Today’s advent offering is related a little to yesterday’s in that I’ve chosen a painting by English painter Thomas Cole that shows us his vision of the Garden of Eden. The first thing I noticed about this painting was the artist’s focus on the geographical or earthly features of the garden, rather than the living creatures that we so often see depicted within it [for a lovely example, see my previous blog post here]. And, instead of being a very enclosed or limited area, as it is sometimes depicted in artworks, the garden seems to stretch out infinitely, from a still pond, to flower-bordered lush grass, and on, into the distance where towering mountains and majestic waterfalls dominate our view. Adam and Eve – frolicking in the background – seem positively dwarfed by the sheer abundance of space and land, reminding the viewer that the deity’s creativity in Genesis 2 is as much about the creation of the physical earth as it is about human and animal life. As the artist himself wrote in a letter, “I have endeavored to conceive a happy spot where all the beautiful objects of nature were concentered.” Certainly, Adam and Eve seem more than delighted with their (temporary) home, unspoiled as it is by human interference, destruction, and control. And perhaps that is in itself a wee taste of paradise we can all enjoy – being able to witness those unspoiled pockets of the natural world, delighting in the sheer beauty of their untouched splendour.