The empty space in the walled garden- chance, failure and hope

Image(the walled garden, Ravenscourt Park, London– photo by author)

Today was a ‘nothing day’- a day of doing nothing much but achieving a lot.  I went to a talk about gardens at my local garden centre.  The speaker described herself as a ‘lazy gardener‘.  But she is not lazy at all- she is of course a self taught gardener, the author of two best selling gardening books, a mother with a houseful of dogs and a small daughter and, judging from the wonderful cupcakes she brought, an amazing cook!  And she said one of the most wonderfully simple things I have heard for a long time- “When you are happy, things just happen!”  Heavily pregnant and glowing, she was an embodiment of that infectious joy as she described how her gardening happened through chance, failure and hope.

On the way back, I sat in the walled garden near the garden centre, taking in the beauty of wildflowers growing through chance, failure and hope.  In the centre of this garden is an empty pedestal- might have had a sun dial in the past but now it was empty.  I thought about how there might be nothing visible in the long winter and then suddenly these beautiful verdant shoots push through the earth or the dry boughs of the tree in the spring, taking a chance at life, unfazed by failure and unfailing in their hope in life.   Nichiren said about nature and life- “Winter always turns to spring.”  Hope is a part of nature- it must be ours too.

I reflected on how, like that empty space in the walled garden, we must have an empty space in our lives too, a day of doing nothing in order to appreciate this bounty that nature gives us every year.  As William Henry Davies told us,

“What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.”


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