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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Garden (09/07/06)

TITLE: My Garden Paradise
By geoff anderson


When I was eleven, a Tudor estate in the next county from us was sold off in lots, the manor house itself being divided into apartments. My parents bought the old coach house. The lot included the walled garden which had once fed everyone on the estate. For me this garden would be a glorious teacher for the next five years. I use the word ‘glorious’ advisedly, because the garden taught me about the Glory of God in His Creation.

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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This article has been read 1155 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 09/14/06
This is gorgeous--I was particularly taken with the bushes that smelled of tomcats. That's the sort of sensory detail that you have throughout this piece--the snap of certain vegetables, the other aromas, tastes, sights--it's a very descriptive piece, without falling into adjective abuse.

Awesome word choices; this piece begs to be read aloud in the backgroud of a slide show showing all these beautiful garden treasures.
Judy Anderson09/15/06
Wow! You have a gift for the tastes, smells and sounds of life and a gardening lesson to boot! This is a treasure.
Jan Ross09/16/06
Great work! Your descriptions are so well crafted ... very good indeed! :)
Judy Burford09/19/06
Your descriptive inclusions of so many fruits and vegetables are amazing. You must garden yourself to have this feel for things of the earth. I got hungry reading it!
Jen Davis09/20/06
What a fantastic place you have described so beautifully. I don't know if I've ever seen an artichoke plant before, but now I feel as if I have. "...a boxer's training ball on a flexible stalk..." This piece is an outstanding lesson in descriptive writing and the use of sensory language. I liked the idea of writing about the groundwork that God does in our lives. That would be interesting material to expand on. Thank you for taking us along on a tour of your garden paradise.
Suzanne R09/21/06
This is like a 3-D painting ... deeper and richer than a painting even. I loved the aside about the skull being revealed as a conche eventually - LOL. You also brought home a good lesson for the reader. Well done.
Edy T Johnson 09/21/06
A coach house and high-walled garden! I cannot imagine such a real estate find. Sounds like my dream home. What a life that must have been, your abundant grocery store right outside the door. You describe it so well that you make me hungry. And I love the application you make to your spiritual life groundwork. Thank you for this enjoyable read!