands, looking up to the majesty of the house God holds for us one day.



Meditations:  In the Garden


Copyright 2013.  All Rights Reserved.


Quote:  Look within.  Within is the fountain of good, and it will ever bubble up, if thou wilt ever dig.  ~~Marcus Aurelius

Living in Phoenix where summer temperatures once reached 122 degrees on June 26, 1990, I am a gardener who loves anything that grows.  Absolutely anything.

When people from Phoenix move to Oregon, we don’t cut down trees either.  Just ask my grade school friend Shawnee.  It took her fifteen years to grab a chainsaw.

This Arizona fried-brain attitude makes life very difficult in the garden.  Seed packages tell you to place zinnias six inches apart.  But when you look at a small seedling isolated on a patch of dry dirt, six inches is a long way to reach a fellow zinnia.  This is also why it’s very hard for an Arizonan to work up a hatred for weeds.

I remember the first Californian who walked through my lush green yard.  “What is this?” she asked.  When I told her, she exclaimed in horror, “In California, Bermuda grass is a weed!!”

“Well,” I inwardly sniffed, “it’s green.  Besides, everybody grows Bermuda grass.  And double besides, I can buy Bermuda grass seed at the nursery.”  I didn’t want her to know she hurt my feelings, but to call Bermuda grass a weed seemed a bit harsh.

Slowly, one question percolated up from inside of me, finally rising to the surface.  What is a weed?  I began looking up weeds in every gardening book I could find.  Most didn’t tell you what they were.  They only told you how to poison them.

Eventually, in my non-poison Rodale organic gardening “bible,” I found what I had by now begun to suspect, “Weeds are simply native plants that happen to be growing where you would rather have something else grow.”  Webster’s is even more to the point, “A plant that is not valued where it is growing.”  Further down, Webster leaves no doubt, “an obnoxious growth, thing, or person.”

I’ve learned to identify with weeds.  Bermuda grass knows how to take advantage of limited water and soil conditions.  It’s willing to endure searing summer heat to give us green grass by the swimming pool.  That’s enough to make me forgive it when it sneaks into the row of cucumbers.  I still dig and pull at stray Bermuda strands, insisting they obey my boundaries.  But I don’t poison it.  And I don’t celebrate over its dry remains.  I wish it well.

Weeds take me closer to God than almost any plant I know.  In human terms they may be plants “not valued where they are growing,” but I doubt God thinks that.  He made weeds.  He made me.

Many days I feel like a human weed.  There are people who have told me as much.  But God made me.  He doesn’t make weeds.  He makes plants who extend beyond their boundaries, and he makes people who goof up now and then.  But God doesn’t make weeds.  He loves us.   And He wants us.  No matter what names people want to stick on us.  There are no weeds in God’s kingdom.

Scripture:   For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  Psa 139:13-14



Meditations:  In the Garden


Copyright 2013.  All Rights Reserved.