Kate and Judy have been running the Quiet Garden at Moray Cottage, in Sussex, UK, for nearly four years. They decided that they didn’t want to stop because of social isolation, and on the contrary wanted to continue because of the value it has, especially at the moment, for those living alone, or without a garden, or both. They share below two sessions they have run so that you could give it a go too!
On 1st April, when we would normally have run our monthly Quiet Garden, we ran a Virtual Quiet Garden on WhatsApp.
This is one of the pieces we shared in our WhatsApp meeting:
There will come a time….. By Revd. Douglas Holt.
“There will come a time when we laugh out loud, and when tears of joy will flow and flow and flow… There will come a time, when we visit friends and talk again, face to face.
There will come a time, when the children run around and bump into each other and get lifted back unto their feet by friends and friends’ parents.
There will come a time when we love the Chinese people and learn to value their traditions as much as they value ours.
There will come a time when we quietly, invisibly perhaps, bow to every doctor, nurse and NHS staff member as we pass them in the street.
There will come a time when we share a meal with old friends around their table or ours.
There will come a time when those nervous looks will have disappeared, and we no longer listen out for a new cough.
There will come a time when the fortresses we as individuals and nations have built around ourselves will have fallen down and we shall wonder what purpose they ever fulfilled.
There will come a time when being ill is not an experience shared with half the world at the same time.
There will come a time when the cold horrors, the frozen fears around our hearts every night will have dissolved.
There will come a time when we re-capture some of the warm, old fears which have been friends for half a lifetime.
There will come a time when all kinds of fear will seem quite redundant.
There will come a time when waking up and feeling anxious no longer occur at the same moment.
There will come a time when we work in comfort back in the office, on the farm, in the distribution centre…. And we shall LOVE it.”
We divided the above passage into paragraphs for discussion.
The subject of the story learns that although he can appear to have things “measured up” and under control, in fact the river flows its own course and its own reality. Its only after this insight has been arrived at can we see the river of life for what it really is, the source of life for all creation, and not something we can ever package up for our own purposes. And the raison d’etre of the river is always to strive for the greatest possible fullness of life for all creation. Only when this is our desire too, will we find ourselves swimming in harmony with the deep currents of life and of God.
Prayer can flow like a river, following a sometimes-winding course reflecting the terrain of our everyday lives, not subject to all our plans and programmes, but finding its own natural direction. Do you feel comfortable letting our prayer flow in this way, not knowing perhaps at any given time exactly ‘how’ you are praying?
Reflecting on the course of your life in terms of a river is a prayer in itself, try drawing or describing in words, to yourself, or to a trusted friend, how your river has flowed and is continuing to flow. In what ways is your river bringing life to the world beyond yourself? In what ways are the rivers of others’ lives nourishing you? Can you risk being “out of your depth” and letting your focus shift from yourself and how you are doing, to the river and the life it is bringing, recognising yourself as a part of that flow of life? The river never stands still. It has to continually let go of yesterday in order to bring life to tomorrow. Is there anything you need to let go of, in order that you might be free to keep on becoming the person God is dreaming you to be? A river is always part of a greater cycle, and our prayer, too, is always part of a greater conversation, a single note in a great symphony. The river remembers your story and all our stories and carries their treasure with it to its destiny in the ocean of God’s love. And even as it flows it calls us to be where we are, and who we are, in the only moment we have, the eternal present moment.
After the silence we shared our experiences and what we had gained from the session and the silence and we ended with the Irish blessing.
This went quite well with six participants, but obviously we could only write to each other, and send pictures, but couldn’t see or talk to each other.
So on 15th of April we tried a Zoom Virtual Quiet Garden.
Unfortunately, not everyone has Zoom or WhatsApp but there were seven of us and it went very well.
During this time of isolation, we plan to meet fortnightly rather than monthly as people very much value the opportunity to talk and see each other and have our silence together. We began with a reading from Judy from ‘Finding God in a Leaf’ by Brian Grogan SJ.
Pp46-47 P 46 “The biblical texts tell us to ‘till and keep’ the garden of the world (Gen2:15). Tilling refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while ‘keeping’ means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving. Gardens are important in scripture, and in the Bible, they offer revelations for our ecologically- endangered times. Eden is described in all its beauty: God pulls out all the stops for humankind, and walks there in the cool of the evening, hoping to meet with Adam and Eve. This garden – paradise in Greek – is given into their care but they soon mismanage it by plucking fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. In this sense we might say that our ‘original sin’ is to spoil the handiwork of God in nature. But it was in a garden that Mary of Magdala met her risen Lord in the disguise of a gardener, and our ruptured relationship is radically healed. The Lord still walks in our earthly garden and wishes to encounter us there, so out you go!”
We then had our usual check in as we normally do and talked about what we individually would like from the two-hour silence. Somebody mentioned during this time, the lovely poem ‘Consider the flowers’ that says that ‘one is nearer Gods heart in a garden, than anywhere else on earth’. Whilst others were talking I managed to find a book called ‘Seasons of Grace’ by Ann Lewin, as I remembered she talked about this poem in a section for use in Quiet Gardens.
‘Consider the flowers’ by Dorothy France’s Gurney
“The kiss of the sun for pardon
The song of the birds for mirth
One is nearer Gods heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.”
Interestingly, Ann Lewin says this isn’t true and its bad theology. What is true is that we often feel closer to God. There is peace and refreshment in being alone and being alongside the growing life of a garden or the countryside, which often contrasts with the busyness of ordinary life. But that is a city dwellers view – country people know that there is a lot of hard work behind the tranquillity. And, actually, any gardener knows that there is a conflict in the struggle to survive within all growth. And there are always the slugs – a great theological challenge to town – and country dwellers alike. (p202)
Judy then carried on with the earlier reading ‘Finding God in a Leaf’; P 47
A Civilisation of love is everyone’s dream.
It is also the dream of God. It was the dream of Jesus, who commanded us to love one another as he loves us. It is the task of the Holy Spirit – with our participation – to bring about this civilisation of love. God’s dream cannot be otherwise, since God is love, and all relationships emanating from God are relationships of love.
We are invited to enter the divine vision of a world in harmony with one another, where all feel wanted and included, where everything is shared, and each rejoices in the uniqueness of those around them.”
Before we went into silence, I offered another poem from Ann Lewin, called ‘Compassion’ from ‘Watching for the Kingfisher’ because I felt it was very apt for today and our current situation.
Compassion By Ann Lewin
“Suffering, sharing the pain
Knowing within oneself some of the cost.
Spurred to activity, one hand outstretched out to those who suffer,
One stretched out to God who suffers too.
Nothing sentimental: The sharp edge of love, Like crucifixion.”
We then went into silence after praying the quiet garden prayer. Following our silence for two hours we all managed to get back together again on zoom. We each fed back on how we had used the two hours silence and what we had had learnt/gained from it.
One participant read us the lovely poem ‘I wandered lonely as a Cloud’ – she was reminded of it by the daffodils in her garden .
I shared a prayer from the from ‘Stations of the Resurrection’, the Road to Emmaus, the sixth station.
“We praise you and we bless you our risen Lord Jesus,
King of glory, for you are with us, even when our eyes are closed to your companionship.
Walk this day alongside the disconsolate and the despairing, open their eyes to your gentle
illumination, and let their hearts burn within them at your invisible presence.
To you Lord Jesus, walking by our side, be honour and glory now and forever Amen”
We then heard a Native American Indian Lakota – Chief Yellow Lark – 1887 A Lakota Great Spirit Prayer
“Oh, Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the winds and whose breath gives life to all the world, hear me. I am small and weak. I need your strength and wisdom. Let me walk in beauty and make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset. Make my hands respect the things you have made and my ears sharp to hear your voice. Make me wise so that I may understand the things you have taught my people. Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock. Help me seek pure thoughts and act with the intention of helping others. Help me find compassion without empathy overwhelming me. I seek strength, not to be superior to my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy – myself. Make me always ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes, so when life fades, as the fading sunset, my spirit will come to you without shame.”
Judy ended with the following beautiful Irish Blessing.
“May the Blessing of Light be upon you
Light on the outside, light on the inside.
With Gods sunlight shining on you,
May your heart glow with warmth,
Like a turf fire that welcomes friends and strangers alike.
May the Light of the Lord shine from your eyes,
Like a candle in the window, Welcoming the weary traveller.
May the blessing of Gods soft rain be on you,
Falling gently on your head Refreshing your soul with the sweetness of little flowers newly blooming
May the strength of the winds of heaven bless you
Carrying the rain to wash your spirit clean Sparkling after in the sunlight.
May the blessing of Gods earth be on you
And as you walk the roads
May you always have a kind word for those you meet.
May you understand the strength and power of God, in a Thunderstorm and winter
And the quiet beauty of creation
And the calm of a summer sunset
And may you come to realize … that insignificant as you may seem in this great universe
You ARE an important part of Gods plan.
May he watch over you
And keep you safe from harm.”
This can be heard as a song and the link is below.
Blessing at Moray Cottage QG 15.04.20
Source: Musixmatch Songwriters: Phil Coulter An Irish Blessing lyrics © Music & Media Int’l O/b/o Four Seasons Music Ltd., Spirit Catalog Holdings, S.a.r.l., Music & Media Int’l, Inc. This can be found, read by Roma Downey https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wA3Md-4w3gk