My flatmates and I have developed this great love of our garden. A couple of nights ago, we sat on the deck, on our various bean bags, ate steak sandwiches, drank berry smoothies, and read the first book of the Chronicles of Narnia. It was a beautiful moment where three of us could look out on to our piece of art that we worked with some difficulty to create, and nurture.
Last year, we decided to experiment with gardening. It was in a fleeting moment that we arrived home one afternoon inspired by someone elses vegetable patch, that we decided we were going to create our own garden. So we bought so many different varieties of seed, and planted them wherever we could find space. Our working of the soil was merely pulling weeds out and expecting that it might be ok. We may have mixed compost in but it’s likely that we didn’t. And funnily enough, we didn’t produce nearly as much as any of us would have hoped. We got so excited about everything and when nothing came, it was a huge disappointment.
This year, we did more to prepare and less to talk ourselves up and get super excited until we started reaping the benefits. Before our strawberry plants got attacked by bugs, we were producing punnet loads of most delicious strawberries. We’ve eaten radishes, carrots, courgettes, lettuces and Chinese cabbages from our garden. And it’s been good.
Pouring work into the garden makes me think lots of God, creation and C. S. Lewis’ first story from the Chronicles of Narnia, “The Magician’s Nephew”. I think about how the beauty of Aslan’s song breathed life into a world of ponds and puddles. I think of how similar that is to God’s story. And I think about it in relation to our own stories. I think of how difficult nurture can be, but in the end, good. I did a shoddy job of maintaining our tomato plants this year. Usually, I’ve been quite quick to pull the laterals out when I’ve needed to, but this year, I let the tomatoes go crazy. It’s silly really because it means our tomato plants grew way too many branches which means less nutrients for fruit. So I had to start pruning and ended up losing a few potential tomatoes because of it. But if I didn’t lose them, the whole plant mightn’t do so well. The same happened with the grapevine.
And I think lots about the nurturing of our relationships, particularly our relationship with God. I’m reminded of uncle Andrew from “The Magician’s Nephew”. He manages to be drawn into the world of Narnia as it is being created. He hears the song of creation and he’s afraid, while Polly and Diggory hear it and are filled with awe and beauty. Polly and Diggory hear the beauty of the animals around them and soak in the terrifying and yet wonderful persona of Aslan, while uncle Andrew is actually terrified and hears nothing but terrible roars from the lion’s mouth. It reminds me of how out of tune we can be to God’s voice. We can be ever hearing but lack understanding. And we can misinterpret what he’s really trying to say to us or what he’s really about.
“…I cannot tell that to this old sinner, and I cannot comfort him either; he has made himself unable to hear my voice. If I spoke to him, he would hear only growlings and roarings. Oh Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good!”
And I love this beautiful picture of Christ-like empathy:-
“But please, please – won’t you – can’t you give me something that will cure mother?” Up til then [Diggory] had been looking at the Lion’s great front feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down hear his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Diggory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his mother than he himself.
“My son, my son,” said Aslan. “I know. Grief is great. Only you and I in this land now that yet. Let us be good to one another.”
It reminds me of that beautiful picture in John’s gospel. Jesus goes to visit his friends Martha, Mary and their brother Lazarus. Lazarus has fallen ill and the girls have sent for Jesus to come and help heal their brother. So Jesus comes, but he comes late and Lazarus is already dead and entombed. Mary falls at his feet weeping, and Jesus weeps too.
I love sunshine, rain, clouds, stars, imagination, creation, creativity, seeing beauty in junk, C. S. Lewis’s literary genius, friends, family, and love.