Thursday, 28 February 2013

Constant conversation

Although the Romans planted large formal gardens in the 1st century AD, the Anglo-Saxons seemed to think fighting was more important than gardening.  Not until the Middle Ages did small gardens become an important feature of English life. In monasteries of the Middle Ages, monks would tend kitchen gardens for food and medicine. Contact between monasteries meant that improved techniques of cultivation were developed, and knowledge of all aspects of planting grew quickly. The monks took great care in the layout of these gardens. The paths would sometimes be laid out in the shape of a cross, to remind the monks of the death of Christ. The formal paths encouraged the monks to walk slowly in a mood of quiet reflection.  Monastic gardens were not only places for reflection; they were also places for hard work. The hard work of gardening was not meant to be easy. Indeed, the daily toil and struggle of gardening was a form of prayer and worship towards God. In my small garden I don’t have paths laid out in the shape of a cross, but I do understand how hard work can be a form of prayer and worship to God. Brother Lawrence’s book ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’ talks about living in such a way that you can continue a constant conversation with God. He says, "it is not necessary for being with God to be always at church. We may make an oratory of our heart wherein to retire from time to time to converse with Him in meekness, humility, and love. Every one is capable of such familiar conversation with God, some more, some less. He knows what we can do." For us gardeners this constant conversation with God often takes place in the garden, particularly because meekness, humility and love are somehow encouraged by hard work.  

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