It’s planting time! One of my favourite times of the year. The risk of frost has now disappeared, and wildlife is emerging. As I watch nature begin to renew and re-create, I begin to make plans for the gardens – what grew well, what didn’t, and what do I want to attempt to grow?
I have a purple thumb. Not a green one like my father had, or my grandfather or all my ancestors. But I can grow fruits and vegetables with a modest yield at harvest time.
This is the time I feel closest to God and to creation. Maybe it’s because of the anticipation of the harvest. Maybe it’s because of the hope and promise this time affords us of the harvest yet to come. Whatever it is, not only do I feel close to God, but to all of creation. As I write this a healthy male red-headed woodpecker searches for bugs under the barks of trees after a fresh rain. I hear the return of the whippoorwill shoes voice had all but disappeared from this part of the valley. Yes, God’s paintbrush and sound systems are all around me, and I praise God everytime I hear and see a new member of the choir.
Not only do I feel close to the community living in this little part of God’s world, but I also feel like I am part of the great cloud of witnesses who worked the land and passed on their secrets for success on down to my dad and my siblings and me. Their dedication and devotion to family, faith and the land are what I know I am a part of. We heard the stories of my grandfather and great grandfather ploughing, planting and working the land before digging up soil for their new church location.
When we are surrounded by this community, it is easy to feel so connected to our fellow gardeners and farmers around the world. A priest who served in Ghana for so many years would write about the people beginning their planting season with so much prayer and hope of the promise of an end to their ongoing drought and famine. Even when the harvest brought less each year, they continued to give thanks to God for all they had received, even when it was so small. And locally, when others suffer from too much or too little rain, sun or heat, I share with them in their struggles.
I am a natural gardener – only natural compost goes on the garden with water and letting nature take its course. In fact, I garden like my grandfather and his father did – there was never any money to try anything new. I am also learning, perhaps more slowly than I should, about companion planting – mixing some plants and flowers together to prevent unwanted pests. This I admit is a work in progress.
There is a form of prayer almost as ancient as the practice of agriculture: rogare. This is a liturgy that means prayer and supplication, a time when prayers are given to God for a good harvest and for those who help to bring us that good harvest. Once it was fixed, but now we know that this date must suit the time when the full moon and the threat of frost disappears depending on where we live. Hence, instead of holding Rogation Days between the Fifth and Sixth Sundays of Easter, they could be as early as Easter or as late as Pentecost. Nevertheless, we should not lose this ancient practice.
We send prayers of hope in creation for plenty of food, and an end to famine in other places, but we do not know what our harvest will bring. One year, we, too, suffered a dry summer, and we had an abundance of garlic and onions – crops that prefer dry conditions. No matter what, there is still plenty for which to give thanks to God.
Whether or not you like to grow vegetables or just enjoy them at harvest time, may you remember to give thanks for all that God and creation may provide. Happy Rogation Days, from me to you.