Give me my scallop-shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My script of joy, immortal diet,
y bottle of salvation.
My gown of glory, hopes true gauge,
And thus I'll take my pilgrimage.

~Sir Walter Raleigh

A hiker, walking for pleasure, likes to choose between several alluring trails.
The pilgrim desires only the road that leads home.

~Frank W. Boreham

Friday, April 26, 2013

Sisters of the Spade

My first really, truly gardening endeavor was at our first parsonage. Before that I was busy growing children, not plants.

In the annals of British gardening history, parsonage or vicarage gardens are legendary.  

Not so in my U.S. experience.  Generally they consist of an  uninspiring juniper hedge.  If the parsonage is of a certain age, there might be an old lilac. an old rose or two.  Nothing that would appear on a post card.

When we went to our first senior pastorate, the house was a classic shot-gun layout situated on a large corner lot.  It absolutely begged for a garden.

At that time too, I was becoming very interested in herbs, all sorts.  So when the head elder told me the board wanted to give me something special for the house for Mother's Day, I asked for manure and a rototiller.  Next morning the one was delivered, the other provided with workman.  By day's end, all was ready.  As the garden spaces grew to maturity, I was hooked.  Forever after a gardener.

As plantings have been left at every location during the years, I have discovered that incoming pastors and their wives will most likely let things wither and die.  If they don't just pull up and chuck the lot.  I soon had to settle the fact that I plant gardens, I leave beauty.  Because I must.

Only once was it different. That 'once' was a garden - flowers and herbs - around a charming old cottage situated in a mountain pass.  The house was more charming than practical, but the location along with it and the ministry proved one of our happiest times.

When I left that garden, the next pastor and wife also fell in love with the place.  In fact, she too was a lover of all things growing.  She tended my garden well and added to it making it a show place in that little village.

Now, in our new circumstances I share the garden with that former pastor's wife!  It is true, I have three beautiful, brilliant and ever so accomplished daughters.  Only one is a dirt-under-the-finger-nails sort.  So happily we share the same space, house and garden.  These days we are building a new garden together.

Fortunately, we mostly garden in the same style, love the same plants and disallow the same as well.  We don't do yellow except for calendulas and nasturtiums and Welsh poppies.  We don't do orange either, save for those exceptions given. We both love the old cottage garden stalwarts - violets, hollyhocks, foxgloves, peonies, lady's mantle, roses, sweet peas.  We are cultivating those in abundance.

She even, this gardening daughter/sister turned over her herb bed to me.
Wasn't that a thoughtful thing?

We are looking forward to this years' garden.  More than that we are looking forward to taking the occasional pot of tea together in it.

God is good!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Roses, Sweet Peas and Diana Berry

Old-fashioned, time tested, fragrant.  That is what's best in gardens and friendships.
Today, it is friendships that are the focus.  

I've always envied a bit, those people who have in mature years, friendships maintained from school days.  That, alas, has not been my portion. 

Moving much through the years and being a minister's wife made the building of lasting friendships difficult.  It takes a brave woman to be the friend of the pastor's wife in the midst of a congregation.  It takes care and wisdom on both parts to make the relationship worthwhile and lasting.

It has been my joy to have been given two such friends, each from different locations given years apart.  Both are choice and great treasures. Continually.

We have a history shared - the raising of children, then grands, now greats..challenges of church and life..spiritual growth as in 'iron sharpening iron'..of books and gardens..the lot of Life's stuff.

Each of the phases, each of the seasons, has deepened the bond and mutual understanding we share; an amazing, beautiful truth and reality.

Like Dianna Berry to Anne Shirley, we have been and are bosom buddies, kindred spirits.  That matters.  That matters greatly and is the keystone. And the overarching glory is what we have learned and shared together about the ways and wonders of our Great and Faithful God.

These special ladies in my life are represented in my thinking by the rose and sweet pea.  Both these flowers have been in my real gardens since I began gardening. They are always my first choice. But regarding the ladies, the one has always had sweet peas planted by her dear late husband. It was always a contest - who planted their seeds first, who first had blooms.

The other loves roses as I do and has seen to it that I've had lovely David Austens to plant in my recent gardens. A very great gift indeed.

