It’s interesting to see that although people appreciate their very rich culture, they do not connect its traditions to contemporary knowledge and practices. For example, students in the graphic design course I taught at ENAV asked me to give them lessons in color, insisting they knew nothing about it. This really surprised me. My immediate answer was, “But you should teach me! You’re surrounded by color and use it in such powerful ways in every aspect of daily life. I admire you for it!” Their response was to laugh and say, “But Teacher! That’s not design! We need to use design colors.” From talking to my students and people in the cultural sector, I got the impression that design was this distant, quite artificial, field they had to adapt to. Their main concern is learning software.
When Adam gardened, he imitated his Maker in a purely recreative act of cultivation and care. He did not need to subdue the earth in order for it to yield fruit. Rather, the plants were Adam’s palette, and the earth was his canvas. There was nothing but delight in the Garden, for Eden itself means “garden of delight.” When I dug my garden in Culpeper, I was preparing a canvas. And when I arranged the flowering plants and shrubs on the freshly turned ground, I saw already the pink peony blossoms with their heads turned down toward the blue iris, and the white phlox standing straight beside the slouching crimson bee balm. I breathed in the sweet honeysuckle and the citrus-scented bergamot.
I have said on occasion that I think gardening is nearer to godliness than theology. (By “theology” I mean the kind of formal written discourse that my special guild of academic theologians does, not the praise of God and communion with divine life that ought to inspire theology at its core.) True gardeners are both iconographers and theologians insofar as these activities are the fruit of prayer “without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17, NKJV). Likewise, true gardeners never cease to garden, not even in their sleep, because gardening is not just something they do. It is how they live.