My mint is escaping again. Or trying to. It lives on my kitchen windowsill with a clutch of other herbs, each sitting pretty in its own terracotta pot. All summer and into the fall, they have all been thriving in the sunshine, but the mint is an explorer and pushes out long runner roots that feel their way towards the other pots as if they might find green pastures there. As soon as I spot them, I reach for the scissors and snip the runners off flush with the soil. I’ve been tossing the bits into the garden, hoping they will take their vigour to the neglected patch by the wall where I haven’t been able to get anything to grow. Between slugs and cats and small boys gardening, every deliberate plant has vanished. But mint is vigorous and might stand a chance of rooting properly even there. I’m hoping for a good crop of green in the spring.Yesterday, we said goodbye to good friends. Like us, they are North Americans living in the UK, trying to make their way through the early stages of an academic career. But they’ve also been our family. We’ve celebrated Christmas and Thanksgiving together and plenty of rainy Thursday mornings, too. When Beangirl was starring in her primary school play, they booked a babysitter, bought tickets and cheered to beat the band. We’ve been lucky enough to hold two of their sweet kids as newborns, and every Sunday morning, our Plum would rather sit with their eldest than his parents. But now they’ve won gold and landed a permanent contract at a university in a different city, so we need to change the rhythms of this friendship and say goodbye.
The bittersweet edge to it all is that they are moving to Edinburgh where we used to live. More than that, Edinburgh is a city we loved and, if we could have managed it, we would have stayed. It was a place where we felt at home. So we know that our friends will be able to find good community and put down some roots of their own.
Seasons turn and we’re putting down roots, too. Maybe that’s backwards at this harvest time of year, but this September feels like a time for renewal and growth. With the openness of the summer holidays behind us, we settle back into routines and traditions, and look forward to markers of the turning year. My kids have already marked up the calendar: Michaelmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween. Our Blue will be celebrating another birthday soon, and then we’ll look forward to Advent and the counting days until Christmas. There will be candles, celebrations, old songs and maybe new ways of doing things. There is strength and life to be had in this kind of rerooting in our traditions. As the year ages, we too push deeper, reaching into the darkening days to find new space to grow.
In last month’s column, I wrote about my journal and today, I used its pages to record words from the poet-priest Malcolm Guite. In his book Sounding the Seasons, he collects 70 sonnets which trace the rhythms of the Christian year. Throughout the year, I find his words both powerful and spacious, and today these ones spoke to me of tangled, pushing roots and the bright and growing flash of God’s ancient, ageless love.
“Tangled in time, we go by hints and guesses,
Turning the wheel of each return-
But in the midst of failures and
We sometimes glimpse the love
that casts out fear.
Sometimes the heart remembers its
And beats a Sanctus as we sing our
Tracing the threads of grace,
sounding the seasons
That thread at last through time to
timeless glory. . . .”
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