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Easter 2014

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.

One of my regular treats is to lie in bed a little longer on a Sunday morning, in a blissful state of dozy half-awakeness,  listening to BBC Radio 4’s  “Something Understood”  - a half hour compilation of words and music on a theme of the presenter’s choosing.  In a recent week the presenter,  poet Pádraig Ó Tuama, chose as his theme the Gaelic:  “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live”.

I had received a telephone call a few days previously from a reporter from the Wall Street Journal asking for my comment (bizarre on so very many levels) on a “hermit vacancy” job advertisement based in the Swiss Alps  and asking me what hermitage life is like …

One of the metaphors I use to describe hermitage is that of tabernacle.  The hermitage is the tabernacle, the place of God’s dwelling (which is also one of the reasons why I do not have “another” tabernacle in my prayer room).  The life of hermitage is one of becoming ever more sensitive to God-in-this-place.  Which might involve appreciating the loveliness of a flower, or the dance of the light through a window, or the still-life of a mundane object suddenly striking in its random beauty; or more likely the meticulous job of recycling waste items, or weeding the raspberry canes, or preparing classes for my tutees … or even writing the six-monthly newsletter!  Of course, I do not pretend to do any of this “better” for being here, but the space and the quiet of the hermitage is directed towards sensitising me to God-presence in these things, and nurturing that sensitivity to be carried outwards to God-presence in all the minutiae and drama of life without these walls – to the local food bank, the debate around Lincolnshire wind farms and fracking; and further, to the plight of 200 school girls, to a murder trial in Pretoria; to whatever intentions are held in my prayer book.   It is a work in progress!

“It is in the shelter of each other that the people live”.  If you listen to the R4 programme, you will discover that the word used here for shelter is the same as the one at the beginning of St John’s Gospel “The Word became flesh and sheltered amongst us”; and the same which was used for the tent of the Holy of Holies by the Israelites in the desert, and from which we derive tabernacle.  So I shall take this opportunity to thank you all for the shelter, the tabernacle which you give me here, in much love and so many acts of kindness; in your appreciation and encouragement, and, very practically, in your custom.  It is all so much appreciated.  

And to share a little of the fruits of all that oh-so-sensitive weeding (!).  I promised a couple of years ago, an update on the perennial veggie garden I was planning once it approached maturity.  As you will see from the photos, it is finally beginning to yield its fruits.  Artichokes, asparagus and nine star broccoli are all harvestable this year, and the strawberries look set to be Wimbledon-ready. The Babington's leeks will be ready by the end of next winter (cut off near the base, another one should grow on the same base by the following year), and the leaves of the Chinese onion tree ( the small red leaved half standard in the middle of the shallot bed) are distinctively fried onion flavour – great for adding to herby salads & stir fries.  At floor level purslane, good king henry, rocket & american land cress provide regular saladings, along with sorrel and blood red leaf beet for a splash of colour, whilst some of the more invasive species – a couple of varieties of mint, and horseradish – are beginning to fill out in their pots.  I have also been delighted to find a new home in the herb garden for a plaque I was given by parishioners at the time of my solemn profession in 2006.  It will make an excellent stepping stone!  

The tabernacle which is my hermitage is, of course, only a figure for the tabernacle which is the whole world - the tabernacle of God truly has no walls.  So I share my tabernacle and the Easter joy of Christ’s Resurrection which suffuses it, with you all.  

And wish you every blessing and shelter and tabernacle, through, and with, and in the community of all those whom you love.  Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.

Rachel HDN

Ps  for those of you who like a little spirituality with your gardening … I have been writing about garden-inspired matters for the Redemptorists this Easter, in their Sunday bulletin.  They kindly give me permission to share the copy on my website, so you can view the articles here: www.stcuthbertshouse.co.uk/reds14 .  A couple more still to come for Ascension & Pentecost – I will upload them once they have been published.

Pps.  For one year only … This year I am not participating in the Art-on-the-Map Open Studios week.  Instead I have offered to open up my garden for the Round Table Open Gardens event which will be held on Saturday August 2nd .  Please call by if you are in the area.

Pps. .   I know I am not alone in finding some aspects of garden work a little troublesome.  With that in mind, I have put together a top-ten-tips sheet for creaky-limbed gardeners, which, if you are interested, you can find here:  www.stcuthbertshouse.co.uk/dgt .  More pictures!