Letter to Monty Don

Dear Monty,

22/9/12  Explaining the way of St Toff more excellently.

I have put up a scallop shell on my studio wall in a gesture of unity with Charles Hawes and Bob (not that I know Bob) who are currently walking The Way of St James. charleshawes.veddw.com

Life seems to throw up some strange coincidences, as this very week - this not very good week - a fellow soul of life's great journey also mentions her desire to walk the way. Now in my innermost being I believe there is something to this 'way' - this walk, this pilgrimage.

Last night after half sleeping through 'Gardeners World' and 'Parade's End', I seem to remember hearing you say to take time to see what a garden wants to be.....or words to that effect. I also remember passion and contentment found in the coming together of a lover and his beloved....a bit like the passionate Song of Solomon : 'do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires'. This journey of life is not easy is it? For any of us I mean.

Today Sue and I walk the ' Way of St Toff'. Toff is our whippet, who loves a particular walk over the landscaped remains of 'the diamond' - a mine which once used to produce a hard clean anthracite. Toff knows the way - he runs and plays and you sense his joy on this particular pathway.

The way is not easy - it was never meant to be - but along this path comes enlightenment.

I believe that I have met many angels on my journey. They may not realise their significance, although I believe I have seen the light of God twinkle in their eyes. When I am at my meanest, lowest and most cowardly, out of the darkness the light seems to shine. I have been stopped in my downward track by their incredible insight, they speak directly into my experience.

This is why I first started writing to you Monty - in your book 'The Jewel Garden' you mention just such an encounter. Your epiphany, the moment your angel prophesied your redemption through the soil.

The soil, birdsong, growth, light, scent, colour all speak of redemption, which is why making a garden is such a journey of discovery and sometimes a complete joy.

For me Christ (despite the tendency of overkill with all the sermons and words) is essentially humble in the simplest, truest and most honourable sense - because of his death for his friends. He could have changed the elements of stone into bread when tempted but chose not to redeem himself.

From the soil we came and to the soil we return, from elements to elements, even the stones cry out. In the midst of death there is life - the garden tells us so.

Sorry to go on.



  1. What a warming thought that you had a scallop shell on your wall and me in mind as we walked along our small stretch of The Way of St James (St Jacques in France, or more prosaically the GR65).

    Indeed I carried a scallop shell with me as many walkers do.I really took it for traditions sake, whereas "true" pilgrims, I think, carry one for their own remembrance of the saint. Mine was not collected off a beach but nicked off a cafe table in Kings Cross. But, they say it's the thought that counts.

    You were in my thoughts, too, as I briefly went into some of the many churches we passed by, and a candle was lit.

    All this business with the Saints leaves me perplexed about their relevance in today's world. I was a Christian once but I am not now. But I am am happy to acknowledge that Christianity is very much part of my culture and it continues to pull at me in a way that other religions don't even though I think they have much to offer.

    Surely Christ is supposed to have died for us all, not just his friends (just saying).

    Do go. The cathedral at Conques is magnificent, and the town a wonderful place to finish. But of course, it's not the finish at all. It's not far of the beginning.

    1. Yes he did die for us all, the friends was a reference to those that recognise this, so not the few but the many, and who knows who they may be ? Not just those who follow traditional/historical versions of Christianity. Thank you for lighting a candle and taking the trouble to comment on my ramblings.


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