I can’t believe it’s only mid-May. It feels as if we have had a full summer already: the cool temperature and overcast sky today must surely be heralding autumn…?! It’s all the more marked because we had m-o-n-t-h-s of long, hard winter and enduring through the consistently freezing cold days trying to keep warm. But then sometime in February everything simply !burst! into bloom and Spring broke upon us. Within what seemed a few short weeks the temperature soared and the delightful summer weather followed close behind, as though holding onto the vernal coat-tails. As Martin always says, “everything is happening at once so time can’t be doing its job properly!”
We saw this in France: I couldn’t believe my eyes! There were tulips and
roses in flower at the same time! February and June had met and kissed each other in April! Apparently the roses do normally flower a month earlier (ie May rather than England’s June) in Brittany because it is further south and a few degrees warmer than Britain. But even so, in April, to see spring and summer blooms out together all over a city garden was mind-blowing for the gardener in me 🙂
The downside of the acceleration is that all the lily of the valley that the French use to mark 1st May by giving each other posies and pots of les muguets, had flowered and died a few weeks before. And the glut of strawberries ripening at once in the south and cherries growing on the trees months too soon means there will simply not be any fruit later in the year… The farmers are muttering that terrible word: ‘drought’.
Beyond ‘gardener’s world’ we’ve also seen the seasonal rhythm in the countryside on our car journeys in Britain and France this month. Wide open spaces with trees coming into leaf, lambs in the pastures, white-flowered hawthorn hedges lining the route, fields turning from brown to green to gold: all symbolic of the wonderful panoramas as we journey along the dual- carriageways and winding lanes of life. I am finding great healing in observing nature that ‘is warm to the gaze’. As the poet Edwin Thomas says, ‘now I might be happy as the earth is beautiful’, as he goes on to list the ‘violet and rose, harebell and snowdrop at their season due – and gorse that has no time not to be gay’ (the poem is actually about/called October!) Natural beauty is wonderful and the peace and quiet we have enjoyed both on land and by the sea has been like medicine, the sunshine like the caress of God. Yet Thomas is actually bemoaning the fact that his mood is not in time or in tune with the rotations of the earth – and so often that is true. We can easily feel desolate in high summer or perfectly warm and content in mid-winter.
But I think perhaps my feelings are aligned just now. The abundance of nature and multiplicity of flowers all-glorious at once in that Quimperois garden really spoke to my heart. Through the events in our household in recent weeks there has been a major shift in the winter-long patterns and routines. Martin’s 2 months off and Jessica’s arrival have freed me up in new ways – you could say that winter has given way to warmth in our lives. We’ve even had an amazing ‘summer holiday’ – with perfect summer weather, sunbathing and swimming in the sea – over the Easter period! Unbelievably we have still more summer – and more holidays! – to come. So we are indeed very blessed… perhaps a bit overwhelmed, but (as Sue would say) abundantly and lavishly blessed!
Although there is still much of the desert about our experience, it is as if the promise of Isaiah 41 is making itself known:
‘I will turn the desert into pools of water and the parched ground into springs. I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set pines in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the LORD has done this…’ Isaiah 41v18-20
There is not just one type of tree, but a whole variety, growing together. This Gardener is not restrained – where His water flows life springs up in fullness and colour, even in the dried up wastelands His Spring comes. Make no mistake, this is still a desert without the water: it’s the water that brings life. Our lives are barren underneath, but in the same way that the low tide reveals the fruit of the seashore, there can be a fruitfulness about this desert time when the Living Water is able to flow through it.
As Isaiah promises a few chapters later on, ‘The Lord will guide you continually: He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail’ Isaiah 58v11