After our morning of wildflower sightseeing, we had lunch at Nuevo Leon, which was good, but the best part was Tom Spencer from Soul of the Garden. His talk, “Gathered Stones, Garden Memories,” quickly drew me in when he asked if we’d had a treasure box as a child. I saw my own cigar box, which resided under my bed for most of my childhood.
What were those treasures? He suggested perhaps a feather, stones, a small piece of bone, or the remnant shells of a broken bird egg. All around the room, heads nodded in agreement. He quoted from Last Child in the Woods, Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv and Ordinarily Sacred by Linda Sexson. He said our sense of awe and wonder doesn’t seem to matter much anymore, and that we and our children are always looking for the next new thing.
He then asked a couple of questions. “Where was your special place?” For him, it was the property surrounding his childhood home with its stone walls carefully built by his father. The idea that he could explore his natural space, but within the comfort and safety of his father’s stone walls wasn’t lost on me. Although I lived in the city, there was a field at the end of my street. A small creek ran through it, and my friends and I spent most days exploring its wonders. Spencer asked why our small treasures (our memories) were so important to us. He answered his own question by saying “Our intention is what makes a thing become a ‘Thou’.” I believe he meant that our intention is what makes our memories and our small treasures (and the entire natural world around us) sacred. This sense of the sacred is what draws us to gardening.
Spencer said he was raised Catholic and born Buddhist (meaning that his ideology was centered in much of the teachings of Buddhism.) He said he was a follower of Christ and Buddha, but neither Christian nor Buddhist.
“Poetry, like gardening, is a sacred activity,” he said, and he recited a wonderful poem by Mary Oliver titled “The Summer Day.” As the words washed over me, my eyes filled with tears at its beauty and at the world’s beauty even in God’s most ordinary creatures. My dear friend, Mary Ann from Idaho Gardener had already introduced me to some of Mary Oliver’s poems. MA was sitting next to me and when she saw my eyes threatening to spill over, she grabbed my hand and mouthed “I know. I know.”
Spencer closed his talk with his own poem “Gathered Stones,” which he wrote for his father. (Scroll down to January 23–morning to find it.) He said we’d found each other, people who were trying to do “one little good deed at a time; one little act of patience; one little act of charity; and one little act of forbearance.”
As he spoke, I think all of us felt that approachable beauty and the sun on our arms. I know I did.