Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another chapter of Grateful Heart Monday, a day where my writing always reflects upon a piece of gratitude, which for today is for all the gifts and lessons I’ve been given from gardening and landscaping.

Back in the day, other than being forced to cut my family’s yard, you would never catch me digging my hands in the dirt to plant something or trying to beautify anything. In fact, it was more the opposite, where I probably caused wreckage in nature more than not. Back then I wasn’t connected to nature whatsoever, let alone God for that matter. But, when I bought my first home in Falls Church, VA around 1999, that all changed, as then I found myself caring a lot more about it, mainly because I now had a yard and garden to maintain. Trimming, pruning, weeding, fertilizing, edging, planting, and the like soon became the norm for me after that and it was then I first began experiencing gratitude from it all.

I remember the first tree I ever planted in the front of that yard, a crape myrtle, and how excited I got the next spring when suddenly it exploded in color. It was as if some part of me came alive along with it. I’ll never forget that feeling, which was precisely what drove me into my love for gardening and landscaping. I found a real sense of peace and connection to Source from it, which sadly, is why I felt sadness when I sold that home, as it felt like I left a piece of me behind there.

I took gardening and landscaping to another level when I moved into the bed and breakfast I purchased after selling that home. For the four years I lived in that inn (The 1848 Island Manor House in Chincoteague, VA), I worked hard to improve the grounds. Working side by side with a professional landscape company, I was able to turn a very dated property into an extremely modernized one with all local plants and foliage. I spent most of my time there outside keeping everything looking tip top and while many find work like that boring and annoying, for me it’s a form of meditation where the stressors of the world temporarily slip away while doing it. While I no longer own the inn, I still have a sense of gratitude in knowing what I left behind there, as I’m sure many guests will enjoy and find peace in the beauty of it all.

Regrettably, I went through a period from 2007 to 2012 where I rented rooms in other people’s homes and felt a great sense of loss from not having a garden or yard of my own to take pride in. I had come to love gardening and landscaping by that point, and without that always felt like I was missing out on a part of me, which is one reason why I felt so blessed when I met my partner Chris in early 2012, as it was then I discovered he owned his own home along with a nice small yard and gardens.

While he had made a good start a few years prior to making it look beautiful by adding sod, several ponds, and a Japanese maple, I saw plenty of potential to give it even more of a “Wow” factor. Ever since, I’ve done my best to make that happen with my main goal always being to create something that might help people feel a sense of God’s peace and joy. Over the years, some of the work that’s been done here is adding new fencing in the back for privacy, putting in rock gardens in areas where grass just didn’t seem to ever want to grow, making a mulch garden along the driveway and adorning it with long Shepard’s hooks where flowering baskets hang from it, removing the old plastic edging in all the gardens and replacing it with bright silver metal edging, changing the fountains from sprayers to bubbles, putting in lights in the ponds and along the gardens, planting a flowering dogwood in the center of the yard, and finding a ton of new native perennials that could shift with the spring, summer, and fall to have color during at least three of the four seasons here. So, yes, gardening and landscaping have provided me many gifts, now about those lessons.

What have I learned the most through landscaping and gardening?

It will never look perfect.

Boy, have I had to learn that lesson again and again, especially with the diseases that the yard has gotten in recent years, where I had to start over several times, and when some of my plants unfortunately didn’t quite make it in the areas I planted them in.

Plants and nature give love but need it to.

I pray over my yard and gardens a lot. It’s not uncommon to see me doing so and although you may think it silly, it’s been proven by science that plants and foliage respond favorably to love and kindness.

And lastly…

Plants and nature are a great tool to connect us to God. 

People often don’t understand how important remaining grounded is, as the Earth connects us to God. I find that all I need to do is take my shoes and socks off and walk around my yard or put my bare hands in the soil of my gardens, as both open my heart and bring me much closer to God.

So, yes, gardening and landscaping have done wonders for my life and taught me quite a bit. I have much to be grateful for when it comes to all I’ve learned throughout the years of doing a task that some choose to think is bothersome and tedious. I can promise you that for me it’s most definitely far from that and something I will always treasure immensely.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson