“From the narrow places I called to you, from the wide places you answered me.”
— Psalms/Tehillim 118:5*
I am writing this while on vacation, from a cozy, beautifully handcrafted cabin in Devon, England. If I stand up and peer over the shrubbery and beyond brilliantly green, hedgerow-enclosed fields, the English Channel stretches away to the horizon. The roof of our friends’ house rises above apple trees and a woven willow fence.
In preparation for a large party celebrating Dolly and Nick’s 50th birthdays and 25 years of marriage, I’ve spent the last two days trimming the overgrown greenery bordering the many walkways that meander between the main house, cabin, studios, and outbuildings.
With clippers clutched in gloved hands, I clipped and pruned the hydrangeas, beds of daylilies, and the prolific ivy. Dead branches of ferns were heaped into the pile along with branches of prickly holly and gangly stems off the climbing rose bushes. I pulled up mounds of crabgrass and long strands of a creeping vine from under bushes and alongside the paths. With each trip to the compost pile the visual beauty of newly exposed plants and moss-covered rock walls inspired me. Foot by foot the need to veer, duck, or skirt around obstacles disappeared and the freshly cleared and swept sections felt inviting and open.
The second morning Dolly walked out of the house and exclaimed, “Ah! I remember! What a nice, wide path!” With her words I remembered the words from the passage quoted above. It’s so true. Bumping up against tangled overgrowth or getting plain tired of veering, ducking, and swerving away from those tight places—outside of or within ourselves—can make us grab the proverbial clippers in order to experience the wide places ahead.
By late afternoon yesterday the walkways were finished. Unbeknownst to me, mowing the lawn was next on the men’s to-do list. The starter cord was pulled. The path along the side of the house, trimmed up and raked clean only a few minutes before, was suddenly strewn with leaves and grass clippings.
Something always comes along, doesn’t it? Thank goodness for two mid-October days spent outside amongst the plants, ladybugs, and birdsong of the Devon countryside. From the wide-open place inside of me, I could only smile.
* Translated from the Hebrew version by Rabbi Sheryl Lewart.