In honor of the Saint of Gardeners, St. Fiacre Day by Barry Jung —
In the most recent of the 17 years that I’ve lived on the Cambie Corridor in Vancouver, mid-century homes are being demolished and replaced with higher-density buildings. Within a block of us, a row of 6 storey condos will be completed by spring of next year. In another 5 years, the mega re-development of a nearby shopping mall will have towers as tall as 42 storeys. There’ll be over 6500 new residents moving into our neighbourhood.
Despite the uncertainties we have been facing in our neighbourhood the last few years and the drastic changes ahead, we continue to invest our time and resources into it. St. Fiacre, Patron Saint of Gardeners and Carriage(Taxi) Drivers would have been pleased that one of our investments in the neighbourhood is our garden, which also sees a fair bit of moving trucks, taxis and car-shares drive by. In the process of growing flowers and food, we are subverting Vancouver ‘s version of the Seattle Freeze by making connections and cultivating relationships.
Gardening out front has invited conversation and advice from our neighbours. It has also inspired our neighbours to plant their own gardens. The noise and dust of condo construction and volumes of traffic(36,000 vehicles/day) has not deterred us as we remain rooted in this place.
Our garden is for sharing. We share all kinds of vegetables, herbs and flowers. We’ve shared our freshly cut dahlias with strangers walking by and have observed sojourners taking selfies with our colourful sunflowers. Sharing the produce that comes from our garden leads to meaningful connections with our neighbours.
Our free little library out in our garden allows us to share not only books but include seeds, plants, and food from our garden.. It’s not just a vessel for us to offer what we have but it also gives opportunity for others to contribute herbs, potted plants, fresh figs , seeds from their gardens and notes of encouragement and appreciation. This has nurtured us in unexpected ways. Our relationship with our neighbours is not only giving but in the receiving.
In the book of Luke, Jesus talks about the harvest. “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.”
I have long interpreted this harvest metaphor as, “neighbours ripe to be brought into the Kingdom of God” and “saved”. Recently I’ve looked at this passage from a different perspective using the lens of a gardener. I see clearly that the bounty from a harvest nourishes me, sustains me, gives life to me. It’s Jesus that grows and produces the harvest. I don’t save the harvest and give it life. It’s the harvest that gives me life.
My experience of being in our front yard and engaging with a stranger – a neighbour. – through simple conversations and encounters enlivens me, animates me. My neighbours who are made in the image of God, they are giving me a more meaningful life, they are saving me. My interaction with them is transforming me to be more like Christ. And so I try to make myself more available and more present to the growing number of people in my neighbourhood.
Julie Canlis writes: “… offering friendship and listening attentiveness might give our neighbors a more embodied encounter with the gospel than they’ve ever had. It just might save them. And it will certainly save us.”
There’s a sun-engraved sign made of wood scraps in the midst of our garden. It’s seen better days. It’s a reminder to me that God is at work. Growth, transformation, renewal, restoration and reconciliation are taking place. Seeds from plants and simple conversations that are sown in this garden will germinate and eventually grow to provide beauty, shade, fragrance and nourishment. An ecosystem of relationships will flourish. The sign is a testament of my presence in our neighbourhood – that we’re not moving, that we’re sticking it out. But more importantly it’s a signpost of God’s presence— a faithful presence that provides a glimpse of his Kingdom here in my block on Cambie Street as it is in heaven.
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow”
As our burgeoning neighbourhood transforms into a city within a city, the humble garden plunked right in the middle of it brings to mind the image of the Garden City described in Revelation. I wonder and eagerly anticipate how my story on Cambie street will weave into the Master’s Story. His Story that starts with a garden in a place called Eden and eventually brings us to a City with a garden – A Garden city, a new Eden – where all Creation is healed and all it citizens will experience the fullness of God’s Shalom.
I have hope for our neighbourhood. I have hope for our city, I have hope for all of God’s Creation…. because a garden which has been planted, gives us HOPE to believe in tomorrow.