On unexpected surprises

As many of you know, a couple of months ago we moved both geographical area and house – both significant changes. Or, much more importantly for me, we moved gardens.

The garden at the old house had been a challenge at 80ft in length and on a slope. But kind friends giving us plants, a lot of hard work and battling bindweed meant by the time we left, it was giving us genuine pleasure, not least from having a pond which although recent was already home to newts and a frog. Sadly, it was unclear until the last minute if we would have anywhere to live initially so the plants, treasured and with memories attached, had to be left and the newts will hopefully fend for themselves.

The new garden is different. It is very much smaller – and flat. Due to what my very kind consultant calls ‘severe’ arthritis, which means I can neither bend much nor kneel, this is important as at least in part of the plot the plan is to build raised beds so I can continue to garden and - importantly – add colour and wildlife-friendly plants as the garden has been neglected for quite some time and consists of borders of very overgrown hedges, and lacklustre evergreen shrubs. And ivy. A lot of ivy, which had before we had already arrived successfully demolished much of the aging greenhouse.

To create the haven we crave will take several years and a lot of hard work. So today I tackled one small section, underneath the shrubs on the back fence, which will stay as, together with the feeders which were the first thing I unpacked, they attract a lot of small birds into the garden from the nearby wooded area. I was joined a couple of feet away by one of our robins, cocking his head to one side to regard me with interest and ‘twittering’ rather than singing, as if in conversation.

In all honesty, I had no expectations other than to tidy hedge trimmings which had been left and start to cut back some of the unwanted intruders, the thugs of the plant world which had thrived on the fact that, through no fault of the previous elderly occupant, nothing had been done apart from basic cutting back. Fortunately I am by default a gentle gardener, so imagine my surprise when, removing some of the undergrowth and browning clippings, there was not, as I expected, bare soil, but bulbs peeping up. Many were curious shapes where they were trying to find light through the debris, but there they were, scores of them, species yet undetermined but bringing the promise of spring colour just where I had least expected it and encouraging me to persist in the slow transformation.

Now God most often speaks to me through the ordinary, practical aspects of life and no doubt the journey with this new garden will feature frequently in these blogs in the months to come. What I was reminded of today was a verse from Isaiah 45: I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.These have been dark times, and despite more hopeful signs, we are not quite there yet, and even when we are through the worst, there will be a need to process the trauma which has been buried over the past two years in the necessity of simply keeping going. Darkness can be terrifying and disorienting. At times though, as those emerging shoots reminded me, something can be growing in the darkest of times. Sometimes we can glimpse it, sometimes not, but because of God’s great love and infinite mercy, there may be treasures that we are yet to discover.

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