WriteSpa #17 – In the Garden


WriteSpa – An Oasis for Writers

Why do we garden? Gardens are backdrops to every Arabian Night tale, crucial to Alice in Wonderland’s mysterious adventures, vital in some Shakespearean dramas. Whether it is a miniature nature corner in a city apartment or a famous estate designed for an emperor or a queen, the garden is a symbol of something internal and eternal in each of us. Ideally, of course, the whole world is our garden. But it’s also one of the most personal, daily aspects of our lives.

Sensual, moving, restful, refreshing, fragrant, our gardens hold qualities of symbolic and spiritual nourishment that make gardening – as a verb – as much as part of our lives as eating, speaking, or loving. All over the world, in every culture, society is comprised of a family, a house, and a garden. In my travels I’ve encountered hundreds of them: moss gardens and rock gardens in Kyoto, Islamic gardens with waterfalls, intricate tiles, flowering desert plants, and the quiet cypress trees; terraced gardens in Tuscany that brimmed and spilled over with fragrance and color, aromatic herbs, olive trees, potted geraniums and carnations, where we sat at a shady table under an old grape-vine trellis sipping vino rosso and savoring formaggio and delicious fresh bread. Even in the jungles of India there were gardens: brilliant bougainvillea, hot and sultry hibiscus, and twining vines that gated and ornamented the sacred caves and temples.

In England, the gardens are elevated to the level of a creation of genius: the gentle, kind climate inspires blooms and fragrances unmatched anywhere else. Jasmine, wisteria, daffodils; stone paths meandering through carefully planted and lovingly tended shrubs and beds; holly, hazelnut hedges, a swimming lake, gaudy rhododendrons, and exquisite views and shady groves.

In my Hawaiian garden there grew a mango tree, a plumeria tree, and an avocado tree. Enormous orange and blue birds of paradise perched before my eyes as I sat on my lanai. The rich, vibrant colors and the sweet and salty smell of the ocean saturated my senses and permeated my soul. I’ll always remember these images: the rustling wet rain forest … the moon behind coconut fronds… the trade winds blowing white plumeria blossoms across the hammock… the splash of red from the ubiquitous hibiscus… the parade of red ginger.

Even when we lived in New York City, we had window boxes from which climbed the bluest morning glories you ever saw. And finca fell like waterfalls down the side of the brownstone house, brilliant orange impatiens splashed bits of color here and there. Inside our apartment we had miniature gardens for our children: we called these ‘nature corners.’ Each month we’d change the nature corner to reflect the season, or a seasonal festival, and create a small place of nature and purpose in the corner of our apartment.

My favorite garden of all was the one in Greece, which was actually just a small plot of marble and quartz sparkling in the red earth. Pine trees and olive trees surrounded me, and crows kept me company while I gazed at the mountains in the distance, but the garden itself was untamed, rocky, solitary. The reason I loved it so was that there was very little I had to do except sit on a rock and write. That, of course, was my ideal way to garden.


Writing Practice – Secret Garden

They say if you dream of a house, it is a picture of your soul. When you dream of a garden, it is a view of your spirit.

There are many gardens, just as there are many parts of oneself. This week, describe in great detail your ideal garden. You may even want to do a little research here, and use the precise words for the stone you’re going to use for the path or the genus of rose that you want to grow. You might want to include a labyrinth or a courtyard. Imagine the landscape around, the lake and woods, and the views from various places in your garden. Imagine especially the seasons and the weather.

Don’t bind yourself by supposed limitations of wealth, climate, family, or career. Your ideal garden can be imagined as freely as possible. You will find that by describing it in detail you’ll discover insights into yourself.


Daily Happinesses

  • lentil soup
  • going inwards
  • zills
  • clearing weather over Mt Fuji
  • completing a task

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