The Hermitage in the Early Morning

The early morning is the time that I most feel the blessing of The Hermitage. The vividly coloured stained glass in and around the front door bursts into light from the rising sun, somewhat startling the sleepy Hermit emerging from his cell.
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The back garden starts to awaken. The night silence is broken by bird calls – magpies, currawongs, noisy miner birds beginning to feed on the nectar of flowers on the trees, the occasional cockatoo or lorikeet. A few fruit bats, making a delayed return to the palm trees in the large park onto which The Hermitage backs, squeaking as they fly home.
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And only a gentle hum of traffic to remind me that The Hermitage is in a suburb close to the centre of Australia’s largest city.
It is the best time to walk around the enclosed gardens, enjoying the trees, including a giant camellia, an hibiscus, a gardenia, a huge palm tree, and a stand of giant Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia).
It is also time to look at the herbs and vegetables: we now have chokos, parsley (various types), mint (various types), tomatoes (various types), basil (various types), globe artichokes, lettuce (various types), spinach (various types), rosemary, beetroot, Warrigal Greens (a native Australian bush food), peas, lovage, comfry, lemongrass and more. There are citrus trees: orange, lemon, and kaffir lime, and an ancient persimmon tree about to burst into leaf and, later, copious almost sickly sweet fruit (an obsessive favourite of the fruit bats).
Amongst recent additions to the herb collection is wormwood (Artemisa absinthium), now growing enthusiastically in the front garden. Given time, “St Cedd’s Absinthe” could be in production! We recently planted a weird small tree [Rungia klossii] from Papua New Guinea which has leaves substituting for the flavour of mushrooms and a grassy herb [Santolina rosmarinifolia] with leaves substituting for the flavour of olives. The black passionfruit has gone completely mad, covering the entire back fence and gate, and the bananas are thriving.
As Spring arrives, those parts of the garden that have been somewhat bare throughout Winter are about to be planted anew. More herbs and vegetables, ferns and semi-tropical plants. Six Dogwood trees (with their beautiful deep red wood) have been delivered to create a hedge along the front path. Plants left outside during Winter are being “repaired” and made ready to be brought inside. The five tomato plants (each a different variety) recently planted are thriving in the Spring sunshine, and enjoying being “companion planted” with basil. The deck is covered with plants in pots awaiting their final destinations!
The paved area in the depths of the garden (memories of the movingly magnificent “In the Depths of the Temple” from Bizet’s opera, “The Pearlfishers”!) is a perfect setting for prayer, reflection and “lectio divina”. And breakfast! But, mostly, to give thanks for living in this place.


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