April 25, 2008

The Gardener


You made me a gardener
in your Sherwood garden.
I’ve toiled through the seasons
and the years.

Many souls
that had their roots in cinders
now grow in soil
that fertile richness bears.

But Lord,
some of my plants
that should be a rose or violet
persist in growing up
obnoxious weeds.

Lord, I pray,
make all plants in my garden
grow to Thy glory
and to fulfill Thy needs.

My son,

Since the day

of good earth’s creation,

Mine it has been

to sow some good seeds of grain;

Mine the wisdom

to send the proper seasons;

Mine to send

the sunshine and the rain.

Throughout the ages

I’ve yearned for each plant

to reach perfection,

to provide the means

to every end I go.

But I have never forced

a single plant

to please me.

I’ve never even forced

a single plant

to grow.

George W. Jones
From the forthcoming book "Life's Journey"

Photo by Dan Hardison
Wilmington, North Carolina

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April 19, 2008

The Mission Garden

In the mountains of Tennessee, in a valley just twelve miles from the University of the South at Sewanee, sits Epiphany Mission Episcopal Church. And just outside its doors is the Mission Garden. Though it was for all to enjoy, this garden was different than most, it was built and maintained by the young boys and girls of the Mission.

Begun in 1938 under the guidance of The Rev. George W. Jones, the garden was built over a number of years as a way to occupy idle time, to provide needed income, and to bring beauty and inspiration to the people of the valley. From the hauling of fertile soil by wheelbarrow, to the casting of blocks and bricks for the walls and walkways, the boys constructed the garden and then the youths became the gardeners who tended it day to day.

In the words of Father Jones, “In the garden spiritual and material needs are determined in all manner of people, heavy and gladsome hearts come and go. Marvelous indeed is the measure of parochial life that can transpire in a garden closely linked to an altar throne of God."

It would become a walled garden covering an area of 16,000 square feet in a Spanish Mission style. Within its ivy covered walls were pools with fish, fountains, bricked walkways, and an open-air chapel. The chapel was within a colonnade with a large statue of Mary holding the infant Lord behind the altar, and would become known as “Our Lady of the Hills” chapel.

In the garden, there were a variety of flowers, shrubs, and even vegetables. Flowers from the garden were used to adorn the church and its altars, and to provide beauty and comfort to the sick, the bereaved, and the aged. It is said that, “a lady each morning took to the hungry children a basket of fruit and a basket of flowers. By demand, the supply of flowers was the first exhausted.”

Work in the garden was balanced with play and there would be time for horseshoes, baseball, and good-natured fun. As Father Jones recalled, “The wheelbarrows have all but never stopped rolling. They must have rolled as far as around the world and moved incalculable tonnage. And if they are ever unemployed in work, they become the pleasure cars of small boys who never ever tire of riding each other over the garden walks and often all over the town. That is a nuisance! But both nuisance and extravagance are well endured because the keen delight ... is harmless and wholesome and long since has equaled in value the wheelbarrows' weight in gold.”

During World War II, many of the boys who had been the builders of the garden left to serve our country, but they never forgot the memories and lessons learned in the Mission Garden. The young soldiers would correspond with Father Jones, reminiscing and longing for the Mission and its garden. As one young soldier wrote, “When I think of home I always think of the garden. That place means lots to me although I did not know it when I worked there. If I were an artist I could draw it perfectly from memory to every last brick and flower pot.”

People from across the country would visit the mission church and its garden. But after struggling through the Depression and World War II, the area fell victim to a lack of employment and most of the people would gradually leave the valley in search of work. As the population dwindled, so did the membership of the church. The Mission Garden could not be maintained and most of it has been lost. But Epiphany Mission is still active today and “Our Lady of the Hills” chapel still stands – a testament to its past.

— Dan Hardison

Photo by Dan Hardison
The Garden at Epiphany Mission Episcopal Church
Sherwood, Tennessee

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April 13, 2008

Spring Shower

And the rain came . . .
a gentle spring shower
washing away pollen and dust,
and soaking the earth.

And when the rain stops . . .
there is a brief period
when all about is still
save for the drip, drip, drip
of water through the trees.

And for a few moments . . .
even the air is cleansed –
bringing a freshness and
the scent of renewal.

— Dan Hardison

Photo by Dan Hardison
Wilmington, North Carolina

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April 4, 2008

I Did Not Know

I did not know –

And it was but a few short days ago –

How near to spring it was; the world lay still

In all the bitter cold of winter chill;

Yet even then the May-buds with the glow

Of burning lips pressed to the melting snow

Had kissed themselves a window to the sky, –

And spring was nigh.

I did not know –

Ah, was it such a little while ago! –

Within my heart how near it was to spring;

I did not guess the blessed blossoming,

Until this gladsome morn I woke, and lo!

Sweet with new fragrance does the whole world grow

From that so fair and snow-sprung flower dear, –

And spring is here!

Abbie Farwell Brown
From New England Magazine, April 1898.

Photo by Dan Hardison
Brookgreen Gardens, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina

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