Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies.
I hold you here root and all, in my hand flower–
but if I could understand what you are
root and all, and all in all,
I should know what God and man is!
~Alfred Lord Tennyson
Whenever I read Tennyson’s poem or see a garden wall I think of Burnett’s novel, THE SECRET GARDEN, and then I find myself trying to imagine what Tennyson’s crannied wall and the garden walls at Misselthwaite Manor looked like. I’ve read that walled growing spaces date back to the earliest of Persian gardens and that their function, especially in the northern temperate zones, was to shelter a garden from frost and wind. Since purportedly the sheltering walls raised the ambient temperature inside a garden by several degrees, I’m guessing they were made of heavy stones. Although the garden walls in Tennyson’s poem and Hodgson’s novel no doubt were constructed similarly and to serve the same purpose, the practicality of such, is not the point of the two tales. The two literary pieces have to do with the impact of encountering the Ancient of Days or the contemplation of His mystery that often takes place within a garden’s walls. Every garden in a very real sense is a piece of Eden, and in Eden man inevitably encountered Him by whose Hands both he and it were made. As Tennyson grasped the entirety of a little flower in his hand, he voiced a firm belief that comprehending its mystery would lead to an unraveling of the ultimate conundrum, man and God. And in THE SECRET GARDEN the lives of two children were resurrected and subsequently infused with that same mysterious “stuff of life” after holy “place” and “elemental” grace had had their way with them.
And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; that there he put man whom he had formed…They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze… ~Genesis 2:8 and Genesis 3:8a ✝
Is it winter? Is it not?
Is it cold? Is it hot?
The two-headed Janus knows not.
Where I live unseasonable warming trends often occur in January, and when the month keeps its “box” open-ended long enough, some things in the garden are duped into thinking it’s time to get going. If the lie that spring is upon us continues on into February, that month as well is made a partner in the deceiving treachery. Then when the wintry weather falls back into place and worsens, as it nearly always does, the new growth is the innocent victim of the two traitorous libertines. Such is exactly what happened last year when they were finally exposed as the charlatans they were by a mid-February ice storm. After weeks of mild weather, frigid rain descended from a whitish cloud cover blown in on arctic winds. As the temperatures fell from the 70’s and 80’s to well below the freezing mark and everything became encapsulated in tombs of ice, an almost audible death knell sounded. For days the sun was unable to burn a hole in the clouds, and while the storm’s icy bite endured, the birds who over winter in my yard were, if visible at all, seen only in the mornings. When they were present, I’d see them huddled close to their birdhouses or in the bay tree or azaleas near the house, but by afternoon they’d have disappeared completely into the day’s dismal gloom. Neither did I see any of my neighbors nor the squirrels who’d been so busy as of late, and that collective absence of life forms led to a disturbing sense of aloneness that I did not like at all.
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by. Psalm 57:1 ✝