When attempting to grow a successful summer garden, it’s important to know that cucumbers love Taizé chant. I especially recommend “I am sure I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” They are quite responsive to that one: “Oh, you bet I’ll show you the goodness!”
As a result of last summer’s singing, my housemates and I have enjoyed jars and jars and homemade dill pickles all winter (we probably harvested 30 HUGE cucumbers from our little raised beds!). Only God knows for sure, but I have to imagine that the constant singing that fills our household through the winter and spring had something to do with this food chain we were all participating in…
Last summer, our little community rose with the sun and walked across the sprawling front lawn to the 105-year-old stone church on the hill on our property. If I got up early enough (rarely), I liked to pause at the top of the driveway and feel the speed of our 8-acre forest-filled homestead behind me, slowly turning in opposition to the cars rushing past on the highway below. We read Morning Prayer from the Daily Office each day, flinging the windows in the church open and winding our way through 1 Kings, Luke, the canticles. Sometimes people from the community would slip into the back of the church before they went to work. Sometimes, if we were feeling bold, we’d chant the psalms to settings we made up on the walk over to the church.
My favorite dismissal from Morning Prayer starts like this: “Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.” We’d say that together and then walk down the front steps— sometimes with a little white dog in tow or leftovers from the morning coffee — and someone would dash over and turn on the garden hose. We spent the beginning part of the summer painstakingly putting together four 4×6 raised beds (thank goodness for YouTube instructional videos) with deer fence and rain gauges. We got our little seedlings from a local middle school that has a garden program — they sell their starts for $1 to pay for seeds for the next school year’s fall garden.
The hour after Morning Prayer was for watering — watering the plants, of course, and each other if we were feeling playful — and singing. Joyful chants, old work songs, hymns we only knew the first verses of. As the weeks passed, the spirit of God passed over the small piece of land we were falling in love with. If you’ve ever watched a little seedling nose its way up through the earth like a tiny miracle, then you know what it’s like to witness the power of God working through us in ways more impossible than you could imagine.
We grew zinnias, too, and sometimes some small friends and I would cut bouquets for the dining room table. For a couple of weeks, wild black-eye susans lined the driveway and their brilliant faces brightened the hallways of our home. When we found a smushy tomato, picked just a little too late, the little girls living with me would run down the hill to the back of the house where the chickens lived (who aren’t picky about the texture of garden-fresh produce). We hardly bought any chicken food that summer. Our flock fed off the crusts and leftovers of our own veggie feasts.
At night, the adults would sit and drink beer on the front stoop while the little ones danced in the front yard with jars and lightning bugs. Every Thursday around 6 pm, the local bagpipers association would practice at the church, the lilting horns mixing with the sounds of a southern summer— crickets, croaking, the blast of Norfolk-Southern trains across the highway. The hush of evening held the fulness of our days there together — days where we sang and prayed and painted and cooked and ate.
The summer is a season that brings life. I am grateful for the gift of slowness, grateful for a season to open myself to the life that was already happening.
What summer blessings are you hoping to receive this year?