Jesus the Other Sun
Guiding me along the lighted path…
Today makes it nearly a week since I lost Buddy, my fifteen-year-old dog, to cancer and old age. For the past week, I’ve been looking back on special moments we shared together from over the years. If you are an animal and nature lover, this post is for you.
The Green Garden
As I sit on the steps leading to my garden on a rare evening of relaxation, I feel a peaceful gratitude come over me. What a beautiful garden I have.
I use the word, “garden,” loosely as the Europeans do. In the Middle East, the population of foreigners is great and we seem to borrow each other’s speech patterns.
Garden in the American sense refers to beds of flowers or vegetables but the Brits and others use it in reference to their property as a whole, and that’s how I mean the term now.
I live in a home that doesn’t, and will never, belong to me. I’m fortunate that the college where I teach has provided it for me as part of my benefit package.
Letting my feet rest on the step below me, I can’t help but notice the exquisite scent of the white frangipanni flowers from the tree to my left.To my right, the buds of tiny jasmine flowers perfume the air. Their fragrance always comes out stronger at night.
Buddy lies at my feet, his head resting on my toes. The puppy is stretched out in the driveway chewing on a squeaky toy.
The sky gradually darkens and and the green grass presents a silent still carpet in the shadows. My green spiky plants hold their shape, the tips so sharp they feel like needles. They are like centurions guarding my fertile land and me from any intruders. Further on, I know the aloe vera plant stands, ready to sacrifice its sticky healing essence to combat all my frequent cooking burns.
My glance wanders. The branches of my Neem tree hang, as if silently offering up its precious leaves–ones that serve as natural remedies when they are boiled to heal various sicknesses. The neighbors ring at the gate to ask to pick these leaves when family members fall ill.
Delicate pink, peach and fuchsia bougainvillea petals lay scattered at the base of their trees making me think of sugared petals artfully trailing down the sides of a pure white wedding cake, soft colors accentuating the union of two hopeful lives. Likewise, these two colors decorate the green grass of my garden, accenting the purity of my hopes.
The vibrant red hibiscus flowers burst out boldly along the front edge of my house. They look an even deeper red in the evening light. I want to bury my face in their bloom and carry them away as I have seen my puppy do so many times. Or place one behind my ear, like a Hawaiian maiden to highlight her beautiful smiling face. The hibiscus grows well here, blooming abundantly and often, soaking up the sun and exploding into color.
My eyes fall on the yellow trumpets sandwiched between the many bougainvillea trees lining the front wall. I smile as a sudden memory envelops me.
In my mind’s eye, I see Sami, my closest friend’s son lift a flower to his mouth to blow into it when he hears the name of the flower for the first time.
I sigh and pet Buddy, still at my feet.
Everywhere I look from my simple step perch, I encounter the lush green growth of my garden: vines, creepers, shrubs–leafy, springy, dense and shady.
My mature date tree seems ages old in the dim night’s light. I think I hear the cry of a bat as it dips through its branches. Once my friend said that she feels like she’s looking into a jungle when she looks out the window at my outdoor patio. Perhaps she’s right. I see the shapes, the shades, the variety of plant life as I sit, encompassed by my garden.
There are some recent additions: the pen where once all four puppies could dig or hide under the shade of a heavy wooden chair or the newly-installed umbrella. I see a freshly-planted circle of flowers growing around the base of the date palm within the wavy confines of the brick border enfolding it.
I see all this through the illumination of the lovely Victorian lamps my ex-husband and I placed along the tiled walkway, which lines the perimeter of the garden.
I feel saturated by peace. I wonder why I so rarely have time to enjoy the splendor of life within my garden walls? The animals gather around me in a show of affection. The cats and dogs mingle. Maha, the puppy, has stopped barking. For now, she touches noses with Clowny, one of the feral cats she usually chases. I hear her sigh as she stretches out next to the cat, her sleepy eyes on me.
Buddy snores at my feet. It’s the only sound in the still night. For some reason, this sound comforts me, even endears him to me more.
I live in a desert. When I walk outside my gate, the sand burns through the soles of my sandals and sweeps over my exposed toes. The glare of the sun pierces my eyes and dark specks appear until my eyes adjust. My skin and lips crack in the fierce heat.
Yet God has given me such a shady oasis to rest in inside the walls of my garden. I know little about the flowers that encompass my house and I take for granted the shade that falls in deep folds around me. The animals God has placed in my life luxuriate in my presence but I rarely give them so much time and attention.
It’s easy for us to become parched and exhausted as we trudge through the vast desert we find ourselves in within our lives. God has given us physical green gardens in which to rest our weary bodies. But He’s also given us mental gardens to revive our tired souls.
We can surround ourselves with positive caring people who lift us up. In turn, we can offer to become green gardens to each other, ready to provide shade, offering to perfume pathways, adding vivid color and dropping soft petals of peace along the way. We can become soldiers to protect those in need, and ooze out healing words to soothe the burns that threaten to blister and destroy fair skin.
I know I might sound idealistic. But as I sit here gazing in the stillness at my green garden, I can only grasp a little of how good God is and how much rest He provides.
I know it doesn’t end at the wall of my garden ~ for shade is wide enough to be shared by many people.
Lord, show me how to become shade to others. Show me their needs in the parched surrounding of their lives.
May 18, 2003