by Sue E. Czarnetzky

Condo living with a shaded balcony negates gardening – no fresh flowers to cut, no potted tomatoes to pick.  Not even herbs grow well. Yet as the seasons roll round one onto the other, my home is filled with bounty fresh from the earth.

Years of living in suburban Northern Virginia have sharpened my eyes. I’ve made mental notes of when and where flowering shrubs, blossoming trees, perennial bulbs and flower and vegetable gardens grow.  Did I mention grasses to be dried and pinecones needing to be harvested?

There is something to be said about the heart of a person who tends a garden.  It knows that to properly bear fruit, seeds must be planted in fertile soil that perpetuates the rhythm of the changing seasons. It knows planting, waiting, nurturing and the subsequent awe and wonder of being able to watch life grow and mature.

Viewing manicured flower and vegetable gardens as well as flowers planted to grow wild with abandon is a gift to the soul. I continue to knock on doors of strangers to tell them just that. As a result of expressing my appreciation of such efforts, I have been given tangible gifts as well. I am often presented with a fragrant bouquet or the likes of which to create something beautiful or edible of my own.  I admit to being partial to lilacs, sunflowers, brown-eyed susans, daffodils, hydrangeas, holly, basil and the taste of tomatoes warmed by the sun.

Memories of the gifts of these generous gardeners keep my heart beating in its proper rhythm.  A desire surfaces to give back to them.  So each fall, I journey to the mountains.  Here, I see the work of the Artist who has whimsically brushed the hills with blazing color. From the season’s harvest, I pick apples to bake pies.  I return to the doors of those strangers who have become friends. Once again, I knock.

Several years ago, the son of a gardener who supplies me with nandina berries answered the door.  “We’ve not met,” I began.  “You don’t know me.”

Grinning broadly, with hands extended to accept a warm pie he said, “Of course I know you. You are the apple pie lady my parents talk about. Please come in.”

O Divine Creator, I am grateful for a deeper understanding of being interrelated to all living things. When my soul is full of joy, I think I actually feel my heart beating in rhythm with yours.  I embrace with grateful Thanksgiving the ways you offer to come to know You; fellowship with strangers, freshly cut flowers, a juicy ripe tomato, even the aroma and taste of a fresh apple pie.