Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening: How I Learned the Unexpected Joy of a Green Thumb and an Open Heart to read.

The author, Carol Wall, is a contributor to Southern Living magazine, and writes of a world centered in Virginia. At first glance, I thought that this memoir would detail how Carol viewed gardening and if she was embracing it as a new avocation. The focus in this book, however, is not on the “whys” and “how-tos” of gardening, but rather it regards gardening as the center of all things, and as the bridge of friendship between two people.

Carol is busy teaching at the local school, and she realizes that the “natural state” of her yard is no longer attractive –  in fact, when compared to her neighbor’s property, it is a disgrace! She and her husband did not have an interest in trimming the magnolias or cultivating the flowers. As she writes: “I never liked to get my hands dirty. This was one reason that our yard looked so sad. But there were other reasons, too—bigger reasons that were much harder to confront than brittle grass…” [p.1]

A chance encounter with the neighbor’s gardener, Giles Owita, impacts Carol’s life drastically – but in such incremental steps that the reader is carried along in her story of cancer survival, friendship, and embracing the beauty of working with flowers and plants. Mister Owita’s conversations with the author will make you pause and think differently as well. Each chapter of this book is so beautifully written, with introspection as carefully tended as the flowers the gardener cultivates.  Carol develops a deep friendship with the Kenyan gardener who came to America for a better life for his family. As I uncovered Owita’s story I was captured as Carol was:

My gaze fell on a single, promising blade of grass. Giles Owita was only slightly out of focus in the background. Maybe it truly was part of his mission in life, to work on each and every plant he encountered and make it healthier. And maybe that wasn’t so absurd. What if this elegant Kenyan man with his knack for flowers was part of a larger plan for God’s work in the world? Would I dare to thwart that effort? [p61]

You would not want to miss this poignant story that will be released next month. As the snow continues to fall outside my window right now, it gives me pause to reflect on the truly important things in life, not just the immediacy of shoveling the snow that has amassed on the sidewalk and driveway again. Spring means new beginnings, a fresh start. There will be more to explore in future posts on plants and gardening, with a practical guide, but for now, think positive!



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