As the seasons changed, I neglected to winterize the little garden. It survived, mostly intact, and I intended to put it all back to rights at the first sign of spring...that is, as soon as I had time. c asked me about it several times but I had no time. I made lots of promises to get the garden tip top and fairy ready asap, but "not today."
Then one evening, I wandered outside with a glass of wine. My intention is always the same....to sit and enjoy. I have attempted to design our humble garden for this very purpose...there are comfortable chairs scattered about with tables nearby for a book or a mug of coffee, umbrellas for shade and flowers for enjoyment. As winter becomes spring and I long for the garden, what I envision is always the same....me, settling in with a hot mug of coffee early in the morning, or with a cool glass of wine as the sun sets, simply enjoying it all. There is no busy-ness in my vision (and no bugs, either.)
But truthfully, my sitting usually lasts less than five minutes. Inevitably, I scan the garden and, rather than seeing all that there is to enjoy, I begin to notice all the things that need doing and fixing...there are weeds to pull, shrubs to trim, pots to water, flowers to dehead and the list goes on. And, usually within a very few minutes, I am up and moving....my uncle calls it my "Granny gene." He says I come by it honestly. I think, like all things, there is both a blessing and a curse in my granny gene.
This particular evening, after only a sip or two of wine, my gaze landed on the fairy garden and waves of guilt immediately washed over me....I should have made it more of a priority to "fix" the tiny vignette, as I had promised c. And then I noticed something....the fairy garden was decidedly more pink and green than I remembered. Upon closer inspection, this is what I found:
c had transformed the fairy garden with leaves and small bits of evergreen, azalea blossoms and even one purple flower she gathered from a clump of chives. I remembered how amazed she was last summer, when I revealed the fairy garden surprise. Now it was my turn to be surprised and enchanted!
I was most taken with the fairy sized "umbrellas" she had created by perching upside down azalea blossoms on small twigs, strategically anchored in the rock hard ground. I am sure this took a lot of effort on her part.
Honestly, what fairy could resist such a sweet resting spot?
It only took a few moments for my delight to give way to dismay. I felt very guilty that c had felt she must take it upon herself to rescue the garden. After all, she will only be a little girl for a short time... who knows how long this time will last....will this spring be the last when a few bits of broken brick and pottery shards evoke such delight in her?
But, as I sat with all those "bad mommy" thoughts and allowed the guilt to simply pass through me, eventually I had a different thought.
What if there is more to this story than simply the guilt and remorse of a harried mother, neglecting to fulfill a promise? If I've learned anything from the practice of spiritual direction, I've learned that there is always something more.
Could there also have been a gift to c in this?
She loves to express her creativity...she writes and draws and decorates and invents games and makes up funny songs and loves to take photographs and I do my best to encourage all of that....but I must admit, I tend to hold on to some things....like home decor and garden design! In those matters, we often butt heads. I am sure, had I made the time to "fix" the fairy garden, I would have taken charge and perhaps (more than likely) even rejected c's ideas.
As completely unconscious as my stepping back was, still...space was created for little c to act on her own creative impulses. She was so proud and I was truly delighted by what she designed. And in the end, with my need for correctness out of the way, the fairy garden became something far more meaningful than looking picture perfect...far, far more sacred! The garden is still a lovely place for fairies but, more importantly, it is a place for a little girl to express herself.... a canvas that invites, encourages, and nurtures imagination and creativity. A place that invites an encounter with the Divine through creative expression.
Last year, c spent hours sitting and watching the garden...certain that if she waited long enough a fairy would appear:
Now, I am the one who sits and watches the fairy garden...hoping to catch a glimpse of gossamer wings or a sprinkling of glittering dust in this place, now of our shared creation...feeling connected TO my daughter...feeling connected to God THROUGH my daughter.
I do not mean that my distracted behavior toward my daughter is excused and I certainly don't mean that it was "God's plan"...there are lessons for me here about distraction and priorities and, at least for a few days, I know I will be more present to her. But there is always more. The story is never only about our failures. That is what the practice of spiritual direction is about.
The Sacred is moving in EVERY moment of our lives, not just the ones that make us feel good or proud of ourselves. God is just as evident in our parenting failures as She is in our successes. Many, like Father Richard Rohr, believe there is more spiritual growth potential in failure than in success.
Working with a spiritual director can help you notice and savor the Sacred in all areas of your life. My guess is that many of you have never heard of spiritual direction and it might even sound a bit odd to you. It sure did to me! The first time someone, a minister, said to me, "Why don't you investigate spiritual direction?" my immediate response was, "Spiritual direction? What the hell is that??"
If you want to know more about what spiritual direction is or perhaps even more importantly, what it is not, send me a note. I will be glad to share information with you. If you are interested in engaging in this ancient practice, get in touch with me. If I cannot work with you, I will happily help you find a trained and appropriate director.
God is present in it all and God is longing to be known THROUGH it all....precious little girls and fairy dust and broken promises, azalea blossoms and twigs and rock hard soil...in granny genes, for better or worse....in stillness and busyness, in love and in imperfect parenting. There is sacredness in and of it all.