Back to Nature (Published on - May 4, 2006)
A promise for the planet
“How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here will we sit, and let the sound of music
Creep in our ears: soft stillness, and the night,
Become the touches of sweet harmony.”
– Shakespeare’s “Moonlight”
Photo by Karen Mitchell Tremmel
An iris … a promise kept and nurtured.
On a steep, downward slope that eventually splashed into a thin snaking creek, Missionary Ridge faced Lookout Mountain as if to bow in reverence to this giant of mountains.

From the edge of moss laden river stones the mountain thrust upward in rolling waves of hardwood that touched the southern sky, as if Creator carved her just for himself, a place to rest upon.

It was there on the side of the ridge the 100-year-old homestead had been built out from local pine, cedar and hand molded bricks. The homestead opened her hearth to the ridge, but her windowed eyes gazed upon her mountain from dawn to dusk.

As she looked to the south she could view the nurturing green of the valley. To her north she watched the little creek spill into the mighty Tennessee River until evening fell. After sparking the sky ablaze with remember me’s, the sun as quickly disappeared behind the mountain and the old homestead settled in for another starry, cicada song night.

As a young girl my mother walked passed the home on her way to school admiring its stateliness and rambling gardens. As a young woman she watched the house fall slowly into disrepair and neglect. She felt that something inside of her own self was faltering with each flake of paint and missing shingle.

One evening as she watched the old house liven under the touch of the sun’s warmth in shades of golds and brassy oranges she secretly vowed I will make this my home. She made a promise to the house and the land, “I will fill you with love and pamper your gardens.”

In years to come she lived true to her promise and the gardens prospered under her loving hands. The house blossomed under a fresh coat of pale yellow paint that seemed to invite the sun in as a permanent resident, and the gardens … oh the gardens. My mother spent hours bent or kneeling upon a blanket tending the lilies and iris beds that curved across the descending levels of the sloping landscape.

Daisies met the gaze of Creator, faces turned to the sky and every wild critter found a welcome place in the crook of a tree limb, rocky ledge or special pile of lichen covered wood designated home to chipmunks at the edge of the pond.

Nature and the old home melded into symbiotic pleasure and my mother tended God and garden with the same hands. The tiger lilies and irises became the prayers she offered and the canopy of the trees became her church.

It occurred to me this Sunday morning, as I watered the lilies and irises of my own garden, that if everyone took one hour a week to spend in a garden, walk a nature path, float down a river or gaze at a sunset, perhaps all these prayers would gather together reaching the heavens and perhaps be reflected back to the hearts of politicians and powers that be.

Maybe this new vision will enlighten just one president, one governor to put nature, our planet, back into the business of the day and join my mother’s promise to fill the planet with love and gardens back to nature.

Karen can be reached at

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