By Barb Arland-Fye
My husband Steve was dressed in ratty bib overalls and an old shirt as he hoed in our garden after I arrived home from work. Although tired, I asked, “What can I do to help?” He responded, “You could pick some strawberries.” I love strawberries from the garden, treasuring them as jewels of God’s creation and a delicious treat.
I ate dinner quickly and got dressed in a pair of ancient pink nylon running slacks and sweatshirt, donned a pair of blue surgical gloves and started strawberry picking duties. Steve and I must have been a spectacle in the garden, located in our front yard that faces the Great River Road in LeClaire.
What a perfect evening for gardening! The sun cast a mellow glow on the garden and bright red strawberries teased me from their leafy green hiding spaces. Within a short time, I had collected a colander full of precious fruit gems. I feel so close to God outdoors.
The strawberries and other produce in the garden and the trees, bushes and flowers that surround us are tangible reminders that God is the creator. God is in charge. Some years, the strawberries aren’t as plentiful; the leaves on the plants and trees and the grass aren’t so vivid green. But right now everything is alive with color and I savor the gift, the plentitude from God.
Bicycle rides along the Mississippi River provide another opportunity for me to commune with God, outside of a church building or interacting with other human beings. The same is true on walks I take over the lunch hour around the St. Ambrose University neighborhood in Davenport. I ask God for inspiration or to help me sort out a challenge or a problem. When I return to the office, I often feel inspired and have a sense of peace.
On my walk today, a young boy greeted me. I recognized him from last summer’s walks and was happy to see him. We always exchanged cheerful greetings. Today we smiled warmly at each other and said “Hi.” Then he added, “I haven’t seen you in a while,” as if he missed me. I smiled, and asked him how old he was. He said “I’m 10.” I told him, “You have gotten so tall!” I continued on my way, giving thanks to God for our encounter.
In his beautiful encyclical “Laudato Si” (On Care for Our Common Home), Pope Francis writes that ‘“Saint Francis invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness. ‘Through the greatness and the beauty of creatures one comes to know by analogy their maker (Wis: 13:5).”
God’s magnificent book is one that I can’t put down. And I’m feasting on strawberries as I read.
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at email@example.com.)