On Leaving A Gap for Discernment

by Melissa Taft
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by Jeannie Kendall

A couple of months ago, we moved house – a major change as both the property and area are very different from anything we have lived in before. In addition, both my husband and I are now fully retired, and though I know the time was right, I miss the church community where I was a minister a great deal.  We both have plenty to do – I continue to write, he has enough DIY for a century and we are both particularly loving time with our children and grandchildren. But it is an adjustment – which he has made with ease and I am working at.

There was a particular irony, in that I had finally managed to tame our 80ft, uphill garden – as much as you ever can of course. I love gardening. I enjoy the feeling of soil in my hands, the sense of satisfaction in cherishing something to growth, and even the simple tasks such as pruning. So one of the first things I did was look at the garden for potential. 

This garden is flat, which is a joy – gardening on the slope of the old house felt like you were slightly intoxicated and everything was somehow moving! This one is very small, and has only had the minimum done for some time. The result is that all around the edges are very large, old evergreen shrubs and a conifer hedge. One section has been cut back, resulting in a rather ugly set of brown broken branches where nothing will regrow – but the birds love it so it will need to stay.

In some of it, we will take out the old shrubs and build raised beds which I can fill with colour and wildlife-friendly planting. It will be a labour of love and take several years. But the back hedge – the ugly bit – will remain a haven for the many species we have already spotted who flit in to feed from a nearby wooded area and stream. Simple pleasures.

However in the centre of it is a gap. I have no idea why – perhaps it was simply pragmatic, a means to get to the back fence for maintenance. And it was to this gap that my gaze was initially and persistently drawn. What could go there? How soon can I get to a nursery? Ideas for planting buzzed around my mind like a persistent wasp.

Now, gardeners will be holding up their hands in horror reading this. The old adage is that you leave a garden a year to see what comes up, which is generally wise advice. There may be bulbs or herbaceous perennials just waiting to erupt as a glorious surprise. However I am pretty sure that is not the case here. There is deep rooted ivy all around the base of the hedge and I doubt anything could penetrate through.

Yet still I have held back. Looking at the gap, I felt for now I should not try to fill it, that it was a way God could speak to me in this new season. It is so easy, isn’t it, to not leave space in our lives, yet that very void holds the capacity for the new thing which may need to grow. This is particularly a temptation if we are reluctant to look inside, to face aging and mortality, or perhaps after these last two years are holding at bay peeking at the trauma and loss which have been so much a feature of this season. But if we simply fill every moment with activity, where will there be the opportunity to hear the gentle voice of love, to discern what may be next?

So, for now at least, I will leave that gap in the hedge.

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