Pass Me Another Helping of Heaven-on-Earth

My husband and I booked a fun-filled yet also very socially demanding weekend celebrating our nation's 238th birthday -- so I'm thankful our visits took place in two heavenly spots.

My family and I enjoy time on the yacht on July 4. From
left, me, Adam, Marissa, Landon, Hannah and Mom.
(Photo credit: Niala Baksh)
We spent the Fourth of July on my parents' yacht, which they purchased last year and are keeping moored in Grand Haven each summer. The boat gatherings -- wherein we take joyrides down the channel, around Spring Lake or out to Lake Michigan, plus we eat, drink and make merry -- are full of storytelling, exuberant laughter and frequent game-play, and are becoming a new Watson tradition. Every now and then while on the water, I pause to marvel at the beauty around us. I'm thankful Adam and I live only 45 minutes away from the gold-and-blue coast.

Saturday the 6th was the Hendershot family reunion -- Adam's mom's side of the family -- which has been an Independence Weekend tradition for I don't know how long. Adam's aunt and uncle, Holly and Rick Jensen, host the gathering in Kalamazoo. They live in a beautiful neighborhood where the homes are large, lush and elegant; the Jensens' place in particular is a slice of paradise. 

Aunt Holly, a retired veterinarian, and Uncle Rick, a pathologist at MPI Research, nurture a love of the natural world and have cultivated a backyard that is a refuge for all living things, from their well-trained and affectionate bloodhounds to their family members and guests.

Uncle Rick and Aunt Holly's scientific precision especially are on display in the garden. They have designed a place that would be the envy of any master gardener: a yard in deep shade bordered by thick, tall trees, with plants and flowers of seemingly every shape and size. The flowers climb up trellises near the house, thrive in planters around the deck, mingle with shrubs edging the walk, and pause only to give space to an expanse of thick, verdant grass on which the badminton and corn hole games are situated for use during the reunion.

Beyond the grass, a gate opens on another oasis only rivaled for beauty by Mary Lennox's "secret garden" -- bed upon bed of plants of all kinds beckon the nature-lover to stroll, to kneel down, to consider, to drink in the sights and scents in near-holy awe.

The amount of space the Jensens devote to green things is more than a little staggering, given the time commitment required for planting, pruning, weeding, watering and replanting each growing season.

A frog sits near the pond in the arboretum. (Photo credit: Adam Forrest)
Some elements in the backyard seem ageless fixtures, such as "The Pit," a rather ominous nickname the family has given their poolhouse-turned-arboretum. It's a screened-in, rectangular structure with wooden steps leading down to a landscaped area, complete with patio, swing, two hammocks and several benches, plus a frog-and-fish pond with a mini waterfall, framed by tiny shrubs. The rushing water exudes a hypnotic peace. Much like on the Island of the Star in "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," nobles could sit down to cups upon its benches and fall into centuries of enchanted rest.

After my busy weekend, that place of deep tranquility and solitude beckoned to me and restored my soul.

In today's sermon, the second in a series on the Book of Proverbs, the speaker opened his message with an analogy about cultivation -- specifically pruning one's character in order to achieve growth -- and my thoughts drifted back to Uncle Rick and Aunt Holly's gardens. How lifegiving they are, I thought, to both the guests and the gardeners.

I found so much to be blessed by while in that Eden. I'm reminded that "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights" (James 1:17), and "He leads me besides the still waters. He restores my soul." (Psalm 23:1b-2a).

What about you? What places on Earth restore your soul?

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Sarah Mascara said...

What a lovely post, Rachel! I find myself restored in the middle of a deep wood, or floating on a boat surrounded by water. But best of all, I think, since I live in the country, is when I can stretch out on the grass at night and look up at a million billion stars. There's nothing better. =0)

Rachel E. Watson said...

Thanks for reading! I love your happy places. I don't get to see the stars very often because of the city lights, but I love them very dearly. :)