Gardens are a wonderful metaphor for life’s surprises. CNS file photo

Leah Perrault: Cultivating curiosity in God’s gardens

By 
  • June 21, 2019

Curiosity is not my first response. The little voice is so imploring: “Is there just one more packet of seeds in this drawer, Mommy? I just need to plant one more packet of seeds.” I am making dinner, on a timeline, and the combination of little hands in the junk drawer and the garden boxes raises my blood pressure. I just want to finish cooking. Who has time for curiosity?

Turns out, I do. 

Since my typical reaction in the past has not produced the peace I longed for, I am cultivating curiosity out of desperation more than virtue. God does not seem to care about my motivations for growth; in fact, my compulsions seem to be a favourite spot in the garden of my heart. 

Right in the middle of my biggest, most deeply rooted weeds, God likes to plant fledglings. Curiosity is a tender shoot between a tree-sized thistle of impatience and a portulaca web of control.

While I was out one evening recently, and with the blessing of a relaxed babysitter, my girls found a packet or two of flower seeds and scattered them all over the yard to their heart’s content. It was a glorious evening for them. Tonight’s interruption is a continuation of their joy. My plan for leaving the house in time for swimming lessons is evaporating along with the hope of growing vegetables in the garden boxes. 

But it isn’t only in the kitchen and the yard that impatience and a desire for control are disturbing my inner peace. The Internet in the last week has been a hot mess of polarization on life issues. I waded into conversation on a topic I typically avoid and my curiosity grew a few more leaves.

Conflict presents us with lots of options: avoidance, engagement, entrenchment, positioning, convincing or a host of other things. I’ve tried most of them and nothing seems to work like curiosity. When I ask questions of another, I find myself surprised at the questions that emerge in myself. I learned about his experience and point of view, and I learned more about myself.

Curiosity is an anecdote for my defensiveness. Pausing to compose a question draws on the well of authenticity. Curiosity posits that a seed has been planted by someone other than me and wonders what will grow.

On the Internet and in my yard, things happen without my knowledge and permission. Terrible and wonderful things. And then I come wandering into the mess of it and discover the freedom in wondering.

Stirring the noodles while the baby clings to my shins, I breathe deep and ask, “Why do you like planting so much?” She stops spilling pens on the floor and exclaims, “Because seeds and water and sun grow surprises, Mommy.” 

I want to grow neat rows of cucumbers and carrots. In May, it’s easy to imagine the produce and forget about the weeds that will need to be pulled in July. I won’t have the time I hope for then either, and little fingers will be less discriminating than is ideal when I go to put the baby down for a nap. More surprises await us, to be sure.

There are little pots of wildflowers growing tentatively in the windowsill. There are little piles of soil on the ledge and the floor no matter how many times I wipe them away. There’s a little girl who smiles every time she looks at them and worries whenever someone else gets too close. What might grow if I make room for the messy gardening, the inevitability that some of the beloved sprouts will die, and the inconvenient tears that will follow? 

It is the season for cultivating curiosity. So often in my life, I have been shocked to discover that God has let creation go to seed and that there is beauty in the mess of it. There isn’t enough time or energy in my world to try to tame the wildness in the yard or my daughter. Curiosity opens the gate to the surprises, to the beauty in what I have not yet seen or understood. I am making time for that.

(Perrault works in Catholic health care in Saskatoon and writes and speaks about faith. Her website is leahperrault.com)

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