Friday, March 11, 2011

Making my garden a place of prayer? Margaret Rose Realy's new garden book gets it done!

To use a very well-worn phrase, Margaret Rose Realy, you had me at "hello."*

I was hooked by the opening words from the Preface of A Garden of Visible Prayer -- delighting me with St. Teresa of Avila's wisdom:

"A beginner must think of herself as one setting out to make a garden in which her Beloved Lord is to take his delight..."

Now, I'm a sucker for the saints, and St Teresa makes my Top Ten of all-time favs. But I had always read that quote as a spiritual tenet, as tending to the metaphorical garden of the heart of prayer. I never once considered it gardening advice... until, well, now. It is, indeed, both!

What's more, Margaret Realy -- Michigan's Jackson Living garden columnist in the Jackson Citizen Patriot -- got me reading about a subject I might have otherwise ignored. And that's saying a lot from a non-enthusiast. (Sadly, if we were talking about Top Ten lists again, gardening would not make mine.)

Truth be told, the gardening gene skipped a generation. My mother is great gardener; I am a minimalist. I do what I have to do outdoors to get by, and I have a particular fondness for hearty perennials that lighten my workload but make my gardening efforts look good.

That is not to say I don't appreciate everything a garden is, and all the work that it requires. After all, I am a lover of flowers and birds and fragrance and beauty. I think there is something innate in us that draws us closer to the Creator, and his splendor, and his provision for us, when we are in a beautiful garden. So, I do really get the book's subtitle: Creating a Personal Sacred Space One Step at a Time. I especially enjoyed Chapter 6 relating gardens to our sensibilities for color and fragrance.

Still, I kept reading. I've never really known much about plants and landscape planning, but this book is getting me there. And I love the spiritual perspective it brings to this task. Plus the assured hand-holding and direction it gives folks like me who never knew how to interpret a plant tag (until Margaret explained it in this book.)

You see, I have a small "Mary Garden" in my backyard, where Our Lady of Grace, in statuesque form,  keeps vigil. It's been a place of prayer for me and just something that I look at with fondness during the harsher New England winter seasons that helps me hang on until spring. (Ok, around here we judge how bad the snow storm is by if we can see Mary's head above or below the snow!) But what's more, I have this devotion to Mary that make me want to keep that little garden patch a place, not only for prayer for my family, but a place of honor for her. That said, I am very grateful for the book's appendix on Catholic Traditions in Prayer Gardens.

Here's the publishers' synopsis:

Gardens are places of growth, not only for plants but for our souls as well. Creating an outdoor spiritual sanctuary, no matter how small, is now within every gardener’s reach.  A Garden of Visible Prayer shows you how to develop a contemplative outdoor space in a creative and systematic manner. Whether you are a new gardener or an old hand, wanting to create a public or a private retreat area, this book will guide you in a step-by-step approach to discern what leads you, personally, to a deeper sense of spirituality and then how to take that information to create your own outdoor space for prayer.

Set up in a systematic approach, this book breaks into three easily understandable units to create an outdoor retreat: discern, design, and development. In the discerning process you will establish what elements in a garden lead you to become quiet and introspective, fostering spiritual growth. The next section guides you in designing your prayer space; where to locate it, where to place the features you have chosen and how to select plants. There is also a section on Catholic traditions in the garden at the end of the book. The final chapters on development tell you how to install your garden based on your design. A Garden of Visible Prayer helps you feed both hungers for natural beauty and spiritual insight.

What a lovely surprise! Margaret Rose Realy's new book, A Garden of Visible Prayer, Creating a Personal Sacred Space One Step at a Time is a warm and engaging "how to" that has as me anticipating Spring in a new way.

Buy it now, for your favorite gardener or for the gardener wannabe. Endorsed by the Catholic Writer's Guild Seal of Approval, of which I am a member, this book is a perfect gift for Easter, Mother's Day or Father's Day.
Oh, and Margaret, these are irises that I transplanted from my mother's garden on Long Island years back, and still they live here in New England. I am amazed! 

*Readers will note this has nothing to do with an endorsement of  Jerry Maguire the movie, or the Kenny Chesney song of the same name. Altho' I could be persuaded about the song!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Too shy to leave a comment here? Email me at

The new Roman Missal (click & learn about the coming changes):

Watch Catholic TV here! Find Women's programs: "WINGs" and "Woman at the Heart of the Church"

A Lovely Reminder for Every Day

Coffee drinkers! Support AW by drinking Mystic Monk Coffee!

Ship a Cake, and Share a Blessing