Heaven is a Garden

August 4, 2021

As a gardening enthusiast, I realized on one quarantine day that I was actually playing God and my subjects were the trees, the shrubs, and vegetables in my yard. The front yard is a mixture of beauty and function because that’s where I have planted ornamentals and my citrus trees – the flowers for show, and the lemons and calamansi for good health. The back yard is definitely for the purpose of growing food. One can find the crowd of banana trees standing stiffly like bored military soldiers. Halfway through them, three-year-old cacao trees have started to claim their space and are now fully-grown and elbowing their way into banana territory. A few coconut trees are scattered on the edges of the property and have provided refreshing drink, meat, milk, and oil for the household. Other variety of trees were planted for fruit, timber, and firewood.

The quarantine afforded me ample time to attack the overgrowth of treelings and shrubs, and the evil weeds that threatened the garden’s productivity. The previous months saw me too busy to take care of the yard and I must admit that I have neglected it to the point where some plants have died, some seeds that I planted never sprouted, and many of the grassy areas and plants needed a trim badly.

My cacao trees give me nibs!

During the month-long “vacation”, I threw myself with wild abandon into raking, weeding, pruning, cutting, trimming, uprooting, transplanting, and reconfigurating the lot. At the end of each day, my body begged a nice warm bath and sleep. Each day, without fail, the garden was on my “to-do” list. At the end of the quarantine period, my little urban homestead gave me so much pride, but at the same time, the work was never done.

As a gardener, hadn’t I played accuser, judge, and executioner the whole time in the Court of Flora? Hadn’t I decided which plant should die, and which one should live? Hadn’t I decided what branch to lop off and which one I think will bear fruit? Hadn’t I decided what plant should take root here in the sunshine, and which ones will do nicely in the partial shade? Hadn’t I decided that I should water this citrus treeling profusely, flood the grassy lawn because it was unbearably hot, and not water the pineapple plant because, silly goose, it’s a pineapple.

Iba, or camias fruit can be made into chutney

God must enjoy being a gardener more than dealing with humans. I have never heard the bromeliad complain that her leafy skirt was getting soaked, nor the Dancing Lady orchid sulk because she was not done with her daily shower and I turned off the hose.

Neither had the ancient mango tree scared off the salamander tickling his thick, rough trunk with their restless scampering. “Can’t an old fogey like me get some sleep, you slimy green lizards?”

Every leafy, woody, and flowering denizen just … grew, and surrendered. But if the thought “God” had it easy, then, they were wrong. It took a lot of hard, backbreaking work for me as I raked leaves and sawdust (remnants of a January tree harvest) into compost piles. I couldn’t believe I actually pulled those logs over for the composting area. They were quite heavy- as heavy as my sins.

With God as our gardener, He decides where to plant us. He prunes us of our flaws and sinful nature. He decides how to bless us. Yet many of us are like the wayward branches and rebellious water spouts. These He chops off, too, which must be painful for us in the process.

Wild cucumbers become part of a salad
The pansit-pansitan can be made into a fresh salad

Our Father is probably not spared from the pain of pruning us as I experienced. Truly, I wielded the pruning shears and binangon, but I sufered from cuts, scrapes, bruises, insect bites, sunburn, and fatigue. Yet I didn’t give up on my garden. Each day, I bended the plants to my will until their beauty shown through. The ones that were not fruiful, or did not show any potential to bear fruit were cut down. It was like separating the chaff from the grains, the goats from the sheep- the undesirables thrown into the garbage pit to decompose.

Fallen santol fruit become santolada, a refreshing infusion of peeled and quartered santol soaked in chilled water

I was actually sorry for the lockdown to end for I felt that I needed more time for my garden to become the piece of paradise I was envisioning. Just like our time on earth, our lives are limited and before we knew it, our end had come.

My ginger plant continues to thrive

Heaven is God’s garden where only the most beautiful souls that have surrendered their earthly lives in conformity to God’s plan, obeyed Him with full trust can thrive under His loving gaze forever.

I end on a sweet note with lemons for my lemon bars.