Deeper Perception Made Practical

Good Habits and Divine Grace. Lessons from My Garden

Mother's Day in Sterling, Virginia

Mother’s Day in Sterling, Virginia

Spring around here is almost inexpressibly lovely. In this part of Northern Virginia, little houses like mine have gardens — some fairly elaborate, others exuberantly wild in their neglect, and mine somewhat in-between.

Lately I’ve been kept busy adoring the lilacs. Even more than the tulips and daffodils and crocuses. Maybe. (Well, maybe not. I’m kind of an equal opportunity Garden Mom.)

When my five — yes five — pregnant peony plants pop open I will be in gardener’s ecstasy.

Still, I’m thinking a bit ahead to the summer. Yesterday I bought a tomato plant, marigolds and basil.

Although usually so dependable, my old rosemary and sage plants didn’t make it through our harsh winter, so I bought new ones and have planted them, too.

Long story short, Friday was the grand Purchasing and Planting Ceremony. Which meant that I used a garden hose for the first time all year.

Not bright green but so serenely beautiful

Garden plots surround this house from every side. Here’s a bit of the back yard, for instance. I go there just about every day when the weather is welcoming.

Back yard bliss for a Garden Mom

Back yard bliss for a Garden Mom

However there is one stretch of green I visit least often. It’s on the shady side of the house, mostly in shadow. And facing the windows of a reliably grumpy neighbor.

This time I walk around to that shady side and hello! A bright green hose, arranged in a wheel on its stand, sings out a big rubbery pop of color. Admittedly that useful hose is all I was looking for as I turned left at the front of the house, passing the busy astilbes and its other full-sun neighbors.

Rounding the corner, I was rushing over toward the hose, when ah!

  • Lillies of the valley with their gorgeous fairy bells.
  • Fancy floppy varieties of hosta, painting their way among all the other shades of green.
  • Some spring-blooming speckled thingies. I had forgotten their very existence, let alone their name. Could it be, ugh! “Toad lillies”?
Beautiful as a hose. And then some.

Beautiful as a hose. And then some.

The special glory of a neglected shade garden

It struck me then, full force. In the midst of that busy afternoon, the glory of it simply walloped me.

Perennial gardens deliver a kind of Divine grace

Perennial gardens deliver a kind of Divine grace

Mine is a perennial garden, as low maintenance as could be… and still be a something.

The thing about my perennials  is how they keep on keeping on.

So here were mine, the shade garden perennials, quietly singing their hymns. Whether I noticed or not. Whether any of my neighbors noticed or not. You could say that those dependable plants deliver a kind of Divine grace. And you could also say….

Good habits are like that

Aren’t they? Good habits in life are like perennials.

This reminds me of how I used to teach my son, Matt, about ethics. When he was between the ages of three and five, as I remember.

Back in the day, one of our favorite games was “The Ethics Game.” (Yes, a strange child perhaps; definitely suited to his Mom and Dad.)

In The Ethics Game I would pose an ethical predicament, then invite Matt to choose from a few multiple choice answers. Some were funny. Some sleazy or selfish. Always included was The Right Thing to Do.

Invariably Matt chose the correct answer. The kid came into this life with a very high level of moral development.

So our game was a pleasing ritual, not suspenseful. After Matt made his choice I would agree with him and say, “You know, even if nobody else notices, it’s important that you do the right thing.  Santa Claus knows. The Tooth Fairy knows. God knows. And you know.”

The habit of doing what we know to be right — this is such a perennial. Even if those habits live as slow growers. Unrecognized. In the shade. Such a quiet beauty is there!

Like my hidden shade garden of perennials. Blooming away quietly, maybe this sort of garden is the greatest beauty.

Happy Mother's Day from a lover of garden beauties

Happy Mother’s Day from a lover of garden beauties


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  1. 1
    Jessica Gates says:

    Beautiful, Rose!

    Our lilacs just bloomed, yesterday. You’ve got me curious – I’m gonna go look up “toad lilies.” 🙂

  2. 2

    What got me thinking about Divine Grace? Jacelyn Bronte is a clinical psychologist who specializes in transpersonal psychology.

    She is involved in a Divine Grace Project, interviewing 100 fortunate people. This last week I was one of them.

    In the future, I will share with all of you a recording of our conversation. I just loved speaking with her, and I think you will fall in love with Jacelyn, too.

    I’ll also keep you informed on her doings with the Divine Grace Project.

  3. 3
    Kylie says:

    Gorgeous post and gorgeous photo Rose. Happy Mother’s Day!

  4. 4
    Brittany says:

    “Equal opportunity garden mom” love it! Love this post, too.

  5. 5
    Cathy says:

    Rose, what a beautiful illustration. And your garden is lovely! Thanks for sharing.

  6. 6
    Zelda says:

    Happy Mother’s Day, Rose! Thank you for reminding me of lilacs. Don’t see them where I live now, but I have fond memories of them every spring growing up in the Midwest.

  7. 7
    Kira says:

    My favorite part of having more trees than anything else on my property is that the forest mostly takes care of itself. We have a huge swath of pink primroses on the street side of our property, and they’re perennials and supposed to take care of themselves, but every year they eventually lose out to the weeds.

  8. 8
    Kira says:

    We have a hillside that we’ve been trying to turn into a wildflower section, but those too are losing out to weeds (in this case, mostly crown vetch).

    I have very fond childhood memories of an untended field of wildflowers that a friend and I ran thru together. Several different kinds of flowers were blooming randomly. I always liked that.

  9. 9
    Sandra says:

    Thank you, Rose, for sharing your garden and wisdom with us. Happy Mother’s Day!

  10. 10
    Julie says:

    I enjoy reading about your garden and garden treasures, Rose. I have marigolds this year, planted in containers outside my apartment. They are exuberantly healthy and bursting with blooms, way beyond my hopes.

  11. 11
    David FB says:

    Thanks for sharing, Rose. Love the picture at the bottom.

    And a nice reminder of how wonderful where I live is. 😉

  12. 12
    Sarah says:

    Thank you so much for this, Rose!! Just lovely. 🙂 I know I am a couple of days late, but happy Mother’s Day nonetheless! For family of choice, where we are allowed to have additional mommies, I would pick you any day! 🙂

    Also, I really thought I was the only kid who got to play that a-b-c ethics game with my mom!!! We used to do questions about both ethics and etiquette. We were inspired by a book for kids called, “It’s a spoon, not a shovel.” So much fun to hear that you played that game with your son as well!

  13. 13

    Thanks so much for all these wonderful comments.

    My emotions are really in a state of bigger mush than usual because today is Wedding Anniversary #25, Mitch and me. I can believe my luck, but that doesn’t diminish the wonder of it all.

  14. 14
    Kylie says:

    Congratulations to you and Mitch! That’s wonderful. And Julie, your marigolds sound lovely.

  15. 15
    Jessica Gates says:

    Congratulations, Rose and Mitch!!

  16. 16
    Lara says:

    WOW! 25 years!! Unimaginable to the fickle me!! Many many congratulations and much love to you both.

  17. 17
    Primmie says:

    Congratulations Rose and Mitch! How lovely.

  18. 18

    Aw, thanks PRIMMIE and LARA and JESSICA GATES and KYLIE.

    Usually I don’t put things that personal on the blog, but at the time of letting this slip… I was a big ball o’ mush.

  19. 19
    Zelda says:

    Congratulations, Rose and Mitch! That’s quite a milestone. 🙂

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