Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Secret Garden

It is early morning on Thanksgiving Day. I am feeling very blessed and privileged to be here in Rwanda, and very grateful to all who made it possible. I just concluded my quiet time and coffee (and daily fresh fruit and bread) out under the thatched roofed gazebo in my garden. To my left is a heavily laden avocado tree. (Lots of guacamole in this home, including at dinner last night.) A tall stand of giant bamboo is to the right of the avocado tree. Then there is a clear view to the hill across the way, on top of which sits the new American Embassy, with our American flag moving only slightly in the gentle early morning breeze. There have been frequent lightening and thunder storms with torrential rains, but there is never real "wind". I love the downpours, but now realize that I never really liked strong wind. You don't know where it comes from, where it's going to, what it is really up to, or why it is so angry. It threatens destruction, stirs fear, and never cleans up after itself. Rain, on the other hand, leaves everything clean and refreshed. Sorry,… now where was I?

Continuing clockwise stands a tall papaya tree. It too is laden with fruit, some of which I just consumed. Only now do I notice the razor wire that runs coiled atop the very high wall that no one could scale from the outside, so I must presume that the razor wire is intended to keep me in. (Not necessary, because I love this magical garden.) To my right shoulder is a mango tree, presently teaching me patience with only embryonic fruit. As I turn back to my extreme left, I also delight in my very own coffee tree and an orange tree (which also contributed my breakfast). Both are bursting with blossoms and fruit. Behind me stand the guava tree and the lime tree (which nicely compliments tonic water with a splash of gin. I do not consume any alcohol in the presence of my churched African friends, but when it will cause no offense, I must have at least a little protection against the dreaded malaria, and tonic is just what the good doctor ordered, although I have forgotten that doctor's name. I do not take anti-malarial drugs, or use Deet, or sleep under a net, which alarms even some of my African friends. Tonic seems to be good enough protection.) Sorry,… now where was I again? Over here I seem to grant my mind much greater license to wander, and wander it does.

Flowers, flowers everywhere. Little birds flittering from branch to branch. Big predatory birds circling above, occasionally dropping like a rock falling down upon some hapless who-knows-what which is whisked off for the ride of a lifetime,… the last ride of an abbreviated lifetime. The geckos are resting out of sight after waging nighttime warfare against the mosquitoes, but the lizards are now waking and stretching and beginning to scurry across the wall and under the razor wire in search of breakfast. Damascene, the gardener-guard who keeps this place pristine, works tirelessly all around me, watering every plant by hand (a hose would be an extravagant and unaffordable luxury) and waiting for a leaf to drop so he can immediately arrest it. (Interruption: At this very moment, Damascene brings me five ripe oranges he just harvested and I give back three for himself.)

In the writing and the reading of this, it all might seem a bit like Eden. But the garden is not large, nor is the house grand. It is actually all quite simple. I would not want my Edenesque description to set up a future visitor for great disappointment. Nonetheless, to me it is indeed nothing less than magical,… my secret enchanted garden. Perhaps to the eyes of some others,… and to my own eyes of some years ago,… it is just a lot of plants covered with bugs and red dust during the dry season, a smog and smoke filled view of dilapidated housing across the way, and a brutal equatorial sun that causes one's skin to sizzle and could cause one to whine like the prophet Jonah. But my eyes have been changed, from the eyes of hyper-kinetic youth to the eyes of someone who is content to move quite a bit more slowly . (This is NOT a boast, but rather a fact for which I praise our gracious God and, well... age.) My first realization of "new eyes" was driving Nathan and Wesley up to Chadwick and finding that I was marveling at trees, formerly "just trees", but no longer. Some now stood out as truly majestic. For some, it was a particularly fascinating feature, perhaps the bark or the way the leaves danced and shimmered in the sunlight. I accept such epiphanies as from an awesome God presenting and blessing me with the art of His hands. I have come to greatly appreciate small things, things which I no longer consider small. Like this secret garden. I am thankful.


[I have many photos to evidence the beauty of this enchanted garden, but I am at home preparing a Thanksgiving Feast, and the limited band width at home will not upload them. So, close your eyes and use your very best imagination,... and you may get close. If you wish, add a mated pair of majestic crested cranes, something that I hope to soon acquire for the garden.]