Welcome to Colorado Backyard Gardener. I’m Laura Flanders and one of my deepest beliefs is that hope is something we can breathe, something we can retain and not lose. Who doesn’t need more hope? I certainly do. My ordinary life and my small little backyard garden have taught me that for my hope to be real, for it to grow, I need for it to be a rooted hope, meaning my hope needs a home.
Oddly, I’ve learned to live more in a rooted hope as I’ve faced the reality of death when my sister died by cancer/suicide in 2007 and when my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011. As I face the reality of death, I can also abhor it. And as I abhor it and lament it, I do not have to give up hope because this loss is not the end of the story. There is a gift being created in the midst of the horrible loss. I just need to nurture the eyes to see it and the heart to recognize it.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. For crying out loud this is a gardening website! Why start out talking about death? Because, I face it every single doggone day in my garden. Whether it’s a fungus killing my tomatoes, blister beatles eating my Autumn Clematis vine or a sudden early freeze, DEATH abounds. And I think it is good and right to hate death. God does. Yet oddly, as I stare at death and as I deal with its’ effects, I am given hope and thus sustained by hope. Why? Because, just as in life, in the garden I learn that death does not win.
Death does not win. This is especially hard to remember in the season of winter. Winter is often a metaphor used to explain the gifts found in death. I have experienced fifty-two (52) literal winters and a handful of figurative winters.
In a literal winter, when I stand in my snow covered garden, I have come to learn that underneath the ice blanket, there is still life happening. I just can’t see it. But I’ve examined the evidence that leads me to believe that new life will come and thus can be hoped for. In the winter garden my hope is in the objective truth that there are roots and bulbs of perennial plants that regrow year after year. Those firm brown roots and bulbs thrive in the frozen tundra of my backyard because the winter is used to help each clump become a fuller expression of itself. Like us, a perennial plant is becoming what it already is and winter is part of the process.
In a figurative winter I experience the death of a loved one or the loss of a dream. In May of 2005, I lost a nephew to suicide. The following summer my husband and I lost our beloved church ministry. And the summer after that, my sister to suicide. Prior to these losses, there was a time when my then 12 year old son lost his innocence to a stranger who sent him porn in the mail, images with my head superimposed. Just last year a long-time friend lost her husband to suicide caused by a “sometimes fatal disease” of severe depression. And currently, I am slowly losing my mother to the evil of Alzheimer’s. Honestly, how can anyone call death anything but evil?
Each loss is a figurative winter I do not want to repeat. In each loss I retreated to my green and growing backyard to cry my fool head off and discover that the human body is capable of producing copious amounts of snot, the kind from which you can choke on and die. During loss, I found myself tightening my fists and hurling my questions, “God works out good in this crap? Really?! What life is in this? What hope is in THIS!??” During these times I felt my hope slipping. And I’m quite certain I cursed and said a few swear words. The weariness of the loss tempted me to let loss get the best of me.
And then, in both the literal and figurative winters, spring eventually came and life emerged.
Summer happened and fruits grew. And yet, fall descended again and the grass began to wither. Winter approached and death was a reality to face once again. Ugh. How to keep the hope?
I began to pay more attention to the cycle of life in my garden: new life, swollen fruit, withered grass, death and dormancy. The knowledge of this cycle caused me to settle more, to be less afraid of death in my garden and death in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I still abhor it. I still HATE blister beatles. And don’t get me going about how much I hate suicide. And Alzheimer’s is the pits. But, I live more in the hope that death does not have an upper hand. I better know that there is a gift to be found in evils of death. And the gift is this: death reorients me and prepares me to receive more of the New Life I’m made for.
This is the hope that sustains me. This is the hope that has changed how and for what I pray.
I need to be sustained. I am sustained. I will be sustained.
Welcome to my website where hope is its theme. Certainly, I will share gardening tidbits and yummy recipes of my personal chef who gladly uses my garden ingredients. But truthfully, there will continue to be sites better than this one for gardening and cooking advice. What will be different here? Stories will also be told. Not just mine, but others. Stories of Truth (from me and other gardeners and other caregivers) will be shared “so that you do not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:3). Poke around.
This site is only a few months old. Over the next while there will be more and more content added. I have a sneaking suspicion that hope will abound.