Each week in Lent we are sharing a short reflection written by leading Christian authors. This week's is by writer, teacher, and forest school session leader Rachel Summers.
After the grey and brown of winter, it’s so exciting when you finally start to see the green appear. First, the shoots are just hints of foliage to come, but before you know it you can see the shapes of leaves in all their variety. Elder is always early to the party, greening up quickly, and after a winter of crumbling leaf litter the tiny bright-green zig-zags around each leaf seem extra precious. As you collect some leaves, you’ll notice all that makes them different, so that the canopy springs into sharp focus and you begin to greet new leaves as old friends. ‘I know you’, you’ll think, even if you don’t have a name for the leaf yet.
Hapa Zome is the art of making a print from leaves and flowers, using fabric and mallets. Go and have a poke around in your airing cupboard and find that old white sheet you keep meaning to get rid of. Hack it up into pieces – or keep it whole for a huge leaf picture! Maybe cut it into triangles for bunting. Next, you need to go for a leafy wander. Look for nice fresh spring leaves for the best prints and for colour if you can. Dandelions add a splash of yellow (although leave plenty for the bees – they’re their first source of nectar in the spring), or you might find a clump of violets or celandine. Use leaves and flowers from your garden or the park – look for interesting shapes and colours.
Once you’ve collected your leaves and flowers, arrange them on the fabric and cover them with another piece of fabric. (Or fold the fabric over, like a leaf sandwich.) Place it on a hard surface and bash it with a mallet. You’ll notice that the colour from the leaves starts to print onto the fabric, along with all the details of their veins and the little fiddly bits around their edges. Once you’ve pounded out all your latent frustration (!), being very careful to keep your fingers away from the business end of the mallet, open up the fabric, and pick and peel off the squished leaves. This picture won’t last forever, but it really captures the beauty.
As you walk around collecting leaves, use it as a chance to do a bit of gardening in your own life. What habits and thoughts are you holding on to? What beliefs about yourself and your abilities are holding you back from being the person God wants you to be? The familiar seems safe, but it’s not always useful to carry everything with us on a journey. We need to take time to sort through it all and carefully put down what we don’t need to bring with us. Those things will colour our journey, but not always in the way we expect.
Lord, at the start of my Lent journey, give me
the courage to look at what I’m holding, and to place
those things that are pulling me down and holding me
back into your loving arms, ready to step out and
follow where you will lead, unencumbered and free.
Once you’ve folded over your leaf sandwich and raised your mallet, enjoy watching the pattern of the leaves appear as you bash. You’ll take great satisfaction in following along the stem and veins to find the edges of each leaf. Although you can’t see where the leaves are, you have a memory of where you put them, and you know to keep tapping along their lines until you find where they stop. Finding the green from the edge of a leaf rather than just the edge of your bashing is very pleasing! Sometimes our journey takes us on a path that we don’t have a map for. Sometimes we have an idea of the route, but have to uncover it little by little on our way. Discovering one part of a path can lead us to find the next bit of the path, and sometimes there is more beauty at the edges than we’d expected.
Lord, following your path doesn’t always feel obvious or
clear. Help me to trust that you will uncover the path
before me, to trust that your way will lead me into
beauty, and help me to see that beauty around me.
Rachel lives in a vicarage in East London with her husband, their five kids, and a veritable menagerie of pets. She loves her corner of the urban wild and the fact that within a few minutes she can be surrounded by the multicultural busyness of the market, awed by the wide expanse of the marshes, or enclosed amongst the ancient trees of Epping Forest.
Her book Wild Lent is available to order today.
March 13th, 2018 - Posted & Written by The Editor