In a Monastery Garden

One of the things that has delighted me since coming here are the birds. They are everywhere: sparrows, thrushes, finches and, over the way, larks and the occasional buzzard. The garden is filled with birdsong from morning till night. There are oak trees and apple trees and the rich red earth of Herefordshire peeping through long green grasses. In the local churchyard the graves are marked with the names not only of the person who lies there but also of the farm from which he or she came. There is a rootedness, a closeness to the soil, that is no longer the familiar experience of the majority of British citizens.

Does this affect how other things are viewed? That I have yet to learn, but I suspect it makes one aspect of the Gospels easier to grasp. The allusions to the natural world, to seed time and harvest, to digging and trenching, the building of wine presses and barns, need no interpretation here. Indeed, I look out of my window at the old cider press in the garden and it takes no great leap of imagination to see, not an old horse trundling round and round, but one who comes from Edom, his garments stained red as from a wine press.

We must connect life and faith or there is a terrible disjunction in our lives, leading either to total disbelief or an equally total fanaticism — not, perhaps, what Ketèlby had in mind when he composed his eponymous piece!


8 thoughts on “In a Monastery Garden”

  1. Yes. About 10 years ago I moved from the city to rural Norfolk (UK) and I am still finding new depths to my understanding of the Scriptures through natural and agricultural world that surrounds me. A landscape of sheep, shepherds, cattle, seed sowing and harvest.
    However I am still puzzling over a recent reading of the mustard seed and the tree it became. On my horizon is a field of mustard, grown for Colman’s. Lush though the field is, no way can it ever become a tree. What is the Gospel mustard tree?

      • Thank you. Your reply prompted me to search out some images and information. I look forward to seeing a live mustard tree when I visit the Holy Land in October.
        I also to listened to the Peter Dawson recording of ‘In a Monastery Garden’ that I remember as a 78rpm record from childhood.
        It’s been a very happy lunch hour.

  2. Quick question, Sister. I can’t get into your facebook page without logging in. Is there a way to do that without being a part of facebook?


    • I don’t know. I think you can get to our monastery page, Benedictinenuns, without being a member; but my personal page, Digitalnun, may be only viewable to those who are members. Can anyone answer this question for Meg, please?

  3. I have thought about this, too, but in reverse to your musings. We live in the rolling foothills of the Rocky Mountains in western Canada. Some of our oldest buildings are a mere 100 years old this year, the west only recently settled, relatively speaking. The First Nations people have lived here for millennia and their religion is nature based, they are a hunter gatherer peoples. After visiting a Native interpretive center one summer, we walked a mountain path to look out over the settlement. Our Middle Eastern Jesus in his flowing robes, accompanied by his wine drinking fish roasting friends seemed very, very, removed from our part of the world. No presses or olive groves here, no planting and harvesting. While many First Nations people have converted to Christianity, I can’t help but wonder how the missionary priests managed to convey the gospel message, how totally foreign it must have sounded.

  4. Hello Sister Catherine and Sister Lucy!
    We are pleased to hear that you are enjoying the birds in the garden. We forgot to tell you that the family of sparrows usually appear on the low wall outside the door at seven thirty every morning for their toast crumbs! Look out for the woodpecker family that visit from the farmhouse next door. They aways used to visit our nut feeder which used to hang in the big apple tree!
    Glad to hear that you are settling in!
    Best wishes
    Jo and Lydia (previous occupants of the barn)

    • Dear Jo and Lydia,
      Thank you very much for this important local information. I’m afraid we’ve been disappointing the sparrows, but we’ll try to amend our ways for the future. Hope all is going well for you; and thank you for your part in making this such a lovely place to be. (Oh, and while I remember, do you want us to look after the playhouse in the garden for the time being or have you outgrown it? If the latter, we will try to find someone else who will enjoy using it.)
      With love from the nuns

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