I saw you last week. Or, rather I saw the top of your hat. You walked past me without saying so much as “hello” to me. Was I surprised? No. Was I offended? Well, may be a little bit, deep down. No, I shouldn’t say I was offended. You see, when you expect someone to behave in a certain way and your assumptions turn out to be correct, you do not generally take any offence, however insulting one’s behaviour turns out to be. But you do not become overjoyed either, because you have been proved right. It is a strange kind of feeling. It accepts the fact, but continues to be sad nonetheless. It is a strange kind of pain too. It does not make you mad with anger. You do not seek revenge, because the object of it is too dear to you anyway. But this negligence gnaws at your heart nonetheless. In accepting the fact it feels defeated and yearns to cry out in desperation.
When you appeared out of that grove this morning I could not help feeling how handsome you looked. You were surrounded by your friends. You may have failed to recognise me, but I have seen you growing up since a small boy. You often used to come here with Mr & Mrs ___ . You see, my relationship with you runs longer and deeper than you would care to admit, now that you have become such a big and successful person. But, blame it on my age, memories decades older than now seems to be so fresh to me. And, the past hour? I have forgotten already.
I vividly remember the days when you used to come here to gather flowers, chase that hapless butterfly or simply sit here awhile under the shade. To me it seems to be still only yesterday. In fact, I will let you out a little secret. Mr ___ too acted much the same way as you did when he was a child, though he did not admit it to you later on.
Then when you were a little older you managed to escape your nurse’s sleepy eyes to come to sit here. We talked and talked and talked. Or should I say, you talked and I used to listen. If I have ever intervened, you hardly used to take a notice of that. You used to tell me every story Miss ___ has read out to you on the day and weeks before. You used to narrate in minute detail what happened at home since the morning, why you are angry with your dad and mom and how you ran away without taking your breakfast. I remember once you revealed your mischievous idea of frightening little ___ by hiding a toad in her lunch box. You made me swear before revealing your plans of cheating at your homework to me. We had a long discussion on that and in the end you gave in to your conscience. But you did bind me in an oath nonetheless, so that I would not let this out to anyone. I never did because I knew we were friends for life. And, I never will because nothing will alter this truth for me, not even your perceived ignorance of the time gone by.
I could not help but see you talking with Mr Palmer the other day. I came to know about your plans of clearing this area up for a new guest house. Perhaps, you have big plans for your new found friends some of whom seem to be considering this house their own residence! Of course, it is your land and you will use it the way you please. I am counting my final few days on earth anyhow. You know, I have stopped giving those beautiful blossoms for years now. You mentioned that during your discussion with Mr Palmer.
I was caught in a reverie thinking of how you so loved collecting the scattered petals of those pink flowers. You used to heave them on little ____’s head. You two were such cherubs. All my neighbours here, including me, used to see your performances with such delight. You two hardly used to be conscious of that. Such is the beauty of childhood. It accepts life unconditionally. For children the whole world is nothing but a plaything. That is why so easily could we bind ourselves in sacred threads of friendship. That is why you never failed to understand my language. My silence never offended you. We became so close to each other that only best pals could possibly be. We knew how to be happy in each other’s joy. We knew how to keep each other’s most intimate secrets safely locked in the inner most chambers of our hearts.
Thirty years on, you became skilled in many languages, you accomplished many things to be a proud member of your family, you also gained worldly possessions. But the one language closest to your heart became lost irretrievably. My words became foreign to you, my feelings unintelligible. You no longer run towards me or any of my neighbours to embrace us with your big hands as you once were so much in a habit of doing. You have become too grown up for that. Perhaps you will say, “Like every child I was a tad foolish.” I beg to differ, my friend. You have become stupid now.
I will not stand in your way for very many days now. If not by Mr Palmer’s ingenuous machines, I will succumb to Mother Nature’s ways. So, will be the fate of many standing here alongside me today. Together, we carry the history of this land that is worth hundreds of years. Perhaps, that is not worthy enough for you as an individual, but it is priceless for “you” collectively. And what will be your loss? You, my dear friend? Your loss will be dearer than the bittersweet nostalgia of an old friend who once used to cover this land with the torn petals of blushing pink blossoms.
There is a world that is lying just outside your window. Pull up the blinds of your inner being and experience it. Let the sunshine plant a kiss on your forehead, allow the gentle breeze to caress your face, permit the butterflies to play with your hands. If you are cursing the cacophony of your urban existence, then don’t be disheartened. We are taking a trip around the world to visit some of the most surreal landscapes and experience nature in its purest form. Join us on this journey.
As the name suggests, Keukenhof was Countess of Hainaut’s Jacqueline kitchen garden. She was a great admirer of nature. In her brief lifespan of 35 years (1401 – 1436), the countess collected many samples of flowers, fruits and vegetables from her many journeys. She brought them back to plant them in her garden. Situated in Lisse, the Netherlands, Keukenhof is not only a piece of heaven on earth but a living history. Famous architects Jan David Zocher and his Louis Paul Zocher gave Keukenhof a makeover in 1857. The flower parade of Keukenhof is scheduled later in the month. Don’t miss the opportunity of participating in the flower parade, celebrated every year in this old Dutch town.
