Featured image: Arne & Carlo Knit and Crochet Garden
Part of the pleasure of walking in a garden is visiting favorite spaces and discovering new ones. When I walk around a familiar garden, I do so with the intention of visiting a spot I’ve grown fond of. There I can note the seasonal changes or evolution of the space and enjoy what remains constant and familiar to me, while being amazed at what is new and different. I like to fall in love with a garden while noting the plants, flowers (if any), rock formations, or features that endeared the place to my heart.
Spring has arrived in South Florida, and before the days get unbearably warm, I drove up to Delray Beach to visit one of my favorite gardens. The Morikami Japanese gardens is an oasis of beauty, peace, and tranquility where I come to take refuge from the week’s hectic demands. Here, amidst bamboo forests, bonsai gardens, and local flora, I amble aimlessly about the paths that lead from one garden space to another, admiring the simplicity and order of a Japanese garden.
When walking around the Morikami garden paths, I make it a point to stop and sit in the Early Rock garden to meditate and take in the magical energy that inhabits the place. There’s something about this oft neglected corner that feels sacred to me. Unlike the more popular and formal rock gardens, this space reminds me of something preternatural in my nature. The rock formations, plants, gravel, tree shade, and subtle changes in the quality of the light turn me introspective and reflective.
This is where I pause to sit on a wooden bench, and when so moved, say a silent prayer. The coolness of the space, the quiet and serenity seep down into my soul, and when it’s time to walk away I feel refreshed and new. Such is the power and spirit of a garden—it restores us and nurtures our soul. A well laid garden connects us back to nature and reminds us that we’re as much a part of its earth, plants, and spirit as we are to the planet.
During the day’s visit, I took up my knitting and sat to knit a shawl I’ve been working on for some time. I’ve started the shawl thirty seven times and unravelled the yarn with each attempt. Either the shape was misshapen, the yarn unravelling, or I forgot to keep count of alternating rows. The shawl is a present for my mother; I’d like to give it to her for Mother’s day, but I want it to look nice. She wants to wear it to church on Sundays because the air-conditioning in the room is too much for her. I’m quite proud of my efforts, but I still like it to look as professional as I can. Here, in the Rock garden, I’m reminded that perfection is relative. Nothing ever is the same from moment to moment. I allow myself to let go of my needing to be perfect all the time, and I ease into the soothing rhythm of purling my rows.
Sitting alone, I’m reminded that everything has a place and order. Here, it may not be so apparent as in the more formal Sacred Pond or rock gardens, but I’m inspired by my surroundings to take up the needles and begin anew. I pay no mind to other visitors who happen on the corner of the place and find a man sitting quietly knitting. Perhaps seeing me there is as unusual as the water fountain or stone temple in the pond. Regardless, they amble on after a quiet moment of reflection, leaving me to my manual meditation.
I’m never surprised, however, when a new corner or space I may have walked by in the past calls my attention because of a flower, tree, or feature that boasts its revelation to me. This is another of a garden’s charm. Good gardens, like a person, have the capacity to surprise us when at their peak or bloom, they reveal something we may have missed at an earlier time.
Such was my surprise when I walked into a quiet nook in the Modern Romantic Garden with a pond and flowing stream. I don’t remember ever walking around this space before. Perhaps I took a path in a previous visit that diverted me from this spot, or maybe I didn’t pay enough attention when I walked by the pond before. This time, however, as I crossed a wooden bridge, I found myself looking and peering into the water, catching my reflection on the surface, and following the stream into the deeper part of the pond where fish and leaves gathered on the surface toying with the reflecting sunlight.
There, under a tree, I fell in-love with the gardens again. The sound of the water splashing through the rocks reminded me of other gardens and times I felt restored and calm while communing with nature. As a gentle breeze dispersed the afternoon heat and humidity, the bamboo trees swayed and rattled their hollow wooden music. Here, there was magic again—the kind of magic the ancients invoke and write about when they talk about Qi and natural energy. Here is where all five Chinese elements come together and manifest the eternal dance of Yin and Yang. In this one space balance was achieved, if only temporarily, since Yang disruption is eventually inevitable. The gardener, much like an acupuncturist, must temper the elements and energy to keep and restore balance.
Such are the blessings of Ostara, the arrival of spring and renewal of the earth. Winter’s hold is cleared and the time to plan seeds for the future are sown. I miss the spring days of the north, where the air still has a bit of a chill and mud covers the landscape. Here, we rush forward to summer’s hot, humid days. There’s barely a respite to enjoy cool, dry weather. Still, our spring, the way Ostara makes her presence known in our swampy land is uniquely ours and it comes with its own charms.
Once the stroll was complete, I was reminded why this particular garden is so beloved to me. In them not only do I see how the wisdom and articulation of ancient practices and knowledge manifest in nature, but I can see those same mysteries revealed in my body and my self.