VIRIDITAS: SOUL GREENING
Interviewed by Sister Malia Dominica Wong, OP Hawaii Catholic Herald
At least twice a day I stop by my little brick-walled, dirt-filled-in garden plot. I have only been in Hawaii a little over a month now, but my mustard seeds have already germinated and grown into little shrubs with little green seeds. Gardening is one of my relaxations. Even when I was studying in the Philippines, I started a small garden. Whenever there were a lot of exams or various works, or even if I felt a little bored, I would go to the garden and my mind would feel fresh again.
I come from a family of farmers; we grow rice and vegetables. Myanmar is also known as one of the largest cultivators of mustard seeds in the world. Here, in my garden there is basil, rosemary, cucumber and green onion to mention a few edibles. I make my own organic fertilizer by chopping up papaya leaves and other plant matter to mix in the soil. It is a healthy and happy garden despite the worms and snails.
Every evening after the sun has set, I go out with my cellphone and turn the flashlight on. Snails like to come out at night and feast. Looking at the garden, one might not see anything wrong. But, somehow snails like to eat the roots of the mustard plants leaving the green shoots standing upright. With a simple brush of the hand the plants fall over as they have nothing to hold them in the soil anymore. I am really disappointed with the snails in the garden. Although we also have snails in Myanmar, they too are a challenge. I need to protect my plants.
Like the attention I give to removing the challenging snails, I have found that the English language is also a challenge in need of my full attention. As with any non-native language, I want to understand it well, to better my pronunciation and the understanding of the way others speak.
When I meet with challenges I like to talk to my plants and to God in my native tongue. With the plants, I often encourage them saying, “You are beautiful! You are good!” My focus is not on the snails. In life and in my spirituality, God can be seen in everyone and in nature. It is good to develop one’s communication with God also through nature. I do this in conjunction with my adoration every day of the Blessed Sacrament, sometimes spending 20-30 minutes alone with the Lord.
As I see my plants thrive, I know it is not the language, but it is the heart to heart communication I have with God and the time spent in cultivating the plants. Tending my garden is closely connected with the tending of my soul.
Sister Monica Ja Len is a Missionaries of Faith sister stationed at Maria Lanakila Parish in Lahaina, Maui, and resides with her religious community there. She is from Myanmar (formerly Burma) and is nine years professed. She divides her time between the parish’s Sacred Hearts School and the parish religious education program, among other activities.