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The Garden's Gifts

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

Irene Peterson lives in Sonoma, where she enjoys year-round gardening, swimming, and enjoying the great outdoors with her husband, John (traveling from mountain to ocean in their hippie van). She also relishes time spent with her daughters Michaela and Grace, & grandchildren Hailey and Tommy. Irene lost her beloved son Kai in December 2010.

This year my garden has brought me much solace and pleasure. Two of the most significant gifts have been "volunteers". To a gardener, a volunteer is a plant that grows that you didn't plant. I always think that when I get a volunteer, God planted it.

Very early in the spring two seeds found their way into my vegetable garden. Out of the strawberries grew a multi-branched bright pink zinnia. It started out small, then grew into a zinnia bush, producing a multitude of blooms. It is still blooming, and it's the beginning of September.

Each flower seems to be saying: "Here is a gift for you, especially from God; an unexpected show of how He is always thinking of you".

This was one - just one - seed that produced a continuously blooming ray of bright pink sunshine.

Out of my zucchini patch grew a multi-flowering sunflower, producing beautiful and beneficial blooms all summer. This was also only one - just one - seed. Hummingbirds came by to take a sip. Dinky birds with yellow chests hung from the branches, taking what they needed, while blue jays and mockingbirds held jousting matches above the whole parade. And the bumble bees and butterflies were an added bonus, returning and partaking of these magnificent volunteers. They put on a show as they went about their work flitting from one blossom to the next.

When I observe these gorgeous volunteers, all I can do is say "Thank you God". I am in awe of these gifts that I did not ask for, and yet, here they are to cheer me. I marvel at nature and God's ways in my humble vegetable patch.

I kept thinking all summer that if those volunteers hadn't shown up, I'd have had a pretty mundane garden. Lots of the flowers I actually planted were short lived and a little weak.

I'm not really sure what if anything I am supposed to be learning from this except that as fall approaches, and the pears and raspberries are at their peak and I stuff myself with their delightful sweetness, I start to feel a bit of the blues coming on.

My only son and firstborn was born in September, and fall used to be a season of marking time with joy as he grew older. Now it is challenging as I see young families going back to school and I am reminded of all the autumns when he and my girls were young. It always was a time of hope for a bright future, but since he has died, my heart aches and I miss him.

I think I will stay in my garden as much as possible to see what other gifts God has for me out there. It always feels like I'm a little closer to God in my garden, and with those volunteers, well, I think He's being pretty loud, and telling me: "Keep the faith. Your son is in Perfect Love, along with your parents, your sister and brothers-in-law, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nephew, friends, everyone. Until it is your time, I am thinking of you and if you keep your heart open, I will fill it with love that will overflow.”

And so back to the garden I go, a volunteer in my own way.

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Liliana Tavera
Liliana Tavera
Sep 04, 2023

Thank you Irene for sharing.

May God fills your heart with Peace around this time and always.


Kendall Heaney
Kendall Heaney
Sep 04, 2023

This is so beautiful Irene. You have a lovely way with words … I felt as if I was standing in your garden taking in all the beauty. I will keep your beautiful son Kai in my heart and my prayers. And I will pray for you as well. 💜🌺🙏

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