In the garden
“Escaping early?” asked the Friend in Residence. I explain, briefly. They can be a chatty lot. Through the door, onto the terrace. That new building fits beautifully, outside. The paved area is extended. I walk down to the lake. On my left is the Labyrinth, a place for contemplative prayer in slow movement. There are trees by the lake. I notice one stump, of an aged tree with branches truncated which had twisted out, thick as trees themselves, now black. There are green shoots. Is it another plant, or is there life in the stump still?
I am pleased by the low fence. I note its purpose: everything is beautiful and fitting, now, all is well and behovely. This tree has no leaves, but the branches are covered in russet leaf-buds. I contemplate one, finding it beautiful. By itself, it is sufficient for my full attention. Then I extend my attention to other branches beside it. I tap my branch, and note how all of them tremble at its movement, though their join is so far behind me. Such suppleness and strength!
Back to the main house. There are younger trees, higher up the slope, surrounded by stones, in circles cut from the lawn. I heft a stone in my hand, enjoying the feel of it. I toss it and catch it, and then drop it: it makes a satisfying Clack against the others. A man tamps down a circle of earth, using a plywood square: he places it down, then stamps on it. A robin hops out from under a bush: on this grey day, all colours muted, its breast is shocking.
He asks me what course I am doing. “Being a Quaker clerk.” I explain what I am doing now: I have dropped into a meditative state, and seek to escape words and concepts into direct perception: and my aim is to have this heightened state of perception not only in ritual contemplation, but in action and interaction: (I tell him! With words! They flow differently, this is a truthful moment, no need to persuade just to express.) Oh! The bird! Too much sensation. I interrupt myself.
Will you plant another tree there? No. There was a tree there, and he has had to take it out. He will plant a tree somewhere else. He has just taken the stones away. He noticed children playing with the stones, building them into sculptures, so has ideas about other places for stones. “I want to be in this contemplative state in action, and move from words as rigid concepts to words as stories,” I say. “And you are going to be a clerk? You will be a gift as a clerk.” We hug.
Back through the walled garden. I pluck some parsley, and rub it between my fingers, for its scent.