From the tiny ant on the kitchen windowsill, to the squirrels racing in the trees, to the wealth of birdlife attracted to our pond this year, I have been blessed by the intimacy of oneness with these garden neighbours of ours. Perhaps it is like the hermit monk Charles Brandt practising walking meditation on the old logging road in British Columbia. He wrote “My breathing is in harmony with my pace, my pace is in harmony with the rhythm of the universe. And although this is the path to nowhere, in reality it is the way to everywhere, because it enables me to enter into communion with the whole community of beings, which are diverse, interiorized and each in communion with every other being in the universe’. 1
In these months of the pandemic, every day the quietness of the garden has enabled me to watch and absorb, at quite close quarters, the plumage of a red grouse, a first-timer to the garden, the dramatic black and white of the magpie, the soft greys and beiges of the woodpigeons, that bright head of the goldfinch, that black cap of the blackcap, another first-timer and, I imagine, newly returned and thirsty from its travels.
The starlings had been absent for some years but this year were back in good numbers, at least a dozen adults and similar numbers of young. How quickly the young learnt to shuffle down the sides of the pond to have a drink. I found starlings to be fearless and agile in negotiating the delights of the lawn and pond, sometimes becoming models for other birds on where and how to get to the water. On one occasion I watched a pigeon follow the example of a starling in this respect and later a starling trying hard to follow the example of a pigeon in standing on the outlet pipe of the pond, bending and drinking. The starling stretched and stretched but was not quite big enough to make it.
A serious heron came and meditated by the pond and a pair of ducks, contemplative companions, spent a few days with us. I found them to be creatures of routine – a swim, a feed and then out to preen and dry on the grass, afterwards a snooze, a walk down to the apple trees, a rest in the shade, and back to the pond.
Last year a pair of magpies built their nest in a perilous position at the top of our tallest, thinnest oak tree. In fact after many weeks of hard work cutting twigs and manoeuvring them into place, strong winds in March destroyed much of what they had built. They set to again and gradually completed their somewhat ramshackle domed home. Throughout the next months they were frequent visitors to the garden looking thinner and more stressed by the day. This year I feel sure at least one of the pair still visits the garden having built a nest in a much safer tree nearby. The bird looks thin but not bedraggled and I fondly imagine that last year they were struggling new parents and that this year they are knowledgeable old hands.
The glorious evening song of our friends is a welcome lead into our evening meditation where, as John Main says, we find Christ in our hearts and then we find ourselves in him and, in him, in all creation. Charles Brandt ponders ‘…perhaps this is the most important step we take towards halting the environmental destruction that is taking place on the earth and in the universe’. 2
Angela Greenwood , Oblate of The World Community for Christian Meditation
1 Fr Charles A. E. Brandt lived as a hermit monk on the Oyster River on Vancouver Island and was an oblate of Saccidananda Ashram (Camaldolese Benedictine) Tamil Nadu, India. He died in 2020.
‘Self and Environment – On Retreat With Charles Brandt’, first published in Great Britain in 1997 by Medio Media/Arthur James. Page 21.
2 As above page 52.