The highest joys spring from those possessions which are common to all, which we can neither alienate ourselves nor be deprived of by others, to which kind nature has given all an equal right – a right which she herself guards with silent omnipotence.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Villa d’Este is part of UNESCO World Heritage list. Besides, the mannerist architecture and huge collection of masterful artworks, the villa is renowned for its baroque garden. The project was ensued by Ippolito II d’Este who was ably assisted by such architects as Pirro Ligorio (1514 – 1583) and Alberto Galvani. But it really flourished during Cardinal Alessandro d’Este’s (1568 – 1624) tenure. The parkland, decorated with most ornate sculptures, served as a prototype of many a garden of Europe, both famous and not so famous. . In its heyday, the garden hosted frequent concerts of noted musician and composers like Franz Liszt. As you stroll under its century old trees, you will still hear music playing incessantly in the gentle breeze, rustling of leaves and gushing of fountain water.
Parc Floral de la Source
Parc Floral de la Source is spread on the banks of Loiret in Orleans, France. Created in 1963, it is a relatively new construction compared to the other famous gardens of the country. It boasts of elaborate rock garden, grassland, butterfly greenhouse, special areas designated for dahlias, irises and vegetables. But it is most famous for its rose garden. This rose garden is indeed one of the prime attractions of Loire Valley which you should never miss on your trip to this region. After all, there is nothing more enticing than spending an entire afternoon breathing into the fragrant atmosphere of Parc Floral de la Source’s rosarium. If you are still harbouring some doubt, see what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has to say on the matter (courtesy his famous character Mr Sherlock Holmes),
Our highest assurance of the goodness of providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its colour are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.
Powerscourt Garden existed since early 18th century in Enniskerry, Ireland. However, it took its present form more than a century later. Daniel Robertson, a 19th century British architect, integrated all his experiences of travelling in various gardens of Europe to create this ethereal piece of landscape for Vicsount Powerscourt. Subsequent members of the family took great care of the garden and even remodelled certain portions of it according to the prevailing fashion. “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need” – What Cicero said hundreds of years ago stands true to this date.
At this point we will take a long flight across globe to land in our next destination.
Okayama Korakuen is another place where you can really enjoy being a part of resplendent nature. Tsuda Nagatada, a local bureaucrat during the reign of Ikeda Tsunamasa, took orders from his master to start construction of this beautiful garden in 1687. It was completed 13 years later. Since then, the garden acts as one of the most gorgeous place to be during any time of the year, but more so during spring – summer months. Besides, fragrant flowers and trees you will also have many cranes for your company. It is situated in Okayama Prefecture of Japan.
Nong Nooch Botanical Garden
Since 1954, Nong Nooch Botanical Garden has been a place where you may experience the joy of being one with nature. Additionally, it also a acted as a conservation area for many rare plant species. Among other species of flora, Nong Nooch is most acclaimed for preserving several cyclads species. It maintains a gene pool for this tropical plant species.
I am aware that I have omitted many noteworthy names from this list. Though I intend to cover some more in my future posts it will still be insufficient for covering them all. At any rate, this is not meant to be a list of ‘world’s best gardens, ‘top gardens’, ‘famous gardens’ or ’10 gardens you must visit before you …’. Certainly, the patch of greenery you create at your own backyard or patio, through your own sweat and meticulous planning, remains the dearest place for you to be in.
This post intends to showcase what beauty we can create on earth if we only collaborate with nature just a little bit. And, what we will soon lose if we continue our mad rush of creating concrete landscapes. My experience also says, while we take a trip, closer to home or somewhere in the distant land, we often ignore visiting such places as gardens and museums or remain in a mad rush to just go through them. The wealth of any place, natural or cultural, can be found in these locations only.
Slowing down to soak in the charm of the perfumed atmosphere, holding a silent conversation with that century old tree and join in the merriment with birds and butterflies may just prove to be an experience you have never considered indulging in all your life. Besides, it will also be a wonder drug for rejuvenating your body and mind.
Footfalls echo in the memory,
Down the passage which we did not take,
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose–garden.
T S Eliot
Your vernal foliage never had to go through the anguish of decay. Even hundred years on, your Shinryoku remains a harbinger of hope for everyone who chances an eye on them. And, you Hayami? Even if death nipped the bud of your artistic majesty, you remained defiant. Life triumphed through your art. It continue to do so even today.
And the spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the spirit of love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on earth’s dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.
