Dozens and dozens of camouflaged birds flutter about through the brown, curled leaves, wet with dew. They scour the early Saturday morning dirt, looking for breakfast, each one in the dance and rhythm of the hour. Squirrels chase about, too, up and down the oaks. And a cat races across the meadow, stopping only at the foot of a huge trunk, peering up with fierce eyes amid thick fur toward the playful squirrel. Then she swaggers toward me, those same penetrating eyes gazing into mine. She seems to question my presence, strut her style, then race on down a path lined with low rowed vines, as if she rules the roost, yet somehow giving away her secret fear of human presence. Now the birds up high in trees squawk. Not yet a half hour has gone by and their voices raise, just a little louder than the sizzling of farmhouse bacon on the stove…it is a rumble and bubble, surely not a song. And large geese join them as they fly not far off in their November “V”.

It becomes chilly, but I don’t want to leave. Not yet. The squirrels still play, so why not I? It is a Saturday morning after all- a time for joy, for cartoons, for effervescent fun. This is the entertainment of the morn, the wistful play of birds and squirrels and cats and critters. The foxtrot of the forest. I sit still, so still. But my heart dances with them.  I gaze off to that bush, mid-horizon.  I heard last week that this particular bush invades the eastern region; left to it’s own devices it would surely desire to take over the woods. But it is beautiful. Pink lemonade and lime green float the leaves in the cool morning wind. If beauty invades, is that such a bad thing? Or is it invasion that slowly comes like sin, disguising itself in charm? I’ve thought about this for a few days.  In life it can be difficult to have a discerning heart, to see clearly and know upon which type of beauty it is that we gaze. Sometimes it seems too late when sadly we find it is the latter…yet sometimes we do away with it too soon, when it is blissfully and innocently the first.

 It is good to be alone. Cars swirl past, but they drive outside the high stone wall, the gate of my “secret garden.” I always wanted a garden, but I am anything but a gardener.  I keep one plant- one. And I hope it survives; which it does, because it is an indomitable, stubborn thing, and for some reason has an uncanny liking for when I let it endure days of thirst.  After the children’s movie “the secret garden” years ago, I dreamed of having a place like that of my own. Not quite six years past I found this place and it has soothed me with the beat and colors and lines of life during my visits. God speaks here. And even when He does not speak, His silent presence is so holy and gorgeous. It all seems like a whisper from ages past. On the hill rests an old house, the aged excellence now so forlorn, atop an estate that once held grand balls where elegant folk came from miles around for dinners and dances. This is a gardener’s delight. A writer’s dream world. A photographer’s landscape. A simple creature’s window into the extravagant Creator’s heartbeat. Stone statues all about with heads looking ethereal and reverie like. I imagine a small wedding here, a bride laced in white with eyes veiled as she makes her way long down the ivy-charmed path into her husbands vow and kiss and strength. Like righteousness and peace sealed eternally with an enchanted kiss.

If this blissful, captivating place is a broken garden, one wrought with winter and fallen leaves, rose bushes left as thorns, and ornate fountains dried up,  then how much more glorious is the garden of our God? I try to begin to imagine the ancient garden of Eden, one day restored in it’s heavenly beauty, guarded with flaming angels and encompassing the presence of holy God.

“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness
    and who seek the Lord:
Look to the rock from which you were cut
    and to the quarry from which you were hewn;
look to Abraham, your father,
    and to Sarah, who gave you birth.
When I called him he was only one man,
    and I blessed him and made him many.
The Lord will surely comfort Zion
    and will look with compassion on all her ruins;
he will make her deserts like Eden,
    her wastelands like the garden of the Lord.
Joy and gladness will be found in her,
    thanksgiving and the sound of singing.”   (Isaiah 51:1-3)

And so I rejoice quietly as I walk through the garden, through the trees, the crunching leaves and runaway creatures. I ponder on the glory of God. I think of the wastelands of this world and how even in the midst of looming fear, tragedy, and dreary, aching, bleak days, there is a garden of which we can dream, a gladness of which we know is promised. Let us pursue righteousness. Seek the Lord in His strength. Find comfort in His compassion. Let your ruins and my ruins become restored hope. Let these wastelands become waves of new life. We’ll sing a song. Tis the season for a thankful, faith-filled heart.