Songs of Nature

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Secret Garden

Day 19

Written By Eyleen Farmer

Image courtesy of Rebecca Webb Wilson, Hawkeye Nature Photography


Search me out, O God, and know my heart, try me and know my restless thoughts.  —Psalm 139:22

Image courtesy of Rebecca Webb Wilson; copyright 2010On the south side of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., is the Bishop’s Garden. It’s not so grand as the cathedral. In fact, with all its nooks and crannies it has an intimate and diminutive feel. It was cold the day I was there, and though this garden is a public space, I had it to myself. The conference I was attending was about to begin, but I didn’t want to go. I wanted to linger and explore, to discover the garden’s hidden treasures, to look at every flower and herb and tree. Every ancient patch of moss. Before that day I had not even known that a garden was there.

The heart has its hidden places too, secret chambers to which very few are granted admittance. This is where the griefs so profound we can hardly bear to acknowledge them are held and tended. A baby that didn’t get born. A spouse’s infidelity. A dream that never came true. The small, and not so small, atrocities we have inflicted on others and the ones we have suffered. All the great multitude of rejections and betrayals and failures that have chipped away at the integrity of our souls.

There are no funerals for these deaths, no rites to recognize them as genuine losses or to provide support. They must be endured in private. Perhaps, if we are lucky, there will be a therapist or spiritual director who can help. But sometimes there is no one who can be trusted with hurt of such magnitude.

Keeping a garden—a secret garden—in the heart can help. Not to “grow” our injuries by feeding them, but as a way of acknowledging and respecting that even these parts of ourselves have a right to exist. And, strange as it sounds, that they have their own particular beauty. Empathy begins here, and the gentle qualities of kindness, patience, and forbearance are cultivated here. The heart’s garden is your sanctuary. You may not go there often, but there is great value in knowing you can whenever you need to. Sit. Look. Be.

O God, guard the secrets of my heart with your great, unfathomable love. Amen.