Do something to make the world more beautiful

About this time of year, I set aside a reading basket for seed catalogues next to my favourite chair in the living room. Absolutely nothing else is allowed in that semi-sacred basket.
It’s exclusively a catch-all for Burpee’s, Gurney’s, Seeds of Change, Henry Field’s, Wayside Gardens, Miller Nurseries, Park’s Countryside Gardens, and Spring Hill–America’s Favourite Garden Center since 1849.
With all that history and promise, how can I help but dream about the miracle that will be called this summer’s garden!
Squash–yellow and green–summer and winter. And native squash the Indians grew. Roses redder than I’ve ever grown before, and impatiens promising to bloom even in the shade. The tallest sunflowers and the whitest magnolias.
Every good garden must begin with a dream and now is the time to dream. There’s an old proverb that says “The garden must be prepared in the soul first or else it will not flourish.”
The work will come later when the dreaming is done. And the flourishing will follow the work.
In a way gardens are magic. You start with those little seeds that look like nothing at all, and end up with a glorious profusion of flowers and vegetables.
But there’s more–much more–to a garden than the produce. There’s healing power, and a heavy dose of the beauty that helps so much to make life worth living.
“Miss Rumphius” is the title of a wonderful award-winning children’s book by Barbara Cooney. It’s the story of a little girl grown to a woman who created beauty with seeds.
When Alice was a little girl, she lived by the sea with her grandfather, who was an artist. Alice loved the sea and even more she loved grandfather’s tales of adventure.
And right then and there, Alice decided what she was going to do with her life. She would travel to all the distant places around the world and then come back to live by the sea.
Grandfather thought it was a wonderful plan, with one reservation. He told her she must add one more thing to the list. “You must do something to make the world more beautiful.”
So it was that the grown-up Alice Rumphius travelled around the world to the highest mountains and the most remote islands. She travelled through jungles and deserts, and drank milk out of a coconut.
And when the time was right, Miss Rumphius moved back to a scenic little cottage by the sea. She was almost perfectly happy, except for one thing. She still hadn’t done anything to make the world more beautiful.
Every adult should read “Miss Rumphius” and learn how the sickly woman turned into a healthy planter of lupine seeds. Five bushels of them.
And how people first called her That Crazy Old Lady and later, realizing what she had done, The Lupine Lady.
You can never plant too many seeds. A garden is a legacy you can leave. A gift of beauty you can give to those who live on this planet with you now and those who will come after you.
So why not think about your gift today. Here in the winter of the year. Light a fire or a candle. Put on a cup of tea. Curl up in a chair. Open the seed catalogues. And dream.
And as you dream about seeds and gardens, ask yourself two questions–What gift of beauty can I give to this planet before I leave it? And shouldn’t I get started right now?

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