Tending to Life in Your Own Backyard
By Robert Benson
(WaterBrook Press, Paperback, 9781400071739, 176pp.)
Publication Date: April 17, 2007
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The story of a small garden large enough to hold everything in life that really matters.
“These days the portion of Eden for which I am responsible is fairly modest. . . . It is a small house in a small garden in a small neighborhood. But it is large enough . . . Large enough to hold everything dear.”
Digging In tells the story of the author’s move into an early twentieth-century cottage with a long abandoned back yard, and the work that he and his family had to do to bring a garden to life there. It is the story of the way that the garden became the ground upon which deeper relationships with his family, friends, and neighbors began to blossom and grow.
Written in the gentle, revealing prose for which Benson is acclaimed, this is a lyrical and wise book, beautifully evoking the wonder of planting and seasons, humorously recalling the challenges and the struggles of the labor itself, and carefully observing the simple truths and timeless joys that were there to be found.
Robert Benson is an author and retreat leader who writes and speaks often on the meditative life. He has written numerous books including Home by Another Way. He and his wife, Sara, live in Nashville, Tennessee.
Reviewed in 2/12/2007 issue of Publishers Weekly.
Digging In: Tending to Life in Your Own Backyard
Benson, well known for his books on prayer and meditation, turns his heart toward home in this lovely book about putting down roots. When he and his wife, whom he calls the "master planner," moved to a Victorian cottage in a city neighborhood, its yard, sloped and nearly bare of grass, became their canvas. Fencing, rose garden, fountain, pool and studio were all added, vicarious treats for readers as Benson transplants into words the spiritual truths he unearthed during each project. He's a gentle guide through the ups and downs of lawn care, fence painting, fountain placement and pool installation. Throughout, he combs his memories, encouraging readers to do the same. He laughs at himself as he takes the small, quotidian details of creating a home and life and nurtures them into the larger spiritual meaning of how to live in "this place where we have dug ourselves in." Benson's words soothe and lull, but just as often burst into a glorious bloom of epiphanies that will dazzle readers, gardeners or not. "If we are to have any roots at all, we must find them in the places where we are now, on this day," he writes. (Apr. 17)
Praise for Digging In
“Now this is what gardening is really about! It’s not only about getting your hands dirty, but it’s the experiences and life lessons that grow from the garden. Robert Benson’s story is touching, funny, and delightful. I want to see Robert’s garden!”
–Rebecca Kolls, host of the nationally-syndicated Rebecca’s Garden on NBC and HG-TV, author of the book by the same title, and publisher of Seasons By Rebecca magazine
“An enjoyable read for seasoned and beginning gardeners. Robert Benson gives people inspiration.”
–John Carloftis, contributing editor, Garden Design magazine
“Digging In is a classic of gentle memoir. I will never look at a garden in the same way again, and neither will you. This is Benson at the top of his game.”
– Phyllis Tickle, author of more than two dozen books, including her latest, The Night Offices and The Divine Hours series
“Digging In is thoroughly wonderful. Benson’s writing is spare, simple, understated, always faintly humorous–and very forceful without seeming to be. As he writes about digging holes for a fence and growing roses, he also uses his spade and shovel to turn over the reader’s heart. Before you know it, you are in that garden, invested in its development, and strangely affected by roses you’ve never seen and a fountain you’ve never heard. The book delivers what it promises–it digs deep.”
–Paula D’Arcy, speaker and retreat leader, and author of several books, including Gift of the Red Bird, Sacred Threshold, and Song for Sarah.
“When one is alert to the tenderness of ordinary things–finches and fence posts and fish fries–and when one has a way with words, one is likely to pen books that invite a reader to consider her own ordinary life anew and honor the hidden arts of tending and nurture that gentle our world. Robert Benson does just that in Digging In.”
–Wendy M. Wright, professor of theology, Creighton University, and author of Seasons of a Family’s Life and Sacred Dwelling
“Charming, unique, poignant, special, and dear describe this remarkable little book. In reading these pages it is as though I’ve being given permission to look through Robert Benson’s window. What I see touches me deeply: love, life, creativity and dreams, growth, humor, hard work, beauty of the earth, blossoms, contemplation, and delight.”
–Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB, author of The Song of the Seed
“Robert Benson reminds us of what we too often forget–that the ground we walk upon is sacred. With the creative eye of a novelist and the playfulness of a poet, he tutors us in the art of really knowing the place where we live and celebrating the wonders in our own backyards.”
–Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, coauthors of Spiritual Literacy and directors of SpiritualityandPractice.com
More Praise for Previous Books by Robert Benson
“Benson’s tone remains chatty and down-to-earth, and the analogies he draws hit the mark ....”
–The New York Times Book Review
“Benson writes mellifluously with original insights and welcome humor .... [He] captures a world in which time slows down and material things become of less importance .... Charming and elegantly written . . . that rare gift, a thought-provoking record of his own spiritual quest .... Willa Cather’s phrase, ‘They will be done in art as it is in heaven’ could serve as an epigraph to (his) fine work.”
“The author’s language is graceful and his ideas graced ....”
–American Benedictine Review
“A joy to read ... so personal that the reader will feel he knows Robert Benson as an old friend. It is disappointing to awaken from the text and realize otherwise .... The characters and locations ... become a meditation and talisman for a deeper existence.”
“In looking at his own life with candor and hope, Robert Benson helps us to look at our own. His words have the ring of truth.”
–Frederick Buechner, acclaimed author of more than 30 novels and non-fiction books, including his latest, Secrets in the Dark
“An eloquent, warmhearted guide to enriching our lives ....”
“Benson’s deceptively sneaky storytelling sneaks up on you. His style ... a fusion of gentleness, raw truth, and quiet power.”
–Nikki Grimes, award-winning author of Bronx Masquerade
“Robert’s Benson’s prose delights the ear like poetry .... He gently guides readers toward a life in which simple duties take on divine significance.”
–Liz Curtis Higgs, award-winning, best-selling author of more than 25 novels and books, including her latest, Embrace Grace
“Refreshingly candid, funny, and deeply serious.”
“A sort of contemplative bask .... This memoir is like a beach towel left on the cabana clothesline, lifting in the tropical breeze, calling less attention to itself than to the prevailing winds which point one wise man toward another way home.”
–The Nashville Scene
“He sows broadly and deeply, a universal read.”
“[Benson’s] easy prose, artful story, and theological sensitivity combine to invite us ... to the Story.”
“Again and again, Robert Benson speaks to my heart.”
–Luci Shaw, writer-in-residence, Regent College, and author of numerous books and eight volumes of poetry, including her latest, What the Light Was Like
“A kind of sanctified eavesdropping .... Because of Benson’s courage and honesty, we hear and learn.”