Once upon a time, I lived on a farm in the mountains of western North Carolina. I had a garden...of sorts. The tomato vines were attacked by some pest or plague and produced exactly one tomato (which, after calculating the cost of the plants, frames, lime, and fertiliizer, was worth about $26). The only things that thrived were my raspberry bushes. I returned home one afternoon, however, to find the goat happily chomping on the last remnant of them. "I can’t grow anything," I said out loud to myself. Then I walked inside and discovered two toadstools growing in the bathroom.
It was damp in western North Carolina. If mildew were a cash crop, I would have been rich the three years I lived there. But abundance came to me in other forms. Friendship. Grace. Hospitality. I rediscovered things I had lost sight of in my last years living with Sojourners Community: the blessings of extended meals and late-into-the-night conversation with friends; the expectant unfolding of the seasons; the mysteries of nature’s bounty.
My closest companion was Savannah, a golden retriever I invited in when I knew I wouldn’t be returning to Sojourners. As I was letting go of a way of life that had spanned 15 years, and was sorely in need of some unconditional love, Savannah arrived with all the grand exuberance and abundant affection of a 7-week-old puppy. She reintroduced me to delight. She lavished me with "gifts" she found and reveled in every day and season, bounding joyfully with equal grace through deep snowdrifts or a pasture bursting with bright yellow buttercups.