I love gardens. At least, I love the idea of a garden. A garden that someone else has created and sweated over is, I think, the best type of garden.
I have heard it said the best type of recreational boat is one that someone else owns and pays for, where you are invited along for the ride. In the same way, I would argue the best type of garden is one that is there for you to enjoy; to look, to touch, to smell, and be transported from cares. Successful watering, weeding, pruning, re-potting, grafting are all pretty much mysteries to me. I habitually drown plants by overwatering, especially potted ones. I pull weeds and inevitably leave the root intact in the ground, determined to throw up ever more and thicker offspring. I prune with gusto, most often leaving a bare and sorry stump. Are you getting a sense of where I am coming from?
Well, yes, I admit there might be a small element of laziness on my part. Good honest outdoor labour is no doubt beneficial but there seem to be so many reasons to put it off until another time. Wandering idly through a garden or sitting under a tree is another matter entirely. Finding beauty in the arrangement of branches and flowers is quite easy and, perhaps unsurprisingly, comes naturally to me. Kneeling and using garden tools, mulching the soil and spraying insecticide does not.
Somehow, in spite of myself, I have managed to create my own small garden in our front courtyard. Early days yet but fingers crossed, so far so good. Cucumbers and beans have sprouted and soon will be competing for space with the nasturtium leaves and the chillie bushes.
The passionfruit seedlings seem to be starved of sunlight. In a flash of brilliance, I planted them under the sole tree in the garden, hoping they would use its branches as a natural trellis. Oh dear, deja vu. Maybe if I prune the tree branches?
I also have a dwarf lemon bush in a pot but in light of my track record, I don’t hold out too much hope for it.
With memories of previous holidays in Tuscany, we purchased an outdoor table and two chairs. Now we can pretend to be sitting in a Tuscan courtyard, waiting for the village girl to fetch us olives and wine. It sort of works, if we concentrate. But there is a lot more to this garden. It is an extraordinary place.
Sitting in the courtyard in the late afternoon the heat of the sun is gone. There is a serenity beyond the everyday. As I settle back in a chair and the breeze tumbles over my face and arms I arrive in a different dimension. Time collapses. Thoughts range widely. Memories return and connections are made. I feel I am in the midst of the natural order of things and God is close. Prayer comes naturally, in no way forced or required it suggests itself to me. Words are unnecessary. I don’t know why these spiritual caresses come to me at these times and in this place. I know where they come from, but not why, and why here.
I read somewhere that the Celts used to speak of ‘thin’ places where separation between Heaven and Earth was vanishingly small. In these places a person experienced flashes or glimpses of Heaven. Remote monasteries and mountaintops were often known to be ‘thin’ places.
In its own way maybe our courtyard garden is proving to be one of the ‘thin’ places.