In 1923, my great-great grandfather, Oliver Stone Dean, published a short book titled, “What I Saw In My Garden.” In it, he relates “ethical interpretations of some things” he “observed in nature’s process.” Dr. Dean was 88 years old at the time, and was living in retirement after many years of service as a Presbyterian clergyman.
This is a short book of nine chapters. The first eight provide wisdom and insight drawn from Dr. Dean’s reflections on spiritual principles illustrated in the realm of nature. The final chapter is a treatise on “The Ideal Nation.”
I have transcribed my great-great grandfather’s book into an electronic format. The entire book is available as a Kindle book for 99 cents as: What I Saw In My Garden: An Interpretation. (FYI – You don’t need to own a Kindle to read Kindle books. Free Kindle Reader Apps are available for PC, Android, and Apple devices.) The first chapter of the book is provided here for free.
That keen observer and art critic John Ruskin wrote a book entitled “The Stones of Venice.” Along with his critical observations on architecture he found some helpful and practical suggestions on politics, religion and political economy which gave to his book a large part of its value. Shakespeare speaks of those whose sagacity enables them to find “books in the running brooks, sermons in stones and good in everything.” I am afraid I am neither poet nor naturalist nor geologist enough to make important discoveries in those fields, though I am enough of an optimist to look for good in everything.
This is the springtime when nature is waking from her wintry sleep, when the birds are coming back, the crocuses starting and the gardener is beginning to think of fertilizers and seeds. So, I have thought the present might be an opportune moment to share with others some of the things which I’ve seen in my garden.
The first thing which impresses me is its narrow boundaries. It covers so narrow a space that it hardly seems worth while, but, if you stop to think, that fact gives it some advantages. Almost everybody can have a small garden when he could not have a large garden or farm. Then you can cultivate intensively a small piece of ground when you have neither time nor strength to do more.
Many complain of the limitations of their lives.
Start, then, right here. Everybody has his field of service, large or small. Many complain of the limitations of their lives. The farmer in his field, the merchant behind his counter, the teacher in the schoolroom, the mother with her children in the home often wish for wider fields and forget that the size of the field is of far less consequence than the way in which it is cultivated.
Many go hunting larger places for which oftentimes they are unfit instead of doing their best where they are. James Gailey was vice-president of the United States Steel Corporation and I once heard him tell a class of young engineers: “If you don’t do your work you will get fired; if you do only what you have to do you will hold your place, but you will get nowhere; but if you are intent on doing all you can without your eyes on the clock you will get the next opening and you need not fear that the boss will not see you.”
Everybody has his field of service, large or small.
He who uses well what he has gets more. Sometimes the harvest from a narrow field is richer than that from a larger one. Perhaps your small garden is the home where you have to get the meals, work and dress the children and care for the house. That was the case with Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, but between times, while her children played on the floor of her cottage, she wrote that immortal story of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” – a fiery epic which melted off the chains of the slave.
He who uses well what he has gets more.
Sometimes, indeed, one’s usefulness is increased by narrowing his field. If John Bunyan had not been shut up twelve years in Bedford Jail “The Pilgrim’s Progress” would never have been written. The Waverley Novels would never been written if Sir Walter Scott had not lost his fortune, nor, except for the same reason the wonderful autobiography of General Grant. It is not the worst thing that can happen to some men to meet misfortune. It narrows the garden but the crop is good.
So if your garden is narrow stick your spade down in every corner of it. If your field of opportunity is small cover it with the best culture of which you are capable. It lends dignity to your small garden to recall the fact that though the surface is a dot on the landscape it extends 4,000 miles down and opens upward into regions beyond the stars. If you cultivate your little garden well you cannot tell what coming generations may fatten on its fruits.
If you liked this first chapter, you may like the rest of the book. It is available on Amazon.com for 99 cents, at: