Sunday, July 5, 2020
Walk in the garden
You cannot say, "Let there be light," and there will be light.
Oh, you can flip on the lights. But that's not quite the same.
Maybe a better example: You cannot create the heavens and the earth. Nor can you turn Lot's wife into a pillar of salt.
In fact, I can only think of one activity enjoyed by God in the Bible that you can also do yourself: stroll in a garden.
"And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day," is how Genesis 3:8 puts it.
Though I bet God didn't have to reserve a time, the way we do now that the Chicago Botanic Garden has re-opened into the COVID-19 era. You have to snag an hour slot—I've never been turned away, but it takes a bit of fussing on the computer and drains a little of the spontaneity away. You don't just go, but instead watch the clock and arrive during your appointed hour. They check the ticket on your phone going in.
Still, it hasn't kept my wife from visiting the Botanic Garden four times in the past week. Quite a lot, really. We must need it, must need to admire the glorious flowers at our feet and the gorgeous vistas stretching in all directins. The rolling 385-acre garden is a welcome relief after being cooped up at home, a chance to soak in beauty, stretch our legs, converse with each other. You're outside, so while people do tend to wear masks, at least while passing on the paths, for most of the visit you can let yours dangle from an ear.
The Botanic Garden is a place you can go again and again and it never gets dull. It is divided into a variety of realms: The rose garden. The English walled garden. The Japanese garden. The prairie. And so on.
"We've never been to this part before," I'll say, something as a running joke, something as an acknowledgement that it changes so much it seems like a new place. Different times of day, of year, qualities of light, blooms. If you look to your right it's a completely different experience than if you look left.
Yes, it's high standards have suffered from the pandemic. A little sign apologized for the weeds that haven't been picked by the volunteers who can't come. Though in truth, I hadn't noticed them before, and it made me think that perhaps my practice of confessing my flaws before they can be pointed out is unwise, alerting readers to deficiencies they'd overlook otherwise. Still, for an hour afterward, my wife and I would point out various prickly intruders and say, "Look, a weed!"
Which in my case is hypocrisy itself, since I have a ton of weeds at home, in my own garden. Now that I think of it, God also plants a garden in the Bible—"And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden" (Genesis 2:8). But that achievement is closer to the other divine tasks of molding universes, destroying cities, and other superhuman efforts that are off-limits to we mortals, who suffer should we even attempt them.
At least I do. I have a garden at home, but cannot walk in it, not for long. I can kneel in it, and do, pulling the weeds and grasses that grow with enormous profusion. But that is more obligation than pleasure, though if we don't get decent tomatoes this year, I swear I'm going to turn it into a rectangle of green-dyed concrete, my own version of an angry God smiting those who deceive him, and call it good.