When in the early phases of the gardens here at Agnus Dei hermitage, Joyful Hermit considered a small gazebo to be built fairly close to the subdivision pond. A man came who builds such garden structures, and JH showed the approximate area. The man could not begin the project for a few weeks. Fine.
In the meantime, Joyful collected interesting items to incorporate in the structure. Another man who was laying stone paths and patios worked steadily, with upbeat attitude and creative spirit. He also planted the larger trees and shrubs. The gardens were taking beautiful form, and we left open the spot where the gazebo would be.
But the gazebo man returned the night before he was to commence work, and declared that the spot left was not possible due to needing to be so many feet from the easeway by the pond. (Later someone said these gazebos can be built on wood runners so if ever, ever they need to be moved, they can be.) The gazebo man had been negative every step of the way, and this was the final negative. Joyful did not want the gazebo 8 feet from the house!
So while writing a settlement check for what the man said was his time in planning, plus filing for a building permit, he apprised the gardens in what was then minimal planting compared to now. “Hmm. Sure going to be a lot of WORK–this yard,” he whined. Joyful Hermit confidently responded, “Well…I LIKE WORK!”
Now is the beginning of the fifth summer, and each year the gardens have evolved to include weeping specimens and conifers, then Japanese Maples, dwarf Ginkgo Bilobas and tiny English Truffle Oaks (Quercus Rober), varieties of roses, plus numerous perennials, herbs, blueberries, grapes, strawberries, vegetables, and annuals dotted here and there.
What are now called the Glory Gardens are, indeed, a lot of work.
This early spring, Joyful peered out from the cozy, contented sofa perch. “Do I really like work? Is this too much work, and is it worth the effort? How on earth will I manage?” But soon after it was time to get up, get out and get garden-groovin’. The stretch-and-tone workout, fresh air, meditative garden mode, and the irresistible inspiration that comes from new growth, fresh scents, and hands in the earth reminded me: Yes, I LIKE WORK.
Michelangelo, the great artist and sculptor, said that his work contained 99 percent hard work and 1 percent genius. The Benedictines have as a motto and embedded in their rule of life the words ora et labora, which mean: pray and work. St. Paul in his epistles says that those who do not work should not eat.
Joyful Hermit has pondered the benefits and values of hard work. This means work that one puts oneself into as if the shoulder to the plow, not looking back, but forging ahead and doing one’s best…passionately so. Any work counts: washing dishes, scrambling eggs, shoveling snow, writing a note, listening to someone’s problems–mental, manual, menial or magnus work–or tending gardens that don’t have output other than sheer beauty.
Through simple attitude adjustment, work can be as play. And when work becomes prayer, it is not only edifying to the worker but also to those people and situations in the prayers. Work may be lifted to a joyfully productive state of body, heart, mind and spirit. The rewards of honest, heart-felt, focused work go beyond tangible goods such as providing for oneself and family, or being able to help others, to a heavenly height of utilizing God-given talents and abilities in sheer human capacity to do and be.
Some say gardening is good for the soul. Well, truth-be-told, any work done and prayed well for the glory of God and others, is good for our own souls and the souls of many. Individuals and families who joyfully embrace a strong work ethic can improve their own circumstances and uplift the world.
Let’s LOVE WORK!