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The Dirt and the Glory

By Justine Dorton

Do I need to have a beautiful garden to get into the Celestial Kingdom? Am I compromising my eternal potential if I have more weeds than pansies?

Seriously. I’m really not kidding.

There are so many gospel true-isms in gardening. The law of the Harvest. The value of hard work. You reap what you sow. Adam and Eve were cast out to overcome the thorns and bristles. You name it, you can somehow apply it to dirt.

And so it is, as I stare at my garden, I wonder. We had wonderful tomatoes and pumpkins this year. We managed a few raspberries and strawberries. But really, we planted those berries in the hopes they would “take-over” and reclaim a weed infested area. We kinda hoped the pumpkin would do that too. It didn’t.

Melissa Young wrote a piece for our Spring 2005 issue, “The Garden of Eaten”. I could so thoroughly relate to her frustration that it was comforting to know I was understood. But even Melissa has the most beautiful flower beds in the whole of Cache Valley.

So here I am left to wonder why I can’t seem to keep anything alive. Those dang people at the Nursery where we shop, they must love to see us. We buy plants, we plant them, we water them, we wonder at them, we watch them slowly wither and die. We’ve done it a hundred times.

If I can’t keep plants alive, if I can’t manage to keep weeds out, how could I possibly be entrusted with the glory of the Lord? Is this a stewardship kind of issue?

The pattern of poor gardening is so brimming with good intentions, I often feel those intentions should power my garden through each summer. Spring comes, and brings with it the hope and promise of a new start. We plant. We weed and water and fuss faithfully for weeks.

Then it gets hot. My very earnest and honorable intentions are tested. They are pressed up against the heat of the day, the sweat of my brow. I waver. I falter.

By July, everything is usually dead. The vegetables that are lucky enough to be planted in the path of the sprinklers feebly live on, but all else slips quietly into the great beyond. Even those plants still living are encased by bazillions of weeds. Intentions, somehow, have failed me.

I, during these times, feel strangely bound for hell.

About Justine Dorton

Justine is a mother to five children, and has a husband lodged somewhere (probably in the den). She is not very fond of speaking of herself in third person.

15 thoughts on “The Dirt and the Glory”

  1. I love plants. I also kill most of the ones I come into contact with. It's probably a good thing, though. I feel duty bound to freeze, can, or dry anything resembling produce that makes it into my general vincinity. I've been known to load up all the neighbors' unwanted fruit into our wheelbarrow and haul it home. If I was a successful gardener I'd never have time for Segullah!

  2. Are you really serious? If that weed problem were the most of your worries I would say you are doing something right in the rest of your life. I don't even plant gardens because I know the problems with everything associated with them. So where does that put me against you?

    Only sin will keep us out of the Celestial Kingdom and last I heard, weeding a garden properly was not one of God's commands so I reckon you will be just fine. Also this earth we live on is the Telestial earth and it has it's issues that will go away in the next world phase anyway so glory be!

  3. Last year they had an enrichment meeting about planting an herb garden for your windowsill or that could be attached to your fire escape (we live in NYC). At first I thought this sounded great, we could be like the other Mormons, talking about gardening and being self-reliant (we could just grow our own basil for pasta sauce and pesto, instead of paying $3 a bunch at the farmer's market!). Then before the night came I started looking at my windows and my fire escape, covered in pigeon pooh and grime that can't be reached. I thought about the sunlight that makes it into the various rooms for a couple of hours a day (at most) and I gave up right there. I guess as a city girl for now I'll have to take all those lessons figuratively and hope that the hard work of trying to keep vegetables and fruit in my grocery budget is enough!

  4. you know, I'm serious and I'm not serious, all at the same time. Complicated and strange.

    But Heather H, you have brought up something I hadn't even considered. Not having any dirt to worry over!

    Maybe the true-ism here is that the principle is real, but doesn't need to be learned through the actual dirt.

  5. I've said this before, and golly I'll say it again. Weeds are a mirage. The Man wants you to buy all sorts of products and who hahs to get rid of your "weed problem" which are really just desert plants trying to "bloom where they are planted."

    Nurture them Justine, and love them, by and by they will get you to the Kingdom at Hand.

