‘A callused palm and dirty fingernails precede a Green Thumb.’
– Michael P. Garofalo
I always thought that St. Francis was the patron Saint of gardeners. In fact St. Francis is the patron Saint of Nature, and it is St. Fiacre who is the true patron Saint of gardening. The life of this 7th century monk is steeped in legend and it is generally believed that he was born in Ireland. He was raised in a monastery where he enjoyed the planting and harvesting of crops and studied the healing properties of herbs. He had an appreciation for all of nature and an earnest desire to serve God. He led the life of a religious monk, feeding the hungry and healing the sick with herbs from his garden.
St. Fiacre founded a monastery in France (Saint-Fiacre-en-Brie near Paris).
Now I hate lawns. My own lawn is neglected. I always feel lawns take up too much of my time and energy. “What has this got to do with the preceding paragraph” I hear you say. Well it was while pondering a query from a friend about lawn care that I fell into a reverie and imagined a conversation St Francis might have had with St Fiacre on the subject of lawns:
St. Francis: Hey St Fiacre, you know all about gardens. What in the world is going on down there in Ratae Coritanorum? What happened to the dandelions, clover, buttercups, thistles and stuff the Lord created? We had a perfect “no maintenance” garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the flowers attracts butterflies, bees, and other insects and the seeds feed the birds. I expected to see a vast garden of colours. But all I see are these green rectangles.
St. Fiacre: It’s the tribes that settled there. The Suburbanites. They started calling the flowers “weeds” and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass. The green rectangles are called lawns.
St. Francis: Grass? Lawns? But it’s so boring. It’s not colourful. It doesn’t attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and worms. It’s temperamental with temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?
St. Fiacre: Apparently so, they go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilising the grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.
St. Francis: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.
St. Fiacre: Apparently not, as soon as it grows a little, they cut it… sometimes twice a week.
St. Francis: They cut it? Do they then bail it like hay?
St. Fiacre: Not exactly, most of them rake it up and put it in bags.
St. Francis: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?
St. Fiacre: No, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.
St. Francis: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when the Lord cuts back on the rain and turns up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.
St. Fiacre: You are not going to believe this. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.
St. Francis: What nonsense. But at least they have kept some of the trees. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It’s a natural cycle of life.
St. Fiacre: You better sit down. The Suburbanites have a different agenda. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.
St. Francis: Goodness gracious! But what do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and to keep the soil moist and loose?
St. Fiacre: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy bags of something which they call mulch. Then they haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.
St. Francis: And where do they get this mulch?
St. Fiacre: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.
St. Francis: Enough. I don’t want to think about this anymore. Sister Catherine, you’re in charge of the arts. What movie have you got scheduled for us tonight?
Sister Catherine: A film called “Dumb and Dumber”, It’s a really stupid film starring Jim Carrey about…
St. Francis: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Fiacre.