Here we are, just 2 weeks into summer, and I’m wilted, and so is my garden. June was full of days over 90 degrees, and July isn’t looking much different. I have filled my garden with perennials that are resilient and have low water requirements, but still, the heat has rushed everything. It’s making me feel like I can’t wait to push through summer (or head to a beach!).
One local gardener commented on the quick rose blooms in June, “The rose blossoms became potpourri on the vines.” And I’m not sure if it was because of the heat, but I had 4 peony blooms, then more than a dozen buds just withered. I watered more than I usually do in June to attempt to keep the summer flowers going (as evidenced by my water bill). But I am also conscious of the need to conserve water in our dry state. (FYI watering more than usual for me is still less than average yards.)
Sure, there are still summer flowers to enjoy. Each day a new daylily opens. Coneflowers and yarrow stand tall. The raspberry salvia is blooming. The lavender have started and are tough bloomers. And I have one, yes one daisy blooming right now (not one plant, one blossom, my daisy section had a run-in with a neighbor dog and the daisies lost).
I have some interesting but less showy plants that bloom later, like ornamental oregano. The Oregon grape is bearing fruit. And if I can keep them from wilting, cosmos and dwarf sunflowers that I started from seed are now about 8 inches tall. Of course, at the end of summer, the mums will start blooming.
There are some bindweed blossoms in the yard too, because the succession of 90+ degree days makes me super-unmotivated to weed!
As a gardener, I feel guilty whining about what should be the best season. (OK, maybe spring is the best season, but normally I enjoy the continued unfolding of blossoms throughout the summer.)
Even the word “garden” conjures up a vision of beauty and rest for me, a place to flourish. So when garden comes to mean wilted and tired, it jars my sense of order and even my identity as a gardener.
What I have come to realize is that I want an idealized garden: the garden of Eden in Genesis, before the Fall and the curse, or the garden in Revelation, as the world is reborn and tree of life is growing in the city of God, bearing fruit every month, and “no longer will there be any curse” (Revelation 22:3).
But you and I live in this present moment in the trajectory of history, after Jesus came and contended in the garden, and chose to take on death so we could have life. And yet, all is still not right. There is evidence of wilting every day around us, as the powerful seem to lack mercy for the powerless, as barrenness replaces fruitfulness for some, as disease and depression claim many. The ground is cursed. We toil. Our souls wilt under the pressure. We may get glimpses of ultimate hope and beauty, but we are very much in process.
I turn to the Psalms, to be reminded of hope even in the midst of wilting, and I see in Psalm 96, that the trees and the fields and all creation rejoices. And I wonder, how can I enter into this song? To find joy at wonder of God?
Honestly, sometimes I can’t find that joy and hope; that’s when I need to turn to others in the community of faith to point me toward God and remind me of his goodness, holding me up until I can see the hope again myself.
In my present season, I do see the hope, and in this space I can hold others up, those who can’t see right now – to keep pointing toward God even in the midst of their lament. To pray when they can’t pray. To offer the fragrance of the future garden (which in my imagination smells like roses and peonies and lavender) when they only smell the rot. To accompany on the journey toward hope. Toward that garden that does not wilt and is always fruitful.