Trees (and gardens) are on my mind this fortnight.
Liz Young, fellowshipper and worshipper at St Francis Church, and enthusiastic appreciator of all things pastoral, writes, “As I counted the number of trees around my garden this week, I found that, twenty years ago, I had planted twenty different native species and varieties: four different pohutakawa from the Pacific (Lord Howe Island, Hawaii, the Kermadecs and Tahiti) and sixteen different New Zealand native species. As I expressed this with some pride to my brother in Canada, it occurred to us that in the garden that we grew up in, a centuries old ‘monastic’ house near Glastonbury Abbey, they had planted ten different English species there. The chicken run in which I played was under a yew and the swing was hung from a walnut tree. Impressive to me, but I was awed to read in JT Salmon’s book of NZ trees to learn that New Zealand, with its more temperate climate, has more than a hundred different species of tree. Thanks be to God the creator.”
Speciation is a fascinating topic that I won’t go in to, but few of us would be so blasé as not to recognise with wonder and awe the huge range and variety and complexity of plants around us here in the Coromandel. Without even reaching for a microscope (which I don’t have anyway, so I’ll change the image …) Without even leaving my seat, I can count ten different types of tree beyond my window, of multifarious shapes and colours and design. They’re nearly all green, but a closer squint brings notice that they are ten different shades of green. Awesome. No two species are the same, and, actually, if you look really closely, with or without a microscope, you’ll observe that every leaf on every tree is different.
I’m moved to muse languidly and perhaps not so insightfully that trees are amazing. Plants (and animals) are amazing. And gardens – nature generally – all amazing. Thanks be to God the creator, plagiarising Liz’s (hopefully non-copyrighted) line.
Which reminds me: there’s heaps about trees and gardens in the Bible; it’s a general theme, if you care to look for it. In Genesis 1 we’re already in a garden (with some rather strange trees and a talking serpent), and in Revelation 22 we’re again in a (very different sort of a) garden: one with a “river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing … on each side of the river [stands] the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city …”
And in between that first and last chapter, gardens pop up all over the place, most dramatically and compellingly in Gethsemane, the night before Jesus’s crucifixion.
Thematic, yes. Fanciful? Allegorical?
Maybe to some. But gardens are clearly important to and valued by the Creator, and we carry a hint and shadow of that value in our own chests as we look on his creation around us and marvel.
Liz Y and Ken F