“If I’m boring you, just flake off,” Patrick says to the crowd following him along the grassy terrace for a garden tour. We giggle over his blunt honesty. Not a single person turns around and walks away from the 90-year old man with the handmade scarf around his neck, cane in his hand. The mischievous man that changes his name to Pennington for his wife, moves into Muncaster Castle, gives up a career to cultivate the beauty that envelopes us in a time warp.
He trudges up the pathway, points to the towering rhododendron on the right side of a ravine, says it’s been there since 1866. My mouth drops open in the wonder, like I’m covered in fairy dust. He stops to touch one of the blooms on another one, tells us the vibrant pink color reminds him of the “psychedelic tidily winks his mother-in-law wore on her ears when she was alive.”
Patrick talks about how he abhors politics and writes poetry to deal with authorities. He stops walking, turns around and recites a poem to the branches overhead. The disparaging rhymes about a troublesome politician raises a few eyebrows.
And because I ask him to sign his book of poetry beforehand, tell him I am a writer too, he looks at me through the maze of heads throughout the tour, directs remarks toward me about writing as if we know each other long. Then he asks H if he might be interested in taking the pastor’s position at the church on the grounds.
I’ve just met Patrick. Somehow we’re related. I’ve traveled over the seas to walk the grounds of Muncaster Castle in Ravenglass, England – where I’ve traced my ancestry back to the Pennington’s more than 1,000 years ago.
I wouldn’t miss this garden tour by the man who knows every crevice, branch and bloom on this loamy expanse of beauty that whisper the secrets of life for anything. He’s telling me how to live a good story with every step.
With every joke, innuendo, eyebrow arched comment he reminds me that blunt honesty spoken in love removes the mirage of the perfected life. It helps to define the landscape for all its panoramic scars and imperfections, to remind us of who we are in the deep underground of the soul.
Surpass Your Circumstances
His slow, confident, methodic steps pressed firmly into ancient soil remind that age and circumstance are mutually exclusive to calling. That to live a good story means understanding who wrote it. That there will be hills and valleys along the way, but they don’t change the course written in the book of life with our name on the spine. Even when taking a detour from time to time.
As people parade through his home, see his clothes cloaked over a radiator in the bedroom; interrupt his bowl of pea soup on the picnic table of the public, he responds to each one with dignity and broad smile. To sacrifice time, reputation and privacy for the sake of something greater than yourself is the kind of story that sticks to your skin like honey. It tastes sweet, leaves you longing for more.
Be Confidently You
When I look out the window, over the wide expanse of planted history waving her branches of welcome, I can hardly breathe. Because when I think about those early years of wondering tearful in the bedroom of safety, just outside the smoky room of depravity and empty cans of sorrow, I didn’t know this. That His arm would extend across the seas to show me how to live a good story. That I have been living one all along.