As a visitor to the Penshurst garden, Dorothy Frances Gurney wrote a verse which contains the following well known line:
‘One is nearer God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth.’
It leads me to that other oft quoted line from our 1970 Chapter:
‘To contemplate his Heart we have no need to turn away from this earth,
the home of God made man……..’
Gardening does take me to the heart of the matter: simplicity and integrity. A cowslip is a cowslip, is a cowslip, an onion is an onion is an onion and a cedar tree is what it is and doesn’t need to try to be anything different. A blemished rose cannot hide her petals anymore than a windswept hedge can manage to grow straight. We talk about care for the earth. Gardening is a relationship with the earth and all that grows in her and like any relationship it requires time and attention, being patient, encouraging, trusting and observant and knowing when to turn a blind eye!
After the 6th day of creation, ’God saw all that he had made and it was very good.’ A garden isn’t just one flower, it is a mass of flowers, shrubs, trees and maybe vegetables, it is the whole range which is needed to support and enhance each other and create the biodiversity essential for our ecosystem; for insects and the wind to pollinate, for food for caterpillars and slugs and rabbits and…….A garden is a sacred space.
My father worked as a display manager in a large department store and at home he continued to work arranging the ornaments and the books in the bookcase in a colour co-ordinated way – not according to author or subject!
In a garden a flower or a shrub don’t necessarily grow or stay growing in the direction I would wish, unlike a piece of cloth or an ornament on a shelf and that is the challenge but also the gift of nature. She cannot be controlled and has things to show you beyond your wildest dreams. Whatever designs or ideas I want to put in place, nature has a way of doing her own thing, particularly when you live in the country and are surrounded by wildlife who love to feed on the delights they think you have prepared just for them. Nature cannot be completely tamed or controlled - that overarching bough can be its beauty whereas the clump of nettles in a flowerbed can be frustrating. There are always surprises that appear after years of hidden/dormant growth, as we discovered earlier in the year with a profusion of daffodils buried beneath conifers and a caravan in a woodland.
In many ways I’m not really a true gardener because I don’t grow much from seed and take only a few cuttings. I am more of a garden decorator and have a series of ‘shop’ windows as my display areas. But the garden is a place of contemplation for me because it reminds me to be open to the whole, to the wider picture as well as the detail, and I find that I have to remain vulnerable before each moment of it that unfolds and resist the urge to control it.
As Richard Rohr says:
“Contemplation is an exercise in keeping heart and mind spaces open long enough for the (mind)
to see other hidden material.”
Steph Romaine rscj