Bleary eyed, I pull on socks, tie my shoes, and stumble out into the sunlight. A chronic addict to the snooze button, this morning has been no different. Tomorrow, I promise myself, tomorrow I’ll get up at the first sound… or then again, maybe I won’t… and if I don’t, I won’t be mad at myself. With this much more reasonable promise to myself, my orange and pink Mizunos carry me off down the lane of the Bahamas Methodist Habitat. Thus, begins my first day back on Eleuthera.
As I turn the corner back from my morning jog into Camp Symonette, I am reminded that the hens have not yet received their morning greeting from me. My eyes are happy to discover that the chickens have indeed made their daily contribution to the household economy – four eggs – two in their proper places in the nesting boxes – and two, as Brenda had predicted, near the feed bin where the creative ladies of the coop offered evidence of their outside-of-the-box thinking.
I wash the eggs, which I later find out I should not do. Sometimes I have that tendency to try to make things too neat, too clean, too tidy. Sometimes with people, as with eggs, it is better to let them be. Leave the smudge of dirt across their cheek alone, which shows they have been doing good, honest work. Let them make their messes and clean them up how and when they want to… or not at all.
While erring slightly in my egg hunting mission, it has in no way been fatally botched and new tasks await. Back in the sleeping quarters, Pauline is already sweeping up a storm, finishing up the remnants, I assume, from last weeks “fly in.” There is no shortage of work to do after the three interns injured themselves in a rogue wave the day before I arrived. Rather than being swept out to sea, Alex, Alicia and Jess escaped with some pretty serious cuts and scrapes after being dragged across the razor sharp rocks. The powerful feeling of gratitude that my friends are alive and whole has been a bit of a surreal experience ever since I realized the seriousness of their ordeal. With the energy and enthusiasm that sincere gratitude produces, I would be willing to sweep up anything they wanted me to, and so I grab a broom and join Pauline.
After feeding the convalescing interns breakfast, Brenda arrives and takes me on a tour of the garden.
I had chosen to come back to the island for a good bit of time in order to be quiet with God, and I could think of no better place to do that than in a garden. There have been many places were I sensed God – creativity and love flowing down as sunlight filters through new green leaves in the spring – mystery and power tumbling forward and receding back at the mercy of an ocean’s wave – stability and wisdom standing firmly planted among a valley of boulders. But something internal and ancient tells me that there is no better place to find quiet and peace with God than in a garden; the place where God first loved us and where God intended us to be.
Wandering through the garden, Brenda tells me that the banana trees need their leaves trimmed. Dead leaves that are taking life from the tree need to be released so that nutrients can flow into the new growth and help it to thrive. Trimming the leaves helps the banana tree make better use of its resources, grow taller and produce fruit. There’s a sermon in that I know, but right now is not the time. Now is the time to be quiet with God, to work hard with my hands instead of my head, and to find myself with that smudge of honest dirt across my cheek.
The mulberries, I am told, have some bugs eating up their leaves. New berries that have begun to sprout may never get the chance to change from vibrant green to deepest purple if the insect invasion is not interrupted. Orange trees to the right, lime trees to the left; just a little weeding should make them happy. Watermelons to be watered in the evening. Tomatoes to be examined and thinned.
The case of the pineapples is an especially delicate one. Pineapples take 18 months to grow, Brenda tells me, and they are already 6 months into that investment of time and growth. What a sadness it would be to lose them when they are already so far along the path. My mind wanders to all the passionate young leaders I have seen walk away from the church… years of investment… ready to produce fruit… but then I bring my mind back to the garden. This time is not about the church’s problems, or my peers problems, or the many other problems that I simply cannot fix. This time is about God and me and a garden.
Green leaves. Turquoise water. Gray rocks. Warm sun. Green leaves. Turbulent waves. Honest work. Simple life. Breathe.
A few hours later, filthy and satisfied, I am looking at the freshly trimmed, freshly weeded, freshly watered banana trees. They look to me as if they too can breathe easier now.
I tell Pauline that I am walking to Miss Lee’s to get lunch. She laughs at me, for who would walk that far on an empty stomach when they could drive. But despite her kind advice, I insist on walking. I’m not choosing to do anything the faster way today.