Aeonium Generosity

by Pastor Audrey

the finished container garden

the finished container garden

Many of you have heard me say (more than once) that anything done with intention can be prayer.  So here’s a vignette of a prayerful time for me this morning:

Because I live so much in my head most of the time, I find that one of the most powerful ways for me to experience God is through the action of my body: cooking, hiking, gardening, etc.  Activities such as these let my brain rest as other faculties take over.  When my brain tries to have an experience, it doesn’t work.

I’ve had a stockpile of succulent cuttings accumulating in my office for a few weeks now, a testament to the generosity of others.  Today, I decided, was the day they needed to be planted.  Most succulents are quite hardy and don’t suffer at all from a bit of benign neglect.  So out to the Memorial Garden I went, equipped with a bag of potting soil and a pair of pruning sheers.

I didn’t have much of a design in mind for this container garden as I set out to plant it. This turned out to be a real gift, just to work with what I had at hand, regardless of the “rules” of container garden design, i.e., “thriller,” “filler,” “spiller.”  As I filled the planter, clipped stems, and cleaned detritus from the undersides of cuttings, my mind drifted back to Sermon Talk yesterday during the Christian Education hour.  I’d preached on Luke 15:11-32, the parable commonly known as The Prodigal Son.  One of the themes we explored in Sermon Talk was the “wastefully extravagant” love of the father in the parable.  And with dirt under my fingernails I thought to myself, “you know who is ‘wastefully extravagant’ with her succulents? Jennifer.” 

Jennifer is my neighbor, and she recently gave me a bag of aeonium cuttings that was quite literally spilling over.  I didn’t even know aeoniums could grow in Fresno’s heat.  But Jennifer has had them in a western facing location for years.  And they thrive.  The first time I saw them on her porch I exclaimed out loud how gorgeous they were.  And you know what she did?  She just reached down and started breaking off pieces.  No clippers.  No regard to how the plant would look with big pieces missing.  Just happy to share.  Those cuttings went straight into a pot in my backyard.  Every time I look at them I wonder if I could be so generous with my own precious plants.

So here I was again this morning, with another bag of cuttings from Jennifer, wondering if I could even fit them all into the container garden I was planting because there were so many.  And you know what happens when she just breaks off a piece?  The plant regenerates around a half dozen more new florets from just below the break.  Her generosity, wastefully extravagant, actually means she will have even more.  But she doesn’t share with this in mind.  In fact, she’s utterly bewildered at how she continues to have so many when she keeps trying to give them away.  It’s a practice that defies our common assumptions that giving to others means having less ourselves.