Today as I listen to the rain beating out a dirge on my roof I feel no desire to go outside. There is a gloomy grey and dismal tone to the day; flowers and shrubs bend their heads forlornly. It reminds me that there once was a time when our connection to nature overshadowed all our actions. The ancient Greeks had a ritual for this time, a dromenon, in which they enacted the dance of death and rebirth. They understood that the end of winter meant not only the passing of hard times, but also the loss of many of their people. Spring came, but at a cost. Therefore they ritualised their loss so as to propitiate the spirits of their dead ancestors in order that they would protect the tribe from the spirit world. Attached to this was the celebration of the return of Spring, the possibility of new life and plenty. We live distantly from these concerns now and have become complacent about the power of Mother Nature to impact our lives so intimately. Even so, in my past work as a florist I made many wreaths for elderly townsfolk over the winter months. The winter is a time of harvest too. Looking out the rain beaded window I feel that sense of loss; the weeping heads of the flowers, the wailing of wind in the eucalypts evokes a powerful, palpable grief. It’s nothing maudlin, however, only a reminder of the need need to give thanks for what was. Out of death and decay comes new life. And so it is, that Spring reminds us that after the loss comes the celebration. As I walked around the garden a few days ago I noticed the new figs swelling on almost naked branches. Spring’s promise to us, her little joke, the fruit that is really a flower tricking us into belief in the harvest to come.
Every year I await the return of the bluebells at Roland’s Wood. The glorious haze of blue shimmers beneath the skeletal branches of the beech wood. Siren-like it lures me inward and onward down the path. Like meeting a long-lost friend we greet each other; I bend in obeisance, the better to drink in their azure blessings. I have the deepest gratitude to dear Roland Sansom whose love of his home country inspired him to create this wood. It is believed to be the furthest North a beechwood has grown successfully in New Zealand and visitors come from all over to visit and admire it. Now the wood is being developed to include plantings around the ponds and bog areas through the tireless efforts of local man John Horrell and his Rotary Club helpers. Over time these plantings will grow to enhance the sense of wildness the beech wood exudes. It is wonderful to come here as the seasons cycle and watch the shifting of energies from birth to maturity and onward through decline and death. Inherent in this cycling is the promise of return, the reminder that there is no end with out its new beginning. This is a gift beyond measure.
This little bit of wildness greets my visitors upon their arrival, preparing them for spiders webs & other ‘natural intrusions’ to my home. The ferns, members of the Blechnum & Asplenium families, are all naturally occurring in the bush surrounding my garden.
Having been away for a few days, I’m now back to noticing all the work still awaiting my attention. Feelings of frustration jockey for position with a relief to be here in the peace and unfolding that is Spring. If I feel into the frustration I find that underneath it is a huge reservoir of excitement; my human need to have things under control is thwarted by the energy of the garden. As my body picks up on that energy the timeless battle ensues – the ego demanding that certain things must be done “now!” in an ordered fashion as reason and logic dictate. The heart knows better; she feels the pull of Spring, the upward force that pushes sap from way down in its winter home to the tops of high branches. She demands I let go my frustration at things undone and be present to the glory that is unfolding daily. As I write I feel the foolishness of my egoic perspective. For Nature there is no time, no rules about tidyness and order. There is only an ongoing process of creating and destroying, new leaves following bare branches; flowers being pollinated and dying, their pollen being transformed into food for new bees, their nectar into honey. Death into life, from the tiniest micro-organism to the Kauri forest giants. Should I cease to be here, still she will continue and so I understand now that I am to allow myself to be swept up in that wondrous tsunami of love energy. She will carry me along without any effort from me; what needs to happen, will happen and she will bless us all with her beauty.
Today as I sit writing in my garden fantails work busily in the Totaras and a crisp breeze exercises the spiders webs draped there. I catch myself thinking of a friend’s comments on Spring. She told me of how it is her favourite season, that sense of the new, ready to burst forth. It made her feel energised, she said. Well, all I’m feeling is a mild confusion. I know Spring is about the place, she keeps leaving calling cards. The shining cuckoo & the quail are both back, the plum blossom floods the garden with siren perfume. As I watch, her branches bounce up & down with the joy of tiny wax eyes feeding. So why the confusion? There is a definite bi-polarity to Spring, she is unabashedly moody. One day its sunny, the next a dull grey sky blunts the enthusiasm. First she gives, then she takes away… I feel my spirits lift after a day of warmth & another pruning or planting task finished; only to have the next morning begin with heavy showers & a biting wind. This is the truest reminder of the transitional nature of Spring & like all transitions there is discomfort as part of the package. Every year she reminds me & I get better at relaxing into the experience of living day by day. There will always be another sunny day & soon, so much sun that gardening will become an early morning/late afternoon activity. I accept with grace the time of rest a dull day brings, knowing that without reflection my actions may be in vain.
Today as I worked hacking my way through an overgrowth of camellia hedge I looked around at all the pruning I’d already done & noticed the spaces between plants; spaces that had emerged out of the foliage as it was clipped away. At first I felt sad at how ‘bald’ everything looked. Then as I kept looking I saw something that has always been there but that I hadn’t really ‘seen’ before; I saw the space between the plants. Sounds silly really, talking about the space, its just something we take for granted. Yet, without it we could not ‘see’ those plants individually. Without the space between them my plants would all blur together and be lost in one another. This is a strange thing, that to have individuality we need separation and yet, as I create space in my garden the blur becomes a whole again. The space connects all that exists within it; the nothing makes everything feel right. Now the breeze has places to blow through, the sun & rain have room to shed their light & moisture. New growth can occur, beauty emerge where before there was only confusion. I found myself breathing more fully, my sadness faded as I recognised the joy of connectedness that existed between me & my plants & beyond into the natural world surrounding us, all mediated by this wonderful unacknowledged space.