Paradise Lost

There were some words in stone, as if written by the finger of God:

“You are nearer to God in a garden than any other place on earth”.

It was on the first paving slab of the path in our garden. My parents hadn’t put it there, I guess it had been commissioned by a previous occupant. I didn’t know if it was from the Bible, but the writing was so regal. It felt good to run your finger in the grooves of the letters.
I was eight and I would hop hop hop from paving stone to paving stone, away from the house, following the path to the end of the garden. Hop hop hop past the dark sturdiness of the privet hedge, hop hop hop up the rocks, hand resting on the lucky stone toadstool with its crumbly moss, past the greenhouse, through the whispering leaves of the weeping willow. At the end of the path I’d squeak open the gate to the secret part of the garden, all berries and fruit trees.
This was the hidden place where I would make my worlds.
“We are in medieval times and you are running away from a witch and when you clap your hands as you jump over the log you go into the Stone Age”, I instructed my siblings, (or my dog, whomever was available.)
If I called a log a portal, that was its name.
If I called a raspberry cane a sweet shop, that was its name.
If I called a pear tree my thinking tree, that was its name.
Whatever I called it, that would be its name; I ruled over this part of the garden, the earthworms and sweet grass and tall apple trees. I would do handstands and pick snowdrops and walk with God in the cool of the day. I would stand under the cherry tree, rattling the blossom, hands raised up as it snowed its white confetti over me, pure petals falling so slowly, floating in the breath of the wind.
There was another path that led from the house in the opposite direction, from the front door. We would go on walks along the path, over the river and railway line, round the back of the orchards, telegraph poles and train tracks stretching out along the hills, water tower and cathedral in the distance.
It was early autumn, I think, the time before the leaves turn sunset. There was brown in the ground and green on the trees and grey in the air. My parents were at home, and I was walking with my friends-from-up-the-road and their parents, wellies squelching together. We were discussing which was better, the Girls Friendly Society or Girl Guides, and I was trying to explain that I had no interest in either of them. One of the adults picked an apple from a tree we were passing, then the others chose theirs too.
“Do you want one?” my friends’ mum asked me, and she smiled but there was something in their glances.
I hesitated. I wasn’t sure if that was the kind of apple I liked to eat. But it was rude to refuse something when it was offered, so I nodded, and bit into it, sour and hard.
Then as we rounded the corner, we saw it, a chugging tractor with the farmer on it. The adults stopped biting their apples, and threw them to the ground.
“Quick, hide it!” she said.
I pushed my hand through the pocket of my coat – the apple was too big and it got stuck at the mouth of the hole; I had to force it through, scraping my hand against that unyielding material winter coats are made of. We stopped talking as the farmer rode past slowly.
The sound of the farmer faded into the background after this peculiar incident. Then one of the adults turned to me.
“Bet that’s the first time you’ve stolen something, isn’t it?” They sniggered and the laughter came through their teeth, like a hiss.
In all my eight years I had never stolen anything. Was it really stealing if you didn’t know you were doing it?
We walked out of the orchard and turned east; my cheeks burned apple-red.

Joining with Amber on Mondays for concretewords, where we practise writing by communicating the abstract through concrete things – a horse, a book, stairs – and today the Path. These concrete words posts have led me on a journey through childhood and nostalgia and spiritual maturity – I write and that’s what comes out at the moment.

Amber is taking a break from concrete words and I will be hosting for the next little bit. The prompts for the next few weeks are as follows:
Feb 18 – the cupboard
Feb 25 – the instrument
Mar 4 – the dress
Mar 11 – the bottle

Won’t you join me?

Over to you:

  • Have you ever done something bad without realising that’s what you were doing?
  • Do you feel closer to God in a garden?

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23 Responses to Paradise Lost

  1. Mia 12th February, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    Dearest Tanya
    You Kingdom in your childhood garden reminds me so much of an Afrikaans song about a broken, torn rag doll that was thrown on the rubbish heap and how she was at first to proud to talk to all the inhabitants of this kingdom. But they assured her that she was the most beautiful of them all and made her their queen!! Yes, she became the queen of a rotten pumpkin, a broken shoe, a broken record, a lonely sock, an empty beer bottle and a old carnation! And she loved it.

    I am still busy with my post on The Path and will link-up as soon as I am finished. I want to thank you for taking over from Amber.

    Much love XX

    • Tanya 14th February, 2013 at 9:49 am #

      What a lovely story! I look forward to reading your ‘Path’!

  2. Donna 12th February, 2013 at 7:33 am #

    That was such a cruel thing for those adults to do! Humph – feeling very cross with them on your behalf.
    I relate to your garden memories, I have many similar ones of my own. I begged my parents for a patch of garden that would be just mine, and they let me have a shady corner beside the garage. I decided that it would be a weed garden. I always felt sorry for the weeds my parents pulled up – why should they not be given the right to grow, just as much as the plants the grown-ups thought had more value? – so I would take the weeds that still had roots on, and plant them in my garden. LOL! The weeds did very nicely there, and I felt very pleased with myself 🙂

    • Tanya 12th February, 2013 at 10:12 am #

      It WAS kinda cruel, wasn’t it?

