Posted by: leafvigurs | June 10, 2015

A New Pair of Eyes


Thinking back, one of the first genuinely magical places I remember was my uncle’s garden. My uncle is a wonderful gardener and has always created beautiful gardens from which many of my happiest childhood memories were born. In long games of hide and seek I could explore them for hours on end and wait quietly entranced by my surroundings.

The first one I truly have memories of was a long and narrow one that fell away from the rear of the house. Evolving from a beautifully tended lawn it grew into a series of miniature landscapes, a meandering path gently leading away into mystery. When young the viewpoint is naturally closer to the ground and much was hidden by beds filled with carefully layered planting schemes. The path flowed through it all like a babbling brook and around each twist and turn a new vista would suddenly reveal itself. At points the path would throw off smaller less urgent rivulets that followed different journeys. Following one of these led to a gentle mound planted with grasses and carefully placed rocks and I remember sitting there enthralled by the intricate patterns in the rock surface and the softly swaying grasses.

There is a marvellous Japanese word, yugen, that sadly we lack any equivalent term for but I have heard elegantly described as ‘going nowhere into pregnant space’. Yugen suggests as to the profound natural beauty of things or the feeling of wandering without thought of return. This sense of yugen seems to reflect the natural state of childhood, yet as an adult we are so often preoccupied with where we are going that we miss where we are. I have discovered that as a gardener it is easy to also fall into the trap of forever thinking of the future. Always thinking ahead, planning, visualizing and conceptualising what it will look like next year… Yet I wonder if in doing so I forget the most fundamental of facts, that surely a garden can only ever be enjoyed for what it is, and not what it may be. As lives become busier and often more frantic it is a place to stop, and to be fully present; a state of being that seemed so natural as a child.

Alice already loves the garden. Whether soil, stone or flower, all hold an equal fascination and she examines each in turn intently and without prejudice. She understands that plants can be hurt, and that they need caring for. Watching your one year old trying to lift a two gallon watering can with a determined look on her face is enough to bring a lump to any gardener’s throat. Now she has her own appropriately sized one which she mindfully takes round each of the many pots and diligently waters each one. Suddenly I have been reminded to look at the garden again as though with her eyes and through that I have rediscovered my own sense of yugen.

My own experience is that there will never be enough time to do all that needs doing in a garden. It can never be finished or perfect because each of these things would also signify an ending. The joy I find is in its continual flowing, and now of course the slightly unpredictable watering of my pot plants.

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