Few Clouds 33° Good Evening
Few Clouds 33° Good Evening

A garden of refuge, a place of healing

Ellen Woodbury, head of the garden club at

Ellen Woodbury, head of the garden club at Curé of Ars Church in Merrick, tends to rosebushes in the garden at the church in the summer of 2015. Photo Credit: Janet Prete

Two earwigs were trying to crawl out of my bucket, so I gave it a good whack on the ground to make them fall back down. It was a white contractor's bucket that had about two inches' worth of wilted roses and weeds in it. The earwigs must've hitched a ride inside one of the rosebuds. When I first spotted them, I tried to help them get out, but they wouldn't cooperate, so I decided to leave them and just make sure they didn't crawl on me.

I was on duty for the garden club of Curé of Ars Church in Merrick. I first volunteered last year after seeing a request in the church bulletin. No one could fail to notice all the beautiful gardens around the church. I had always loved them, so I thought it would only be right to pitch in and help maintain them.

A crew of volunteers, usually assigned in pairs, works throughout the summer. I was assigned one week in July and one in August. I tried to come at least three days during each week for an hour or so after work, when the day starts cooling off.

Parishioner Ellen Woodbury, head of the club, maintains the volunteer schedule. I joined in part to see what I could learn from her about gardening. My expertise doesn't go much beyond weeding and planting annuals. I know the names of roses, salvia and geraniums, but most everything else is a mystery.

One day last year Ellen was at the church with her clippers when I showed up. She wanted to whip the roses around the Garden of Mercy into shape, so the two of us set about deadheading. That garden is a special area bordered by an iron fence and rose bushes on one side of the church.

I started on the east side of the garden, she on the west. We met in the middle, our buckets nearly full with spent blooms. Ellen told me she really missed her husband, who had passed away less than a year earlier, but gardening helped her to feel better. She also told me she would be 85 on her next birthday.

The gardens don't only beautify the church grounds, but provide a peaceful place for meditation and prayer. One time there was a woman sitting in her car in the parking lot. She told me that she had a disability that made it difficult for her to walk very far, so she came regularly to admire the gardens from her car and to use that time to pray for peace in the Middle East.

After a day of work sitting at a desk, it's nice to get out in the fresh air to clear my head. I find it very peaceful and relaxing. I rarely see anyone else there, but once in a while someone will pass by on the way home from the train station or while walking the dog. They usually yell out something along the lines of, "It looks beautiful! You're doing a great job!" I say thank you, but I know I really don't have much to do with it.

It's all God's work . . . even the earwigs.

Reader Janet Prete lives lives in Bellmore.