      I LOVE your weed garden idea! That’s just gorgeous! How lovely that even at that age you were nurturing that which others discarded. Gorgeous.

  3. Ashley @ Draw Near 12th February, 2013 at 7:33 am #

    Oooh, Tanya, this is rich with imagery. I loved this and that you didn’t spell it out made it all the more powerful.

    • Tanya 12th February, 2013 at 10:10 am #

      Thank you so much for your feedback – I really value it! I feel like I’m just starting to learn how to write, how much to put in, how much to spell out, and had a real ‘is it obvious enough/too obvious’ angst with this one! So I really appreciate you sharing your experience of reading it, particularly as I respect your plentiful talent for crafting words. Much love! X

  4. Mark Allman 11th February, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

    The sour and hard went from your mouth to your heart. I see you having no responsibility to that which you did not know. Certainly the Bible has strong words for those that lead little ones astray. (Matthew 18:6) Unfortunately all too often I know when I am taking a bad apple and do not turn it down.

    • Tanya 12th February, 2013 at 10:08 am #

      I do love your turn of phrase, Mark – you say it so well! It really did turn sour in my heart as well as my mouth.

  5. Darcy Wiley 11th February, 2013 at 4:56 pm #

    When I was a kid, I pictured Eden in the middle of my apartment complex where the mulberry bushes spread along brick buildings and crab apple trees dotted the clearings. I love all of your Genesis allusions here, especially the naming of things. And then how it all comes down to the forbidden fruit, little you led by grown-ups into eating from the farmer’s orchard.

    • Tanya 12th February, 2013 at 10:06 am #

      I’m so glad I’m not the only one who sees childhood as Edenic! Thanks for sharing a snapshot of yours.

  6. Joy Lenton 11th February, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    A lovely post, Tanya! So evocative. I could smell the tang of raspberries, taste the forbidden sweet-sour apples as well as feel like an exploring child set loose in the fresh green, brown mulch and grey-tinged sky of autumn’s bountiful garden. Beautiful. A child feels like the earth is theirs for the taking, so I don’t think it counts as stealing if you are unaware that it is. Like many people in childhood I daresay, I was led astray to commit acts I later looked back on with guilt and shame. There is something to be said for natural innocence and the awful reality of how easily it is lost.
    Gardens of various kinds speak of God – in the design, creativity, variety and abundance of produce He has created. I remember myself as a child, lying flat on my back on the hot grass, squinting up at the sun, and being convinced there were angelic beings flying around. Imagine my disappointment when I learnt that they were simply ‘floaters’ that commonly cross our vision in response to brightness.
    Perhaps the best response is to retain a child-like sense of wonder (as you have captured so well here) even if soured a little by adult knowledge and scepticism!
    Thank you for sharing your sweet memories in this lovely reflection that holds deeper truth than your child-like self may have known.

    • Tanya 12th February, 2013 at 10:05 am #

      Thank you so much, Joy! Your words and insight always bring me so much encouragement. You are as your name!

      “A child feels like the earth is theirs for the taking, so I don’t think it counts as stealing if you are unaware that it is.” – I really like this viewpoint. And the easily-lost innocence of children…when I think of what children are up against today I shudder, and thank God that stealing an apple was about as bad as it got for me…

      I love that you saw angels in specks of light! May we all…

      Much love x

  7. Karmen White 11th February, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

    Hi Tanya,
    I enjoyed this very much. I might try to join in with The Cupboard! I have decided for Lent to do some writing…wish me luck.
    Love K x

    • Tanya 12th February, 2013 at 10:00 am #

      YAY! Please do!! I so want to read it! You could always put up your cupboard post here in the comments??


  8. Jillie 11th February, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

    Oh Tanya…This was really good! What a wonderful imagination you displayed in that garden of your childhood. You took me ‘there’ with you! Personally, I don’t think it counted as stealing, when you didn’t realize that was what you were doing.
    Yes, I too have done things, especially in childhood, that I didn’t know were bad, things prompted by others. Of course, I did bad things as well that I knew weren’t right to do, all on my own. Sometimes I was the ‘prompt-er’. But it really does give a strange and foreboding feeling when you realize you’ve done something wrong, quite innocently.
    Yes, I do feel closer to God in a garden. There is a tangible peace that resides there. And lovely colours and scents and shapes. I marvel at God’s perfect design in a garden. There is no way anyone can ever convince me that ‘evolution’ gave us all this!
    Thank you Tanya for sharing this walk down (your) memory lane.

    • Tanya 12th February, 2013 at 9:59 am #

      Thank you so much! I always feel a bit protective of these concrete words posts, so it’s lovely when people connect with them!

      I find it really interesting that you feel closer to God in the garden, and love all the reasons you give.

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