Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Garden (09/07/06)
TITLE: My Garden Paradise
By geoff anderson
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I learned about His bountiful generosity. Every crop was absurdly plentiful. Punnet upon punnet of gooseberries from just half a dozen bushes, the thorns extracting a ransom for their haul, no matter how thick one’s gloves; strawberries and raspberries, which reappeared in greater numbers the more they were picked. There were huge blackcurrant bushes which smelled of tom cats. Being the smallest, I was sent into these miniature forests to harvest the dark fruit, emerging with basketsful and stained fingers.
The many different kinds of apple and pear trees taught me about the great variety in God’s Creation. Gnarled Bramley cookers that were the best for climbing; Cox Pippen, perhaps the finest flavored apple ever grown; Conference pear trees growing like skyscrapers, requiring long-handled pincers to pick each pear – which then took months to ripen on trays in our attic that reeked of fermenting fruit.
All kinds of plum trees grew up the 12ft-high wall. This ancient wall was topped with 2ft-wide flagstones which used to absorb the sun’s heat like firebricks. On late summer afternoons I used to lie atop the wall, not doing anything, just being part of this Eden. In the autumn I would be able to lean over and pluck a purple-ripe Victoria from the topmost branches, being careful where I placed my fingers in case a wasp had got there first. If he had, I would tip him out of his hole onto the wall and laugh as he rolled around, incapable of flying until he’d sobered up!
I was surrounded constantly by the sheer beauty of God’s Creation, the delicate tracery of the redcurrant bunches, which the sun shone through like stained glass; the icy splendor of the sprouts patch – they were easier to snap off in the morning frost; and the fine display of fern when the asparagus went to seed.
There were humble vegetables too – potatoes which I tried not to pierce with the fork when harvesting; beans, runner and broad; cabbage, tough as leather if not picked in time; peas, which I loved shelling – the ‘pop’ when I split the pod, and then the wonderfully organised row of peas, squashed but never complaining, and how sweet they were, eaten fresh from the pod! Onions and their pickling cousins, shallots. My favorite snack was a plate of raw onion and tomato, sprinkled with vinegar.
We had hundreds of tomato plants under glass – eight greenhouses built along the south and west walls. Besides tomatoes, they housed grapes, peaches, nectarines – which botanically are just bald peaches but how different they tasted; and cucumbers in a superheated section where it was hard to breathe. In the sunken rainwater tank in this section was a human skull, barely visible at the bottom, until one summer a drought took the water right down - to reveal it was a conche.
There was a single fig tree, trained to grow over the entrance gate, so one processed through figs on entering – green and hard for so long and then turning deep purple, sharing their inner feast at the slightest pressure; a patch of rhubarb and its big brother horseradish with a kick like its name; salad staples, lettuce and celery – the former scarcely rooted, while the latter ripened white in the deep black soil; and exotic artichoke, for all the world like a boxer’s training ball on a flexible stalk, bouncing back and forth.
Most of us can identify steps along the Way which led to that moment when we committed our lives to the Lord. Sometimes the steps were actions, like our first genuine prayer to God; or events, like a rally; but they may also have been longer periods of time during which groundwork was being done, such as attendance at a church. I believe that living within the embrace of God’s natural Creation, as I did for those five years, was a wondrous example of God's gently impressive groundwork.
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