Review by Michele Craig
“Ah roses. Glorious roses, lovely roses: in flower form they are the ultimate image of love. But whose love? Human love? Perhaps so, for they are no doubt beautiful, fragrant, and truly lovely. Glorious roses have hundreds and hundreds of petals, dense and rich and velvety, so tightly entwined with one another that it’s impossible to find the center of the bloom. Could this be why they are the symbol of human love? For they so beautifully represent the human heart! And who can truly know the human heart? It holds layer upon layer of depth: depth of memory, depth of motivation, depth of emotion, and yes, even depth of weakness and frailty. Even our own heart is a mystery to us! “I the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways” (Jer 17:10). Only the Lord truly knows our heart. Yet, we know that our desires are what drive us, and love is the deepest desire of our heart. What is it that we desire? Or who is it? Layer upon layer, depth upon depth. Our loves, our desires, our passion, must be transformed if we would love purely, beautifully, sincerely. Even as a rose, or indeed any plant or flower, is simply what it is without false pretense or circumvention, so must we be. But for us it is hard work. We cover our heart with layer upon layer of defense, posturing, illusions, obsessions, and sinfulness. Layer upon layer, depth upon depth, day by day, year after year, we work at the transformation. The layers of a rose’s petals are simply and purely rose. Often, our layers are those of fallenness, falseness, and sin. To find the heart of a rose, even one as dense and deep as an English rose, is relatively easy. To find our heart, to find the jewel that we have clouded over, takes a lifetime.”
Seasons in My Garden: Meditations from a Hermitage, Sr. Elizabeth Wagner allows us to peek into the musings of her private journal. She fills the pages with pure poetry and prayer as she observes nature in the gardens that she creates and maintains (or rather God creates through her) in Maine at the hermitage where she lives. And not just rose gardens…. perennial gardens, vegetable gardens, berry patches, a small orchard and many wild flower and wooded trails.
Sr. Elizabeth carries us through a year of reflection, mediation and contemplation as she combines the birth, growth and death cycle of nature with insights that join these natural cycles to scripture and the seasons of the church year. While reading Seasons in My Garden I was invited along to accompany Sr. Elizabeth as she tended her gardens or took long walks throughout the grounds of the hermitage. Actually, I felt that I was right there beside Sister Elizabeth because she takes such great care to provide very beautiful and explicit descriptions of her exterior surroundings. Sometimes I even imagined I could smell the smells that she described or see the colors or feel the breeze!
I also felt as if I was walking along with Sr. Elizabeth on her path of spiritual growth and self-discovery, and most certainly her falling more deeply in love with God, the Church and our Blessed Faith. I often pondered the chapters over and over again as I considered her thoughts on scripture, prayer, and relationships… with others, with God’s creation and with God Himself. Reading this book has been a spiritual adventure!