The relationship between ‘doing’ and ‘being’ - the activist and contemplative - is a dynamic that may not be immediately obvious when thinking about Quiet Gardens...
This book seems to flow from Graham’s love of the natural environment and personal experience of God in the landscape. The evocative descriptions transport the reader to the different landscapes (such as mountain, forest, desert, garden, sea) explored in each chapter. I defy anyone to read of the coastal train journey into Scotland without hearing the waves and the call of the oyster catcher! As befits an ecologist, there are webs of interconnecting topics for each landscape type.
We learn about landscape in the Bible as places for encounter with God or as metaphor or parable whether in the Psalms; Old Testament narrative; or the New Testament, including the life and teaching of Jesus. Throughout history, landscapes have had spiritual significance; saints, writers, poets and artists have been inspired by natural places. Extracts and poems from Thomas Merton, William Blake, a fourth century pilgrim, early saints and others – some well-known, others less so – are scattered like jewels through the book. I found myself pausing to appreciate them as one might stop to fully take in a view. This book invites contemplation and prayerful thought but also discussion and activity. Connections between people and landscape can reflect society’s values. Issues relating to land use, climate change and social justice are also raised.
This small book contains an immense amount of material for personal or group use. The chapters could form the basis for fruitful group discussion. Just one or two of the ideas or quotations from a chapter would give a
focus thought or challenge for a quiet day. Those familiar with Quiet Gardens may especially appreciate the chapter on gardens. They may find passages which chime with their own experience or bring a new perspective – perhaps to their own Gardens of Eden, or Gethsemene.
Above all this book reminds us to be attentive to God in the landscapes of our daily lives and to ‘become attuned to encounter God’s shadow in unexpected and surprising ways’.
Mary-Anne Hall, Administrator, Quiet Garden Trust
Graham B Usher is a Patron of the Quiet Garden Movement