  6. I'm confident that at what we produce at the judgment bar need not be…produce.

    Hats off to you for even trying, Justine. I gave up guilt gardening years ago.

  7. I think any pursuit should be followed because of the positive blessings that it sows, not the negative consequences that come from not doing it. Otherwise, our perspective becomes one of avoiding the boogy man instead of making ourselves better by trying new things, sustaining dedication to old projects, or just enjoying where we're at.

    It's a rear-ward thinking philosophy that I think is stifling to the pursuit of things that are more important.

    So Justine, do you like gardening because of the positive blessings that it brings? If so, do it without worrying about the fact that you abandon it year after year and most of the plants end up dying! If not, give it up and concentrate on something that is worthwhile for you and your family. Otherwise, it's just a bunch of wasted veggies and paralyzing guilt. Definitely not worth it.

  8. Mara, does that apply to cute scrapbooking as well? I think it just might and if I can get into my thick skull soon, then I won't have to keep dragging out boxes of pretty colored paper and rubber stamps, but I'll put my pictures into an album instead of a box so they can bring me and my family joy. I think henceforward I will try not to have guilt over my lack of dedication to that old project of a beautiful and crafty scrapbook!

  9. Love this post.

    I love to garden. We have a wonderful garden, and we love the produce we get out of it. That said,I doubt there will be a garden center parked at the pearly gates. Just like, as my husband tells me often enough, there will also NOT be a Creative Memories center there, either.

  10. I knew it. You guys are so smart!! I think I must be succumbing to the pressure of being surrounded by neighbors who must all know Martha Stewart.

    This has been sooooo good for me to hear from rational people (I tend to avoid rationality) about a silly thing I've been stressed out about.

    Come to think of it, the only people on my street that don't have "Better Homes and Gardens" yards are the people with small children. hmmmmm. I'm going inside to have a hot chocolate. Let the three inches of leaves kill the grass, I don't care.

  11. I have been laughing my head off at all you crazy women. Thank goodness I am crazy too. Justine, I have you beat. I have about 6 inches of elm and oak leaves covering my front and back yards here in Nebraska. I have tried to rake twice, both times giving me only momentary pride as within hours there were piles and piles more. This is the first house I've lived in…so I stare outside every day and think, "I should be out there taking care of that wretched lawn." But then I look at my daughter who has spit up and poop all over her, for the third time by 10 am, and I forget about it. And let's not even get in to "crap-booking," as Kathy apparently sees it. I just slap the photos in the book and call it good.

  12. I told my three-year-old son we were going to the craft store. Once we got there, he walked in and looked around. "So, this is the crap store?" Maybe it's a man thing.

    Kristen, I am jealous your elm leaves are coming down. For some reason, ours fall sooooo late (we are surrounded on three sides by those nasty trees–their seeds are like a blizzard in May!). We will be raking the snow in January.

    And we still have no garden. I've almost decided it's better that way because when people find out we have no home-grown produce, they shower us with their surplus. Justine, if you're going to hell for killing plants, I will be right on your heels for reaping where I have not sown.

  13. Heather H–Definitely applies to scrapbooking. In fact, I was just thinking about this today. I know that geneology is vitally important to the mission of the church. I know that scrapbooking could be considered part of this duty and honor. HOWEVER, it seems to me that sometimes (not always) scrapbooking takes the form of idealizing and rubber stamping the past, running a continual game of catch up, and forever fearing that you'll miss life if you don't document it when in the process of documenting it, you miss life.

    I am trying to become content with not scrapbooking. I take pictures of my kids, I perfect some of them in photoshop, I show them to certain people, blow some of them up, but most of the pictures sit on my computer for me to look at when I'm feeling like I want to tear their adorable little heads off. And maybe that's the geneology that I do for that day–remembering that I love them, that they are beautiful little beings, and that I'm here to help them stay alive long enough in order to spawn their own offspring. That's my job right now. And I sure hope that counts as geneology because if not, I might be doomed to whatever ring of hell is reserved for people like Justine–those who suck at gardening and scrapbooking and housecleaning and the other womanly arts that are just not as important as we think they are.


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