Both of these Treasures, these friends par excellence, in recent days have passed yet another birthday.  With those milestones, I'm reminded of the years of joys - sorrows too - that we have shared.  I wish great and continued blessings on both their dear heads as well as our continued heart and soul connection.

With all this I offer these words from George Eliot which frame the whole of the perfect friendship:

"O the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person;
having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words,
but to pour them all out, just as they are,
chaff and grain together,
knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them,
keep what is worth keeping,
and then, with the breath of kindness,
blow the rest away."

So to you two remarkable and trustworthy Treasures, Nan and Otis, I offer my thanks and thanksgiving for the gift of your love through the years lasting even when miles have separated us.  

We have seen each other through incomparable highs and lows, 
     through green pastures and desert lands, 
          through sunny sparkling days and dark nights of the soul, 
               through laughter and tears manifold.  

You have blessed me beyond words.
I love you also beyond words.
Once more I offer my thanks.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

In Praise of Lovage

Had my first fresh taste of Spring from the garden yesterday. It was chopped new leaves of lovage for a chicken sandwich.  That is one of the incomparable herbal taste treats.

Lovage is an unsung herb, often overlooked in herb garden lists.  Even herbalist and garden author Rob Proctor who I admire and trust in most things, has stated in times past that it is unimportant in an herb garden.  I dare to disagree.

So what it this herb?  It has the flavor of high octane celery.  Celery flavor beyond celery.  It is an essential ingredient- to my mind - for anything chicken especially.  It makes plain broth sing.  A whole bird stuffed with a handful of lovage will be more flavorful and juicy than you can imagine.  In chicken salad, it provides the top note of flavor enhancing all the others.

Lovage is great in beef stew and soups, and according to German cookbooks, essential in lentil dishes as well.  I quite agree.

Fresh leaves wake up a sleepy garden salad with eye opening freshness.

I first discovered lovage when I established my very first herb garden years ago.  To that first garden I added every herb plant I could find.  Many I had never heard of.  Lovage was one of those.

Having spent many years in outback and wilderness parsonages where shops were distant and celery hard to come by,  lovage became a mainstay.  Because it dries well, retaining its flavor,  it can be used year round.

As a plant, it is a back-of-the-border feature as it can become quiet tall.  If left to go to seed, it produces seed heads like dill on steroids.  It dies back completely at first frost only to arrived bigger and better each Spring.

Never have I found dried lovage leaves in any market.  Nor have I encountered fresh in seasonal markets.  Surely, somewhere in the world this happens, just not yet in the Northwest.  Pity.

But I do have my own plant . . have root, will travel!
It is one herb I can't do without.
Just thought you should know!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Come With a Pail

The title is a borrowed thought from John Newton.  Dear John.  He was and is so much more than the  the hymn Amazing Grace which he gave to the world. That would be great enough indeed.  But in  fact he was a faithful parish priest in a pokey little village in Buckinghamshire, England.

As was the habit of most in his time, John was a prolific writer, yes of hymns but also of sermons and journals which have been preserved for us.

One such sermon is based on Revelation 22.17 "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come, and let him that heareth say come.  And let him that is athirst come.  And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely."

Mr. Newton's thought is that when people 'beg wine they come with a small vessel.  When they beg water they go with a pail.'  How appropriate.  When coming to the Fountain, the Water of Life how foolish it is to come seeking  droplets when streams are offered.  What more could we want?  The Fountain is pointed out and we are invited. Not only that, we are encouraged to freely partake.

Our God is never stingy.  No, not in any of His ways, dealings or offers.  The taking falls to us.  Always.

The one who is wise keeps close to this Fountain.

The sad opposite was told by the prophet Jeremiah: "For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living water, and hewed themselves out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water."  [Jeremiah 2.13]

Cisterns hold stored, stagnant water which sits above settled silt and who knows what else.

Why would we ever settle for that when the fresh, the excellent is offered?
Have you ever sipped water from a mountain stream?
It is bubbling and sparkling.  It refreshes as well as quenching thirst.
The same is true of wells that feed from such streams.

This should be our water of choice This Day.
Meet you at The Well!

"All my fresh springs (my source of life and joy) are in Thee."
Psalm 87.7 

Photo: Jon Wornham, Isle of Man