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  • Elaine Fletcher Chapman

The Gathering Table

The Gathering table is over 100 years old. It has burn marks, uneven spots, knots. Odd chairs placed around, a wooden bench. A cushion made by Anne Dolittle. I’m sitting at the table now to write this note. And already last week we had our first guests, Pam and Lila, passing through. I made ham biscuits and corn chowder, deviled eggs. Strawberries, whipped cream and pound cake. A bottle of Prosecco. We laughed and remembered the time I down shifted Pam’s automatic. And Tracy stopped by later and helped rearrange the pictures on the walls, either side. She placed the lamp in the center with flowers.

At this moment the books on the table: Gardening with a Wild Heart by Lowery, Gardening in Small Spaces by Kirby and my favorite, The Sanctuary Garden: Creating a Place of Refuge in Your Yard or Garden by McDowell and Clark-McDowell.

Anyone who knows me knows I am not a gardener. But the Parsonage now has a privacy fence in the back yard and it has made such a difference. Where it was public space, it is now private. And in that change, want blooming plants. A place to sit and contemplate, hear birdsong, look to the sky for egrets and eagles. Finally, there is a feeling of sanctuary.

In the Introduction the McDowell’s quote Thomas Moore: “There is an enchantment that arises out of a garden spirit, which, for all the variety of gardens around the world, is unique.” They and I “are certain of a Garden Spirit.” Already the space is transformed to refuge.

This is a view from the gathering table. An angel, flowering plants, shells. A small table and two chairs. Today I added some Salvia and planted California Poppy seeds. Ivy in the garden and above the table. Refuge, sanctuary: what we need. What we all need. A place to Gather, a place for solitude and company.

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