~ Percy Bysshe Shelley
I miss the breaking of the sweet slumbers of the flowers in the garden. The blushing faces of the pretty blossoms touched by the kind rays of the spring sun remain hidden from my eyes. Being a part of tropical country’s urban jungle hardly allows me to view the glorious culmination of winter months into spring and nature’s rapturous mood perceiving this change. Nonetheless, spring remains very close to my heart. I am a child of spring. The vernal equinox brings me messages that my heart is only capable of sensing or deciphering. It is the spirit of spring that I embrace with my whole heart. Like many things in life which remains deep rooted in our psyche, the spirit of spring remains alive in my consciousness even in the middle of winter and I embrace it with my whole heart on its arrival.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (27th February, 1807 – 24th March, 1882)
Beneath some patriarchal tree
I lay upon the ground;
His hoary arms uplifted he,
And all the broad leaves over me
Clapped their little hands in glee,
With one continuous sound:
A slumberous sound—a sound that brings
The feelings of a dream—
As of innumerable wings,
As when a bell no longer swings,
Faint the hollow murmur rings
O’er meadow, lake, and stream.
And dreams of that which cannot die,
Bright visions came to me,
As lapped in thought I used to lie,
And gaze into the summer sky,
When the sailing clouds went by,
Like ships upon the sea;
Dreams that the soul of youth engage
Ere Fancy has been quelled;
Old legends of the monkish page,
Traditions of the saint and sage,
Tales that have the rime of age,
And chronicles of Eld.
And loving still these quaint old themes,
Even in the city’s throng
I feel the freshness of the streams,
That, crossed by shades and sunny gleams,
Water the green land of dreams,
The holy land of song.
Therefore, at Pentecost, which brings
The spring, clothed like a bird,
When nestling buds unfold their wings,
And bishop’s–caps have golden rings,
Musing upon many things,
I sought the woodlands wide.
The green trees whispered low and mild;
It was a sound of joy!
They were my playmates when a child,
And rocked me in their arms so wild!
Still they looked at me and smiled,
As if I were a boy;
And ever whispered mild and low,
“Come, be a child once more!”
And waved their long arms to and fro,
And beckoned solemnly and slow
Oh, I could not choose but go
Into the woodlands hoar.
Into the blithe and breathing air,
Into the solemn wood,
Solemn and silent everywhere!
Nature with folded hands seemed there,
Kneeling at her evening prayer!
Like one in prayer I stood.
Oak Forest by Ivan Shishkin (1869)
In May Days by Ralph Waldo Emerson
When the south–wind, in May days,
With a net of shining haze,
Silvers the horizon wall,
And with softness touching all,
Tints the human countenance
With a colour of romance,
And infusing subtle heats
Turns the sod to violets—
Thou in sunny solitudes,
Rover of the underwoods,
The green silence dust displace
With thy mellow breezy bass.
Still Life by Paul Gauguin (1881)
Roses by George Eliot (November 22, 1819 – December 22, 1880)
You love the roses – so do I. I wish
The sky would rain down roses, as they rain
From off the shaken bush. Why will it not?
Then all the valley would be pink and white
And soft to tread on. They would fall as light
As feathers, smelling sweet; and it would be
Like sleeping and like waking, all at once!
Painting by Carl Frederik Aagard (1833 – 1895)
A Prayer by Archibald Lampman (17 November 1861 – 10 February 1899)
Oh earth, oh dewy mother, breathe on us
Something of all thy beauty and thy might,
Us that are part of day, but most of night,
Not strong like thee, but ever burdened thus
With glooms and cares, things pale and dolorous
Whose gladest moments are not wholly bright;
Something of all they freshness and thy light,
Oh earth, oh mighty mother, breathe on us.
Oh mother, who wast long before our day,
And after us full many an age shalt be.
Careworn and blind, we wander from thy way:
Born of thy strength, yet weak and halt are we
Grant us, oh mother, therefore, us who pray,
Some little of thy light and majesty.
Painting by René Magritte (21st November 1898 – 15th August 1967)
I invariably experience a variety of sensations when I “survey the heavens” on a calm, clear night, about the end of the month of May. I can then inhale the sweets of the woodbine and other flowers, whose fragrance is drawn out by the gentle dews of evening. The nightingale breaks the silence by his sweet and varied notes; and the full moon “walking in brightness,” and rendered still more beautiful by the lustre of so many shining stars, which appear in the wide–extended firmament, completes the loveliness of this nocturnal scene. Then I begin to reflect upon my own insignificance, and to ask myself what I am, that the great Author of the universe should be mindful of me. His mercy, however, then presents itself to me, as well as His majesty, and the former affects me more than the latter. I listen to the bird which appears to be pouring forth his little tribute of gratitude and praise, and my heart prompts me to do the same. The very perfume of the flowers seems to be an incense ascending up to heaven; and with these feelings I am able to enjoy the calm tranquillity of the evening.
~ Edward Jesse
Painting (In the Rain) by Franz Marc (8th February, 1880 – 4th March, 1916)