by Jessika Crockett-Murphy
It is crazy how someone can find a connection to themselves or the divine in the oddest places. Some worship in churches, temples, or mosques. Others feel the strongest connection to faith at homemade altars or sanctuaries. Some feel it everywhere, or nowhere. However, during my weeklong immersion at Agape, I found the strongest feelings of belonging and love while working in the Rock Garden.
This little garden on the lower side of the Agape site features three levels of flower beds, surrounded by trees, greenery, rocks, and some statement pieces of driftwood from the nearby Quabbin. While it does not house the numerous vegetables found in the nearby farm plot that will aid in feeding hundreds this coming harvest season, it serves a different and equally as important purpose. The Rock Garden helps remind people to slow down and smell the roses (or in this case, the perennials), and take some time to reflect on where they are in life. There is so much hustle and bustle in life, everyone needs to get from one place to the other, and there’s rarely time to stop and look at the beauty of the flora and fauna around us. The diversity and variety of flowers I planted over the course of a week remind us of how unique and special everyone is, and how beautiful it can be when we all come together with our differences. There doesn’t need to be uniformity; nature doesn’t want that, and neither should we. The mix of yellows and oranges and purples creates a living piece of art for all to enjoy, and for all to try and create in their life.
While I was working in the garden, I found a sense of peace that I had never really experienced in my life before. Sitting in the garden and planting the numerous flowers I found myself able to slow down a bit and notice how the birds sounded, how the sun felt on my back, and what the compost felt like in my hands. I looked at the compost for a bit while rolling it in my hands and thought how amazing it was that this used to be food that was then broken down into dirt to aid in growing more food. It is such an astonishing cycle that many take for granted or do not realize how impressive it is. The other members in my group would occasionally come down to the garden, sometimes bearing some delicious watermelon, and take a moment to reflect on the garden themselves. This gave them a break from their work and some time to take in the beauty of nature in another form.
When I began my immersion, I did not intend to spend the majority of my time planting flowers, but it was what I needed to do. I came away from that experience with a new sense of belonging in nature and an appreciation for how our world works, and what my place is in it in regard to the Earth and the Divine. I hope to one day make a garden for myself when I have the space to do so, but for now I can look back on my time in the Agape Rock Garden and how much it helped me blossom, just like the flowers there.
Jessika Crockett-Murphy is a rising Junior at Stonehill College studying Political Science and Ethical Leadership, with a desire to enter into a career surrounding higher education and youth leadership development. This summer she plans to intern at the Stonehill Campus Ministry for Community Engagement while also taking her experiences from Agape to work at the campus farm. Her work will surround creating relationships between volunteering and faith partners and the college, while also managing a mobile food market to minimize food insecurity within the community. Her experiences with the H.O.P.E. program has helped her along her current faith journey, and she is grateful for the support she has had in the past and will continue to have into the future. She found great comfort in the Rock Garden while on her Immersion Trip and has future hopes to build a similar garden at her future home to help stay connected to the Earth and the Divine.