I garden for beauty

All the photos in this post are of flowers grown in our yard. There's not many blossoms right now to photograph, besides hyacinth and daffodils, so I copied some of my favorites from past years (featured in the gallery) to highlight here. 

We live in a tight urban neighborhood. This is the choice we make so we can live on one income, with one car, no debt and a job for Damien that is walking distance from our home. Living here has its perks (those I named and also easy access to great farmer's markets, libraries and cultural opportunities) but it has drawbacks to be sure.

Like having our neighbor's two storey home 14 feet away from our front door. A narrow driveway separates the space and if their blinds aren't closed we can see right through their home clear through to the other side. Thank goodness they are good neighbors. Or I should say were as a fire destroyed their home two days before last Christmas.

Our tenants alerted us and we watched it happen, live via internet, while we were visiting my parents. We were sickened at our neighbor's loss and at the same time thankful our house was spared, and so thankful for prompt emergency response - another perk of city living. 

Their house was so damaged by the smoke, flames and water that is it not habitable and has sat empty since it burned. Looking at it out my window, each and every day, is both discouraging and a reminder of how blessed I am. Thankfully it's not a charred ruin but the windows are broken and boarded up, bits of vinyl siding are torn off by the wind and blow around our yard and pigeons now roost in the space under their eaves where the siding was burned away. In short, it's not a lovely view.

Broken glass littered our driveway when we came home from our Christmas holiday, mixed with snow, soot and charred wood. We shoveled it to the side, next to their house and thought "we'll deal with it in spring". Well now it's spring and I've been dealing with it.

For the last month I've spent a little bit of time each week cleaning up the flower bed next to their house that I've spent years building. The same flower bed that was lying under all the shoveled snow and debris. I've been gingerly picking up large and small shards of glass and charred remains of house. I finished the job this morning with much satisfaction.

But while I've been working I've wondered "What am I doing this for?". Hopefully soon the house will be either rebuilt or razed (so sad considering how beautiful it was inside) and although I'm not one hundred percent sure I don't think our neighbors intend to return. Who knows what will happen to this house close to ours and if my beautiful flower bed will be turned up in the process. I realize my flowers are nothing compared to their home and I will be sure to transplant what I can if it comes to that. But while I was working at my (potentially futile) clean up I was reminded once again why gardening matters to me.

I garden because I want to create beauty.

I knew this about myself but I think I forgot over winter how powerful this need is in me. I believe we all have something to contribute to our families, our communities and the world. I'm opening a bit of my soul here when I say one of the things I was made to do was to bring beauty to people's lives.

My desire to create beauty explains a lot about the way I am. Like my love of photography, the flowers I cut and place on my table each week through the summer, my need for our home to be tidy and nicely decorated (with thrifted finds and homemade creations) and my love of the outdoors. 

I'm not unique in any of these but I do feel that each of us has different areas we feel really strongly about and that we shine at doing. Some of us are justice bearers or freedom bell ringers and truth seekers. I am a creator of beauty. 

I feel so vulnerable saying that. Like somehow that isn't a valid calling or gift. That my time would be better served working in soup kitchen (my own kitchen aside) or advocating for the homeless. 

I believe we are all created to create and appreciate beauty because our Creator is beautiful. The smallest of children show us this very truth in their awe of the natural world and their own desire to make things with their hands. To say I want to bring beauty to people's lives is nothing new or profound but it's a part of who I am and I am wanting to speak it out loud. To acknowledge it and give it room to grow. 

And so I create gardens all around my home (I've built perennial and herb beds bordering every wall and fence in our little space) because I need to. Because this is something I have to give: to my family whose spirits also are tuned into the beauty of nature, to my neighbors who have been the recipients of my flowers and to my Creator as an act of worship, in thankfulness and with deep gratitude.

Renee Tougas participates in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you clicked here, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale. See disclosure for further explanation.

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  • Wendy

    Wendy on April 16, 2010, 2:33 a.m.

    Thanks for affirming the importance of creating and appreciating beauty for yourself and others. Aren't we blessed that God also loves beauty and chose to create so many things for us to enjoy!


  • Naomi Kilbreth

    Naomi Kilbreth on April 16, 2010, 3:14 a.m.

    This is by far one of my most favorite posts you have written. So simple and yet so eloquent. Creating beauty is essential and is not only an act of worship between you and God, but inspires others to worship God. Thank you Renee for allowing yourself to feel vulnerable because it isn't just going out into internet ether, it is making a positive difference!


  • Jill Foley

    Jill Foley on April 16, 2010, 4:20 a.m.

    This is beautiful...the photos and the words. This message is a powerful one and I needed to hear it tonight. I love how you are glorifying God through your desire to create beauty.


  • Shanda

    Shanda on April 16, 2010, 11:20 a.m.

    I guess I consider myself one of your quiet readers but I had to comment on this post. It touched my soul with its honesty and beauty. Thank you.


  • Amanda

    Amanda on April 16, 2010, 11:23 a.m.

    Renee, if you read my blog yesterday, you may have noticed that your creation of beauty is very inspiring! :) Creating and sharing beauty may inspire in unexpected ways, too.


  • Francesca

    Francesca on April 16, 2010, 12:15 p.m.

    I'm quite shocked to learn what happened to the house next door! Because of the different building materials, I'd guess, house fires are quite rare here (our homes are more at risk of gas leakages!). Creating, seeking and appreciating beauty is part of humankind. Paleolithic cave paintings tell us that at a time when people were constantly (pre)occupied with finding food and shelter, they still had time to create beauty. You're lucky to have a real gift at growing beautiful gardens! I'd love to know what flowers you grow.


  • Megan

    Megan on April 16, 2010, 12:43 p.m.

    Such a lovely post, Renee. Thank you for brightening my morning. Since we're on one income and just "starting out" as a family, I honestly was feeling a bit guilty about spending money on creating garden spaces, but your post reminded me that creating beauty is not only vital but a vocation (and can be done thriftily). Thanks for the reminder and encouragement.


  • daffodil lane

    daffodil lane on April 16, 2010, 5:57 p.m.

    It's TOTALLY a valid gift and calling!! Every single second of it! Isn't that why God created flowers? I have been amazed at his handiwork this week as I stared (a lot) at a bouquet of ranunculas on my dining room table.


  • Leticia

    Leticia on April 17, 2010, 3:53 p.m.

    Okay Renee, I already read this post 2 times and I have many things to write. I also do gardening and I feel guilty sometimes. So, I could write a long comment that is going to look like I'm a guest writer on you blog! This post is beautiful! Been a homeless advocate will be a good thing for us to do. But, is that what God has called us to do? I only do what I can to bless the people around me, my neighbors, my friends, my kids.... I have tried to do things, out of guilt (so people can see that I'm doing something, like them) and it ended being a disaster! So, until God really, really open the door for me to do something else, I will keep gardening for the beauty! All your pictures are beautiful, but the last one is my favorite.


  • Hillary

    Hillary on April 17, 2010, 5:29 p.m.

    I really enjoyed this post. Thank you so much for sharing.

    I can relate on the downtown living issue. When I was taking that picture of the flower for my post yesterday I was so frustrated that it showed how close our neighbor's house is to ours. Especially b/c it triggers emotions for me. They live very differently than us and it's in our face (in our windows!) all the time.

    We've been doing little home improvements on our little plot and I find myself getting frustrated and I just told Stone that other day that I really need to switch my attitude to how blessed I am. I love my house and I love where we live! I love living downtown and we were so lucky to buy when we did. Sure it's not "perfect", but is life ever?

    Thanks for the great affirmation of my desire to switch up my attitude!


  • Michele

    Michele on April 17, 2010, 8:03 p.m.

    Such a lovely post and one that reminds us of the gift of beauty. It inspires, encourages and blesses all who partake in it's viewing. You never know what those flowers next to your neighbor's home might mean to them...out of the burned ashes flowers abound. So sorry to hear of their loss.


  • Cori

    Cori on April 18, 2010, 2:58 a.m.

    Abby cried tonight when she saw the dandilions in her vase had closed up while she was at my Mom's. We'll be out looking for more beauty tomorrow. Of course it's valid - and you are blessed with an eye for it!


  • old recipe for a new world

    old recipe for a new world on April 19, 2010, 7 p.m.

    And what beauty! These pictures and blooms and words are a joy. I've been reading Coperthwaite at your recommendation, and was reminded of his thoughts on the need we have for beauty, especially when its creation brings us closer to the earth's cycles.


  • Kika

    Kika on April 20, 2010, 2:51 p.m.

    I've been mulling this over for several days. I think it is wonderful that you know who you are and where your giftings lie. Creating beauty in this world is never a waste. This year I am striving to focus more on living a beautiful life: relaxing more, enjoying relationships, taking better care of myself (spiritually, physically...) rather than giving out so much that I end up depleted. This feels opposed, in my opinion, to a life always focused on super-productivity. Now, I love order and systems which simplify my life but not so that I may cram more in... rather that I may slow down and enjoy the things/people already in my life. My middle daughter loves container gardening and this post encouraged me to continue investing the $ into this pursuit of hers even though we don't get a financial return on it. She loves that we do this together and now my youngest is joining in; she loves sharing her home-grown baby carrots with friends that come over; and she probably loves the creative aspect of growing things. Before, I was only looking at her gardening as a practical skill for the future but now I understand that it is much more than that. So thank you.


  • Denise

    Denise on April 21, 2010, 2:33 p.m.

    Simply Beautiful! I'd like to think I share this calling with you as I long to make our home comfortable and our surroundings beautiful and peaceful. I love being outdoors as do my children, and I think it truly is an act of worship taking in all the beauty that God has created around us. Lovely post from a lovely lady! Have a gorgeous week!


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