Monday, July 23, 2012

...on the other side of the hedge

Let's be honest, we're nothing without our dreams. 
Our dreams are what we are.
They're not pie in the sky. They are real. 
They motivate us, encourage us, 
and nurture us toward a better tomorrow. 
Our hopes are as important to our health and well-being as our blood. 
Without hope we merely wait to die.
Cap'n Fatty Goodlander

On afternoon walks, I sometimes pass the hedge in this photo. Tall and deep, squared off with precision, the green wall reminds me of a favorite childhood book, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The main character, Mary, born in India to wealthy English parents, neither of whom wanted her, is sent to Yorkshire, England to live with a widowed uncle after a cholera epidemic in India kills everyone in Mary's household except the nine-year-old girl. A sullen child, she is banished to two rooms in the huge house. When she learns about her late aunt who grew roses in a secluded garden, Mary begins to heal, emotionally and physically. She is fascinated by the secret garden and mystified by strange cries in the house which no one else claims to hear. One day, while exploring the grounds,  she finds a key to the abandoned garden. Later she discovers the source of the cries. As the discoveries - within and without - mount, healing transforms one character after another.

My fascination with Yorkshire began with The Secret Garden. This large historic English county is home to cities and market towns, to rolling hills crisscrossed by stone walls and fields of sheep and cattle. Home to the moors that feature prominently in Burnett's book as well as those of the Bronte sisters who lived in Yorkshire along with many well-known poets and writers. Home to Carole, my ether friend, of whom I am thinking this morning.

Between the hedges, University of Georgia fans know, is where the battle is fought. Lush green boxwoods line both sides of the school's famous athletic field. One wit described the large stadium: "When you're near it, you'll hear it. On game day it becomes the state's third largest city." Football in our southland is legend. We turn out to tailgate with friends before the teams take the field. For sixty minutes - plus time-outs and commercial delays - twenty-two men (at a time) fight it out. Armed with strategy, directed by coaches, patrolled by referees, the players square off and the plan unfolds...or disintegrates. In full view of thousands - or millions, if televised - one team claims victory and partisan fans celebrate, or mourn, much as if they had played the game themselves.

Most days, however, I can be found outside the hedges without a clearly defined game plan and a paucity of coaches and cheerleaders. In the quiet, though, filled with dreams of what might be on the other side, I'm open to visions and ideas and notions that transcend my imagination. A holy place where the moment intersects a reality I cannot see.  Anne Lamott's words come to mind: "I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remember something...that the opposite of faith is not doubt,  but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns. I do not understand the mystery of grace, only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us."

Whatever is on the other side of the hedge can bring a healing. I rest on this. Perhaps not with this thought. But I rest on it and claim it. In Burnett's book, inside the old gated wall lay an untended wilderness which Mary began to tend. The garden grew her just as surely as she revived it. Others came into the circle. Carole, we both stand beside hedges, separated by thousands of miles. But we have been brought into the fold, my Yorkshire sister.  Burnett is speaking: "Much more surprising things can happen to any one who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in a agreeable determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place. 'Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow'."

Sending love and light, hope and dreams, Carole...and this promise:

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9


Carole said...

Thank you for this post. Your words are timely and comforting. I fell in love with The Secret Garden as a child, at the time living in south east England, with Yorkshire seemingly so mysterious and 'northern' and so far away! Little did I know that one day I would bring up my own children in this beautiful county!

I very much like Anne Lamott's words, they echo my own heart and experience, and I am drawing strength from Philippians 4 v13 'I can do all things through Him who strengthens me'. Right now for me that means I can deal with whatever needs to be faced and dealt with.

We may be separated by thousands of miles dear friend, but your kindness and your love seem very near to me. Thank you!

Celeste said...

We both draw our peace from God, rest in his constant love rather than circumstance...we are, indeed, sisters in Christ. Much love, my lovely Yorkshire sis.