The gardens near Dayton are abundant. I could hardly believe my eyes when we went for a Sunday afternoon drive on the back roads. In a hillside garden were huge squash plants already blooming, corn stalks five feet tall, tomato plants staked to perfection.
I felt humbled. My gardening is ordinary. The rows are never straight. My tomato plants have been chewed down to within inches of their lives by the bunny population. Nothing else has been planted. I want to plant when it is supposed to rain, but then it rains and I cannot get into the garden to plant.
“Beauty is to the spirit what food is to the flesh,” writes Frederick Buechner. I hope that is true. Even in my small garden, I sense beauty while watching the weeds join the shortened-off tomato stalks and the birds find worms in the uncultivated dirt. I like watching the gardens of my neighbors. I find pleasure in their handiwork. Growing things, blooming things make my heart feel full and help encourage me to keep on growing in my own self.
Another writer, Richard Rohr, used the phrase “useless beauty” to describe a different way to view things around us. Why else would I plant zinnias and bachelor buttons each year? Why would I keep on saving my irises from year to year when I made a promise to myself to give them away? Why am I utterly thrilled when the 15-plus varieties of irises bloom at our side porch for such a short time in the spring? What jewels they are! Stunning, with orchid-like centers buried inside the flag guardians.
A final quotation: “Beauty ought to be a verb.” Think about using beauty as a verb. It “beautied” my yard. The corn “beautied” its fruit into shining yellow kernels filling my mouth with sugar. The bluebird “beautied” my whole world just by coming into our yard.
Beauty moving and flying and perching. Beauty winning hearts and minds. Beauty surprising and stirring and mesmerizing. The actions of beauty if I am aware and watch.
Look for the movement of beauty around you. Enjoy the gardens in your part of this grand countryside. Pay attention to the shapes and textures—stone walls, rain storms. tiny flowers.
Movement and mystery.
I hope you will find experiences of ordinary and possibly useless beauty surrounding you. Play with beauty as a verb.
Rockingham County native Elaine H. McGann is an ordained Brethren minister and a licensed clinical psychologist. She lives near Hinton.