In my sister and brother-in-law’s garden in North London, they have a strip of woodland. A great place for my kids to explore and build swings and forts.
It is in the beginning stages of being landscaped, however there are still huge banks of ivy and stinging nettles growing wild and free.
My sister and I decided to try our hands at Nettle Soup – and why wouldn’t we with so many of the ingredients readily available?!
Sleeves pulled down to avoid getting stung and wearing gloves, I grabbed handfuls of the nettles and shoved them in plastic bags.
Then, sitting on their sunny patio with mug of coffee at hand, I began patiently to snip each individual leaf off each individual stem and chuck it in a bucket.
The recipe required 1lb of nettle leaves. Blimey, I thought, I’ll be here forever.
However, in the beautiful morning sunshine with budding trees all around me, the Heavenly-smelling Verbena coming into flower beside me and clumps of tulips ready to burst, I decided it was a pretty pleasant exercise.
I relaxed, the unexpected heat of English spring sunshine warming my back.
As with any creative endeavor, it gave me time to think. Engaging my faculties in one activity seems to enable my mind to wander freely over any number of topics meantime. Have you noticed this?
So as I snip, snip, snipped – carefully protecting all exposed skin – I wryly noted how much this activity represented my own life.
Nasty things happen in life, they do. The question then must be, what do we do with them? How can we move beyond them?
Stinging nettles were the scourge of our childhood growing up in the countryside. Many an intrepid walk was halted by an agonizing brush with their leaves. Yet here they were in my sister’s woodland in abundance. Was there anything we could do with them other than just burn them in the next bonfire, add them to the compost or simply throw them away?
There was – we could make soup. We could take something poisonous and painful, and turn it into something fruitful and nourishing. Not all of it, but some of it.
I thought through some of my own experiences in recent years. In which of them were there redeemable elements and what might I make of them, and of myself because of them, now?
ALL is not lost in the bad. God promises us the ‘treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places’ that only occur because the darkness in spite of itself produces them: courage; perseverance; wisdom; gratitude; maturity; strength to name but a few.
At supper, pureed then swirled with a bit of cream and black pepper, the soup was declared a complete winner.
Ah yes of course, I thought, tucking in. So are we.