It is one of those evenings as Chesterton puts it “in which the sky was warm and radiant while the earth was still comparatively cold and wet.” He is sitting but his gardener is busy at work, digging up the soil, preparing Chesterton’s garden for spring. The scene has Chesterton thinking, as usual, about what the differences are between himself and other men, about equality, about what makes one man free and another a slave. And that perhaps the real slave is the one who sits and collects gold while the free man works…even on what he doesn’t actually own himself. Like spring, this realization comes unexpectedly to Chesterton.
Today is one of those days where the sky is cold and overcast. Everything is, comparatively, here in the Midwest, cold and wet. And it is likely to get colder and wetter sooner than we here would like as today, just one week away from spring, we are forecast to get snow. No one here was hoping for or even expecting that. But it is Lent and, like Chesterton, it is during this time that we are given to our small realizations, too. During this time as we contemplate two other gardens from long ago, who of us sitting here, my writing this and you, dear reader, reading this, could have expected such different fruitage from those two different gardens? Both, the Garden of Eden and the Garden of Gethsemene, to any human were unexpected. Spring is unexpected because it has an unexpected Gardener tending her. He knows the blooms are coming.
“But it is of the essence of Spring to be unexpected; as in that heroic and hackneyedline about coming “before the swallow dares.” Spring is never spring unless it comes too soon. And on a day like that one might pray, without any profanity, that Spring might come on earth as it was in heaven. The gardener was gardening. I was not gardening. It is needless to explain the causes of this difference; it would be to tell the tremendous history of two souls. It is needless because there is a more immediate explanation of the case: the gardener and I, if not equal in agreement, were at least equal in difference. It is quite certain that he would not have allowed me to touch the garden if I had gone down on my knees to him. And it is by no means certain that I should have consented to touch the garden if he had gone down on his knees to me. His activity and my idleness, therefore, went on steadily side by side through the long sunset hours.”
– G. K. Chesterton, The Gardener and the Guinea, A Miscellany of Men, 1912