by Lora Hattendorf
We call it Narnia. Thirty years ago, when we bought our seven acres of bliss, we covered our hot spot corner overlooking the intersection of Middle and Barry with pines. From the first it sequestered us from the ever-increasing car traffic, but as those seven trees grew to thirty feet in as many years, it became our own personal Narnia. Everyone needs her own personal Narnia.
One day we added a rescue tree. It came from two states away, destined soon to be cut down from a remodel project. There was nothing for it but to dig it up along with its clump of myrtle and a surprise fern and bury it in Narnia to live or die.
We dug plenty of leg room in the pine needles on the open east side to catch the morning sun, inserted peat moss and a five-gallon bucket’s worth of water from the Tank of Truth (an old oil drum welded to make our private rainwater reservoir), and spread apart the fibrous roots, when what should we find? Not a pine tree, but FOUR pine trees huddled together, the other three sheltered by their brother’s branches. Well then. We recognize a gift from God when we see one.
We labored over three additional holes, peat moss, more Tank-of-Truth water, spread the love, patted the soil over, and tucked pine needles around each one. Naming things is the right of ownership. What other names for our personal Narnia than Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy of course?
Every spring I check Narnia to make sure our four have survived, and this year with the frigid polar vortex and temps plunging to 24 below zero, made no exception. I trotted over to Narnia with my garden wagon and my football-shaped, very pregnant calico cat. She had appeared on our front porch on that polar vortex day. Well then. We recognize a gift from God when we see one.
I named the cat “Kelpie” for George MacDonald’s obstinate horse tamed by Malcolm in the Marquis of Lossie. I had discovered the writings of George MacDonald thanks to C. S. Lewis about the time we had planted our Narnia. When Michael Phillips re-introduced the writings of MacDonald in the 80s, I devoured every one. Malcolm became my thirty-year serial-read. This stray calico had to be a “Kelpie,” and now she followed me everywhere.
Yes, three of the four trees had survived, Peter, Susan, Edmund, but no Lucy. The myrtle, or periwinkle if you prefer the fairy name, scattered its blue-violet trumpets over the dark emerald leaves, now in a royal train around the princes and princess of Narnia, in a twelve-foot patch surrounding the living child-trees. This was deep magic. But something looked very wrong.
In amongst the emeralds with their amethyst flowers and at the feet of my Pevensies, long-necked, goblin dandelions dared to strangle my Narnia. This would never do. I pulled, separated the myrtle leaves to identify the base of the enemies, and twisted the roots away. They obeyed easy enough and came out in handfuls. Kelpie sprawled in the periwinkle. Perhaps she wondered if this would be a fitting place to lay her kittens and indeed it would. Funny thing about pulling weeds – once you find one, you see ten. I fell to my knees and really attacked.
When a follower of Christ falls to her knees, a miracle happens. You remember whose you are. Your eyes open. A weed becomes a prayer gathered and given and a gentle green comes upon you – clean and emerald and amethyst. That friend’s heath issue – peace. Your worry for your child – gone. That looming decision, that battle with addiction, that sorrow, suffering, loss, uncertainty – casting all your weeds upon Him, for He cares for you.
Kelpie shadowed my every move as if she knew her time would come to deliver five kittens alive, and one not in this world. But as for now, she lay her preposterous body across my lower calves making it impossible for me to rise from my praying, weeding position. What a laughable trap. Malcolm tamed Kelpie by outrageously sitting on her head. Now my Kelpie pinned me to stay on my knees by preposterously sitting on my calves. Why?
What more did I have to ask the Father about? But then He saw it all, and I, under a long-necked, goblin weed saw her – Lucy, the last seedling tree. She had survived the polar vortex, and with twice the chartreuse of new pine-needle growth – a full seven inches tall at least, double last year’s height. Well then. We recognize a gift from God when we see one. Shall I trust in the answered weed-prayers to the One who made time and can see them answered?
Where’s your Narnia? What are your long-necked, goblin weeds? Twist them into prayers. Open your eyes to see that your Kelpie, who pins you to your knees, has some Narnian princess to show you. Everyone needs their own personal Narnia. Find it.